1960–Late 1980’s: Ken Siggins Carries the Torch

Of the craftsmen who have been part of Cody’s furniture making history since Thomas Molesworth, Ken Siggins best bridges the time from the 1960s to today’s modern style. A Cody native, Ken grew up on a guest ranch established by his grandfather in 1917. 19 After high school, Siggins moved to Los Angeles where he graduated from college and spent several years there, working various jobs and pursuing an acting career.2 0 Ken had started a young family and decided to return to Cody where he bought a small ranch on the South Fork of the Shoshone River. At his father’s suggestion, he started Triangle Z Ranch Furniture and began building ranch western style furniture in 1964. 21 Ken notes the distinction between his style and what he calls Molesworth’s “cowboy” western style in the 2007 Cody High Style catalog, “Triangle Z Ranch Furniture is a reserved, refined western style lacking a Hollywood flair.”

At that time, Thomas Molesworth had moved from Cody. Paul Hindman, who once had Siggins peel burls for him at a rate of $0.11 a piece, had moved on to operating heavy equipment, and Pete Fritjofson was taking only limited orders, and would pass away later that fall. 22

Around the same time period Ken met some guests, staying at his family’s ranch from the Harden Furniture Company in New York.2 3 The connection made, Siggins spent several weeks in New York, working on cherry Victorian style furniture.2 4 Although it was not western furniture, the experience would prove invaluable as Siggins learned about drying wood, finishing, and upholstery. As Siggins pointed out in the first Western Design Conference catalog in 1993, “This served me well, as I am one of the few artisans who cut my own poles, skin my own calf hides, design and construct the pieces, finish and upholster them.”

Dude ranches and guests of those ranches were Ken’s primary clientele through the early years, and Ken describes the business as being “feast or famine.” Occasionally supplementing his income through other ventures, then having up to six employees, slowing down once again, and then going to the dude ranch convention, Siggins characterized this time as, “go like crazy, then slow down until the next big order.”2 5 Triangle Z’s first big contract was for the Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, Montana in 1994. One of the project’s biggest challenges was a lack of quality material, so Siggins, resilient and industrious, scavenged the forest for dry poles to complete the project. 26

Over the years, Siggins would have several employees who would later become established craftsmen in their own right, and most notably, Jimmy Covert. Covert grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating college, he and his wife, Lynda, moved to southern Indiana. In Indiana, the Covert’s worked on their farm and ran their own sawmill. In 1984, Covert accepted an apprenticeship from Siggins, and together with their two small children, Jimmy and Lynda moved to Cody. The Covert’s lived on the South Fork, and Jimmy worked for Ken until 1990 when the family moved into town and Jimmy setup his own shop. During his time at Triangle Z, Covert not only learned the craft of woodworking, but he began to develop his own style. In the years following, Covert’s organic designs helped to push the Molesworth style in new directions, and along with several other talented artisans, helped create a new “Cody style” of western furniture.

Siggins’ place in the annals of western studio furniture history should be celebrated. In addition to his mentorship, his furniture under the Triangle Z Ranch label helped to keep western style and design relevant in years when there was not a national craze for all things western. However, in the true fashion of ranch ethics, Siggins will be the last person to brag or boast, instead working quietly at his shop thirty miles up the South Fork of the Shoshone River. When asked recently about slowing down or retirement, Siggins commented, “I love it, you know, and I just can’t wait to get up in the morning and go to work making furniture.”

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