Al Stohlman Award

The Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft

The Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft honors the accomplishments of individual leather workers worldwide for their continued dedication and exemplary service to leathercraft.  The criteria for nominations are someone who has demonstrated continued devotion to the advancement of leathercraft, following the example of Al Stohlman, who is most well-known for publishing over 40 books, creating numerous pattern packs, and innovating many new tools for leatherworking.

Recipients of the medal are recognized based on their overall achievements in leathercraft.  Considered criteria for an award nomination include a biological sketch, chronological listing of achievements, teaching history, public galleries, and innovative applications.

This award is currently presented annually by the Al & Ann Stohlman Award Foundation at the various national leather trade shows.

Past Award Winners

1983 – Paul Burnett – Paul Burnett was the first recipient of the Al Stohlman Achievement Award at the Mid-West Federation’s Jamboree in 1983.  Burnett helped progress the leathercraft industry by teaching others through leather classes, correspondence courses, internet instruction, as well as several published leathercraft books, Craftaids, doodle pages, and patterns.   In addition to his leathercraft, Burnett also developed several lines of leather jewelry, accessories, and belt buckles of his original designs.

1984 – Roberta & Ken Griffin – Ken Griffin originated the Doodle Pages for the Craftool Company and authored one of the first widely distributed instruction books on leathercraft.  In addition to the multiple pattern books Griffin authored, he also designed many of the leather stamping tools that are still used by leather craftsmen today.  Among his more noteworthy work, Mr. Griffin designed and built saddles for Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Betty Grable.  When they weren’t working in leathercraft, he and his wife Roberta also toured the world as magicians and are listed in the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood.

1986 – Robb Barr – Robb Barr was a Native American artist most well-known for his life-like animal carvings.  Along with his studio work, Barr was active in art shows, taught leathercraft classes for persons with disabilities, produced several books on leathercraft and was featured in instructional videos produced by Hide Crafter Leathercraft.  Barr was a self-taught leather craftsmen who popularized a 3-D embossing technique used in his leather art.

1986 – Bill Gomer – Bill Gomer was raised around a saddle shop and working with leather became his life’s passion.  In addition to running a saddlemaking school in Leavenworth, Kansas, Gomer won multiple awards for his leathercraft and helped establish numerous different leather guilds around the United States.  He is a popular instructor and a prolific leather artist.

1987 – Robert “Bob” Beard – When Robert Beard began submitting tutorial articles to Make It With Leather, he caught the attention of more seasoned leathercrafters who mentored him and invited him to join The Leather Guild.  Beard has dedicated much of his life to teaching leathercraft all over the world, including the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan.  In 1984, Beard received an order from Charlie Daniels to create a custom hatband for President Ronald Reagan, however he may be most well-known now for his signature line of high-end carving tools.

1988 – Kat Kuszak – Kat Kuszak learned leathercraft at an early age, but refined her craftsmanship when she was relocated to Germany with her husband, where she used her creative abilities to occupy her time.  Focusing on the art aspect of working with carving and dying leather, Kuszak was commissioned for a variety of art pieces and taught at multiple leather craft conferences.

1989 – Karla Van Horne – Karla Van Horne has been a very active leader in multiple leatherwork societies and leathercraft guilds, eventually becoming the Executive Director of the International Federation of Leather Guilds.  In addition to being an expert on coloring leather, Van Horne also taught handcarving, leather braiding, and how to amalgamate hand carved leather in to wood pieces.

1991 – George Hurst – During George Hurst’s 50 years in the leathercraft industry, he has written countless magazine articles, several books, programs for education both primary and secondary, given demonstrations, taught classes, and formerly served as an executive for Tandy Leather Company.  A pioneer in producing instructional video programs on leathercraft, Hurst is still actively producing online instructional videos for Tandy Leather and remains active in the Lone Star Leathercrafters Guild.

1992 – Ben Moody – Ben Moody worked in his father’s cobbler’s shop at a young age, where he learned the basics of leathercraft and began selling projects to school mates. Moody served as part of the 112th Cavalry in World War 2, where he refined his craft working on saddles and participating in a number of art competitions.  During his 70 year career in leathercraft, Ben wrote multiple books on leathercraft and taught seminars at schools, VA hospitals, colleges, 4-H, Boy Scouts, and many others.

