The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Diane Scalese Inducted into National Cowgirl Hall of Fame


October 31, 2018

Diane Scalese will be inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame on Thursday November 1, 2018 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth Texas. "

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors and celebrates women, past and present, whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience, and independence that helped shape the American West, and fosters an appreciation of ideals and spirit of self-reliance they inspire."

Four or five years ago, a friend told her she was going to nominate her. She felt honored and received a letter about two years after that she was being considered along with 600 other nominees. Then she never heard another word, till she received a phone call for an interview.

"Once I focused on engraving it was everything to me! It took me six years, (to just learn the basics)of course I had two children during that time. TJ was two and Buck wasn't even born yet when I first started." Bob found an engraver but he didn't want to teach her. Diane said, "I think he knew what it took to be a good engraver and he thought here is a good woman with a baby and she just won't have the time." Don King was an engraver, and he would talk to her but he worked with long rifles and all he did was just single point line engraving and she wanted to do bright cutting. "It's flashy and sparkly!" There are no books on bright cutting so she studied old buckles where the engraving was rushed and done poorly. "So, I said Ok, I'm just going to be better than anybody. I want them to buy something because it was so engraved and not for anything else."

In 1988 Bob and Diane were asked to submit a design for the centennial belt buckles and they were chosen. At the show, a cowboy who came over to look over their table and "I think he could see I was struggling". He told them he was an engraver and he showed me his knives. "He was very friendly and told me he didn't know anything about bright cutting, but if he could help me in any way he would love too. I thought here is a guy who would was willing to help me. Although we lived in Dillon at the time we called Duke up and told him we were going to travel through Big Sandy and asked if we could stop by.

It was a bold face lie. We just wanted to see Duke and Dolly Pursley. They were so wonderful. He was the first engraver who would talk to me. He's responsible for pushing me. I owe it to him."

The following was written is an introduction to Diane Scales on the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee introduction. "In 1986, she and her husband started Sweetwater Silver in Montana and began making spurs, bridle bits and other silver gear. Becoming interested in hand engraving, she began practicing and searching for mentors, but no one wanted to teach her, partly because she was female. Nevertheless, Scalese went on to become a master engraver and held the title of Engraver of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists in 2003. Her engraving style is traditional Western bright cut, but she adds techniques such as bulino, flare cut and many firearms engraving styles for a result that is both traditional and fresh. Her work has appeared in books and been exhibited in art shows and museums throughout the American West and Canada. She served on the board of the Firearms Engravers Guild of America and was selected by the Montana Arts Council to be a member of the Montana Circle of American Masters. She holds Master Engraver status in both the Firearms Engravers Guild of America and the Custom Gunmakers Guild of America. She is determined to open the field to anyone who wants to learn and teaches classes all over the world, including Belgium, Germany, Italy and Denmark."

Diane is also now a Master Colt Engraver the first women to ever reach that level.

She is extra careful not to make a mistake. She doesn't try something she doesn't know she can't do. It takes so much patience-hours and hours of committed work and practice and practice and practice. When she makes a mistake, the industry says to "change your design and mark up your price." She laughs comfortably. Diane is currently working on a watch and a number of different guns, one of them for Colt. Most of her work is now commissioned, but Diane does like working on bracelets for fun because she can incorporate different metals and gems into her work.

'I remember sitting up late at night trying to learn how to do this and thinking if everybody had to teach themselves we wouldn't get anywhere. We have to stand on the shoulders of those who knew how. And if we don't share our knowledge I was afraid the art would die." That is why she wants to teach. But the first time she taught she was scared to death, because now she has to teach what she did and they didn't even have a vocabulary for what she did. So, they had to create the vocabulary for the tools and for the cuts she did. Diane's teaching videos have been hugely success.

"It all started because Bob (Scalese) was making some bits and spurs which takes about a week to make a set. He started working with the precious metals and came into the house with some frustration so I went out to watch and when I saw him make a few cuts, it was like a slap in the face. I have got to do that." And she as loved it ever sense. "Its way more than I ever imagined." She's in the process of setting new goals. Imagine where she will go for here!

Bob said, "Boy am I proud. I watched it happened from the start. She is so driven to be good at it." A real-life inspiration lives here in Big Sandy.


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