Day two in Cody led us to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. As far as museums go, the BBHC is my Valhalla of Museums. It incorporates five different museums under one roof: the Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indian Museum, Whitney Gallery of Western Art and the Winchester Collection. We started our tour in the Plains Indian Museum.
Overwhelming, Creative Overload!
I furiously sketched bead inspiration ideas while the boys occupied themselves with the touch and feel exhibits. They had fun with the life-sized buffalo mounts and enjoyed getting to go under the authentic teepees.
Next, we made a quick sweep through the Whitney which was totally different from the Plains, but just as awesome. Its influence can be seen continuously throughout Double D Ranch's collections over the years. I am always drawing inspiration from Russell, Remington, and other western greats. But my favorite of all was the Buffalo Bill and Wild West Show wing. I love the flamboyant showmanship and the history behind the romanticizing of the West, and William Cody knew how to do it best. His show jackets and related apparel can only be described as treasure. Artifacts from Annie Oakley like glass skeet balls and playing cards with bullet holes in the center suddenly made history tangible. Sitting Bull's autographed program verified his participation in the early, live show-biz spectacle and the overpowering show bills, once plastered on sides of buildings, amaze with their eye-catching colors and the fact that these somehow survived through the years. I sketched a lot that day. Most of it the obvious: Cody's show jacket, a woman's split riding skirt, some Spanish tooling from a saddle and illustrations from a pair of chaps. All good stuff. I immediately knew I would take them home and regurgitate a collection from them.
However, you know how you just tuck things away? Well, there was a series of images, photos and news clippings that I thought were a little askew. It was one of those Sesame Street One of These Things is Not Like the Others moments. I couldn't quite make out what jumped out at me until I realized it was a fur cassock hat.
Hmmm,...what was a Russian style astrakhan hat doing in an exhibit with Buffalo Bill Cody?
So I read the card mounts that told how in 1871 Russia's Grand Duke Alexei came to the US for an official state visit and ended up on a lavish Champagne and caviar fueled buffalo hunt with Bill Cody and George Custer. The Royal Buffalo Hunt was all the buzz for that era and was followed closely in newspapers all across the country. One of those clippings and a cabinet card showing the Grand Duke and Custer hit me for some reason and I just tucked it away.
So jump to 2009.
I'm researching for my fall collection and on the Paris runways along comes Gucci with his Russian inspired collection.
Oh, Maguhhh! Love, love, love it.
Immediately I knew I wanted to do a Russian folk-inspired collection, but the trick was to make it my own. Hmmm,how to make Double D Ranch somehow mesh with Russian folk?
VoilÃ¡ dust off the old images of the Grand Duke partying along with Custer and Cody and what else can you expect for a fantastic fall collection?
I knew in an instant what the collection would look like. I hit the mainline:
Oh yeah, BINGO, CHa-CHing, high five, Yesssss - this is gonna be gooood!
Note: If you find yourself in Cody Wyoming, definitely plan to spend an entire day at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It is just great. At press time, their current website is not the best, but I can guarantee the museums are! And while you're in downtown Cody, may I also suggest you dine on pancakes for breakfast at the famous Irma Hotel. They're delicious!
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