1993 – Dick Giehl – Dick Giehl spent 40 years striving to elevate the status of leathercraft in the arts and crafts world.  Giehl wrote tutorials for The Leather Craftsmen, published leathercraft books, created Doodle Pages, and more.  Popularizing the THIS style, Giehl worked for over 15 years as a visiting craftsman at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

1994 – Ava Ostrander – Ava Ostrander won the Al Stohlman Award for her dedication to teaching leathercraft, particularly in correctional facilities, both in person and by mail correspondence.  Ostrander worked in a factory for over twenty years and would regularly schedule her vacations so that she could attend prisons to teach seminars on everything from basic shoe repair to leather art work.

1995 – Beth Berry – Beth Berry was living with her husband on their ranch in Wyoming when he gifted her a set of beginner leatherworking tools in 1955.  As her skill evolved, Berry taught young and old, and was asked to judge leathercraft competitions around Wyoming before eventually published her own book of leather projects.  Berry was commissioned to create 100’s of leathercraft awards for livestock shows, rodeos, and other civic functions. 

1996 – Chuck Smith – A founding member of the Leather Artists of America, Chuck Smith is known for his willingness to demonstrate and share freely of his expertise to artists from all over the world.  Smith has created pattern designs for Tandy Leather and has created custom leather accessories and pattern designs. What started out as a hobby became a full time business for Chuck and his wife, Lana.

1997 – Silva Fox – A professional graphic artist, Silva Fox brought a unique style to the leathercraft industry with innovative sculptural techniques.  Discovering multi-dimensional quality of leatherworking, Fox specializes in life-like wildlife paintings and portraits with a holographic appearance and has produced a video tutorial on using Renaissance painting techniques for leather.  Fox also created a collection of embossed leather art as part of a tactile exhibit for the blind. 

1998 – Don King – Don King was an innovator in the leather industry, regularly inventing new utilitarian leathercraft tools, and is considered the originator of the popular Sheridan Style of leather design and carving.  King began working at a saddle shop at age 15 and grew in to a prolific saddlemaker, teaching scores of students professional standards of the leather craftsman. 

1998 – Peter Main – A student of the Stohlman’s, Ann Stohlman personally presented Peter Main with an award for his extensive teaching in Australia, the United States, and Japan.  Main has won countless awards for his work and facilitated the formation of the Stohlman exhibit at the King Museum in Sheridan, Wyoming. 

1999 – Tony Laier – Tony Laier has taught innumerable leathercraft classes and been instrumental in the development of a modern leathercraft curriculum.  While working at Tandy Leather, Laier wrote multiple books for professional leathercrafters, designed many leathercraft kits, and established lesson plans designed to teach leathercraft.  Laier is now a trustee of the Al and Ann Stohlman Award Foundation.

2000 – Roz Kaohn – An enthusiastic teacher of leathercraft, Roz Kaohn is most well known as the “Dragon Lady” for the dragon theme in her leatherwork, creating extensive dragon dioramas.  To accomplish Kaohn’s unique style, she developed new techniques to incorporate in to leatherwork, inspiring others to push boundaries in their artistry.

2001 – Jesse Smith – Jesse Smith began leatherworking as a hobby while serving in the Air Force, bringing in extra income by selling billfolds, belts and purses.  In 1963, Smith made his first saddle and, two years later, he had become a full time saddle maker.  Smith has dedicated his life to introducing youth to leathercraft through teaching with the cub scouts, boy scouts, 4-H clubs, church groups, elementary schools, and even at a collegiate level.

2002 – Jim Linnell – A native of Montana, Jim Linnell has been an active leather craftsman for over 45 years.  Linnell is an active advocate for learning and has taught leathercraft to hundreds of thousands of students of all ages all over the world through workshops and instructional videos.  Linnell’s work has been featured in museums and international galleries, as well as on the covers of numerous catalogs and magazines.   

2003 – Jim Lind – While working for saddle shops during his college years, Jim Lind began volunteering at the local VA Hospital, where he taught leathercraft to handicapped veterans.   He began a business carving specialty items for tourist shops and continued to do leathercraft in the evenings, even after he had begun his career as an engineer.  In his free time, Lind participated in many leatherworking festivals, encouraged the growth of multiple leathercraft guilds, and continued to teach at VA hospitals.

