Arborglyphs by Jeff Sailors

I spent 40-some years packing horses and mules in wilderness areas from Glacier Park in Montana near the Canadian border as far south as the Gila in New Mexico. I’ve ridden and packed in every Rocky Mountain state. Anywhere I rode through aspen trees I found arborglyphs carved into the bark. Most were carved by sheepherders although many were done by cowboys, hunters and outdoorsmen.
I was intrigued by the artistic qualities of the carvings and photographed many over the years. Unfortunately considering the life span of aspens to be about 90 years, many of these unique carvings are rapidly disappearing. Taking photos of these extant carvings was not enough as far as preserving the folk art so Patricia and I decided to see if we could reproduce them thus preserving an important chapter of the history of the American West. We developed a paper clay medium to reproduce the look, feel and texture of aspen tree bark and began to reproduce historical arborglyphs. Carving and painting the designs produced a lifelike reproduction of this important historical work.
In these current times of technology, social media and instant gratification I believe that ties to our past are often overlooked and need to b e preserved. When I began hitching horsehair I found that very few people outside of Montana and Wyoming knew what hitching is. I spent many years traveling around the country showing my horsehair work and educating folks about this uniquely American art form. Now we hope to do the same with our arborglyphs and horse masks.
I am a master horsehair hitcher of more than 35 years. I absolutely love the things that are truly American as opposed to art forms borrowed from European cultures. I’m certain that some folks consider me a “dinosaur” but my love for American historical culture is never ending. Hence our reproductions of American Indian horse masks, arborglyphs and hitched horsehair work.