The tradition of woven fiber cinches Pop Wagner employs and teaches has lineage from the Navajo cinch makers and from other fine craftsmen and women who have adopted the unique qualities of design and function of this type of cinch.
Pop learned mohair cinch making in 2006 in Cody, Wyoming. His teacher was Darin Alexander, a master cinch maker from Gentry Arkansas who supplies cinches to some of the elite rodeo athletes and horse clinicians and museums in this country. After working out custom designs and teaching techniques of his own, Pop has twice had the opportunity and the honor of teaming with Darin Alexander in demonstrations at the Minnesota Horse Expo. Pop has instructed this cinch making technique in clinics all over the country to over 200 students. Furthermore, he has incorporated the design techniques used in mohair cinch making in the creation of other useful items including belts, guitar straps, hat bands, watch fobs and key chains. He has also designed a vertical, rotating loom to use in creating these works in mohair.
In the Navajo cinch making tradition, wool and other fibers were originally employed. After an almost 50 year hiatus of the tradition in the middle of the 20th century, it was revived by some of the elders who as children had seen their elders making these fine objects. The craft was renewed to be passed on to the younger Navajo people, and others outside the tribe discovered the craft's unique qualities as well. Mohair became the preferred material used because of it's strength, resilience, longevity, and soft feel to the horse.
The horse was elemental in all major life events in Navajo life- birth, death, marriage, transition to adulthood. In Navajo culture, the horse was incorporated into daily living and into rites and ceremonies. The horse was a bestower of good fortune and a receiver of good fortune. Articles related to the horse rightfully had great value. This reverence for fine craft and design of the utilitarian cinch can be seen in the work of modern day mohair cinch makers, whether Navajo or other craftsmen and women outside the tribe.
Mohair cinches serve as both utilitarian and decorative items and involve much more effort to produce than the more common and less valuable string cinches. And although they are meant to be used, they are objects that can be enjoyed and appreciated for their beautiful design and construction alone. Used to secure the saddle to the horse, cinches are barely seen when in use. Yet just as a bridle is useless without a bit, a saddle us useless without a cinch. The incorporation of color and design into such a humble and unseen item brings it into the realm of unique woven textile art.
The weaving of a Mohair Cinch is a pleasure, both in the execution of design and in the tactile enjoyment of handling the fiber. And it becomes an even deeper satisfaction when put to use by the horseman or woman who designed and wove the cinch. Whether hanging in a gallery or museum for appreciation or put in service on the horse, the mohair cinch signifies the powerful, mysterious, and almost timeless bond between human and horse.
Pop Wagner’s first folk music engagement was in 1965. His musical career has taken him to forty-four states and eleven countries. He has always had another side to his artistic nature unknown to many. Pop learned embroidery and knitting from his mother at the age of 10 years. He took art classes throughout high school and majored in art at Northland College where he concentrated on the creation of silver and gold jewelry. Since 2006 he has seriously focused on the traditional art/craft of woven mohair cinches.