Buffalo Bill’s Cody Yellowstone Country Earns Reputation for High-Quality Western Furniture
CODY, Wyo., February 12, 2015 – Some people may look at a downed tree and see gnarled wood suitable for a campfire. A group of artisans in Yellowstone Country see something so much more. Like a chair or roll top desk or headboard or coffee table or lamp.
While not known for producing large numbers of such pieces of furniture, these highly talented woodworkers, silversmiths, leather workers and more take a back seat to no one when it comes to quality and creativity.
“I am simply amazed at how someone can take a piece of wood or an elk antler and turn it into a work of art like these people do,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm for Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country. “They simply see something that most of don’t.”
Or perhaps they are listening as the materials speak to the artists. Woodworkers can look at a lodge pole pine tree branch and see the perfect curve for the back of a rocking chair, said Wade. Or the grain in Rocky Mountain Juniper might say “table top” to another.
Artists using local western materials is not new, and the small town of Cody became a center of Western design over many years. The most famous designer and builder was Thomas Molesworth, owner of the Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody from 1931 to 1961. Molesworth combined the basic furniture designs that local cowboys used in ranch houses throughout the area with elements such as leather, horsehide, elk antlers, Native American weavings, brass tacks and more.
After building furniture for local customers and receiving commissions for ranches and hotels, Molesworth’s work became known by Easterners, many of whom traveled to Western dude ranches and Yellowstone National Park. He subsequently received commissions to design and build tables, chairs, couches and other furniture for homes across the country. In the process he became the best-known designer and builder of furniture in the Western genre.
In 1989 the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (then called the Buffalo Bill Historical Center) in Cody held an exhibition called “Interior West: The Craft and Style of Thomas Molesworth” which sparked a renewed interest and helped to attract builders. That exhibition marked a resurgence of Western design, particularly among furniture builders.
For the past 25 years, furniture builders have opened shops, trained apprentices and taken traditional techniques and designs to a new level. The town of Cody features approximately two dozen artisans creating unusual furniture in both traditional and modern Western motifs. Their wares are available in the town’s galleries and directly at many of the artists’ shops or through their web sites. Most artists are happy to provide tours, and most have showrooms.
The competition among Cody’s builders is good-natured, and the individuals are highly supportive of each other. Furniture makers cover a variety of styles such as rustic, contemporary and whimsical furniture and accessories. Iron and steel artisans and leather craftsmen are found throughout town as well.
A list of furniture and accessories makers in Cody and the surrounding area can be found at www.northmountaingallery.com.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
The area of Park County is called “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country” because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Center of the West and thriving western culture host nearly 1 million visitors annually.
The Park County Travel Council website (www.codyyellowstone.org) lists information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more. Travelers wishing to arrange vacation can also call the Park County Travel Council at 1-800-393-2639.