2004 – Al Shelton – Al Shelton’s inspiration for leatherworking came from growing up on a ranch in Colorado where he wanted to make his own saddle.  A naturally talented artist, Shelton worked for a number of well-known saddle shops before being hired by the Craftool Company to design tools, create patterns, and write instructional books.  For many years, he also published a “Tricks of the Trade” column in leathercraft publications where he shared practical advice for leathercrafters.  Shelton taught many classes throughout his life, most notably with a group at Pacific Arts and Crafts that later formed The Leather Guild.

2004 – Bill & Dot Reis – A leather hobbyist, Bill Reis and his wife Dot owned and operated a tire business when they decided to purchase The Leather Crafters & Saddler’s Journal in 1991.  The publication had traded hands several times previously and the integrity of the journal had begun to diminish, leaving a void in leathercraft community for a platform to share their leatherworking knowledge.  Bill and Dot discovered a love for journalism through writing and editing the magazine and helped it return to a valuable resource for the world of leathercraft. 

2005 – Chan Geer – Chan Geer took up leathercrafting in 4-H as a young boy and fashioned his own rudimentary tools out of things he found around the ranch in Montana.  The local saddle shops took a shining to a young Geer, who would offer them farm fresh products in barter for scrap leather, and eventually hired him to do part time work for them before opening his own shop.  Now an established artist, author, and teacher, Geer’s work has been commissioned by the likes of John Wayne and the Emperor of Japan.

2006 – Verlane Desgrange – At a young age, Verlane Desgrange studied model horses and cowboy books to try and understand how the leather pieces were constructed.  Self-taught through Tandy projects and Stohlman books, this insatiable curiosity lead her to a lifetime of leatherwork through teaching college courses, publishing articles, and pursuing both Western and English saddlery. 

2007 – Pete Gorrell – Both an established silversmith and a leatherworker, Pete Gorrell academic knowledge of anatomy coupled with his creative talents lead him develop a new technique in saddlery that make riding more comfortable and less taxing on the body.  An avid teacher, Gorrell has traveled domestically and abroad to share his knowledge of leathercraft.

2008 – Cherryl McIntyre – The first international winner of the Stohlman Award, Cherryl McIntyre is renowned for her devotion and energy dedicated to promoting leathercraft and teaching throughout Australia.  Most well-known for hosting the week-long teaching conference “Dimensions in Leather”, McIntyre has dedicated her life to teaching all levels of the crafters, including children, adults, hospital patients, inmates, businesses, and institutions.

2009 – Al Gould – Al Gould is an established saddle maker based out of California.  His love of teaching saddlery can be seen through his teaching, curriculum writing, and coordination of classes for Saddle Week in Sheridan, Wyoming, shows sponsored by the Colorado Saddle Maker’s Association, and many others.

2010 – Bob Klenda – Owner and operator of Klenda’s Custom Saddlery in Colorado, Bob Klenda has made over 500 saddles and well as countless other projects and accessories.  Over 50 years of working with leather, he has accumulated knowledge that he shares freely through teaching.  Actively involved in the development of the Colorado Saddle Makers Association, Klenda has served as President for many years and is a member of the American Saddle Makers Association. 

2010 – Harold Bligan – Harold Bligan began his journey in leathercraft when he received a Tandy beginner’s kit as a retirement gift in 1984. This was the start of his hobby, which lead to numerous recognitions and awards for his leatherwork. He shared his interest by assisting 4-H programs, Scouts, camps, and churches all over the state of Indiana by performing workshops and demonstrations. For over 15 years, Bligan hosted a Tuesday night leather session at his home for anyone wanting to learn and work with leather.

2011 – Don Butler – Don Butler learned leathercraft at a young age and used his talents to work in different saddle shops doing stamping.  After a stint in the Army during Vietnam, he bartered his time to apprentice under Bob Douglas to learn saddle making and, since then, has made his living with his leatherwork.  Often described as “humble”, “gracious”, and “sharing”, Butler was also named the Saddle Maker of the Year in 1999 by the Academy of Western Artists.

2012 – Kay Orton – A former 4-H leader, Kay Orton has invested over 40 years to teaching leatherwork to young people all over the state of Colorado.  In addition to running her own leather shop, Orton helped rewrite the 4H Leathercraft Manual for Colorado and has worked in an administrative capacity to help progress the communication of the Colorado Saddle Maker’s Association. 

2013 – Akiko Okada – Akiko Okada has won leathercraft awards all over the world, regularly exhibits her artwork in galleries, and has been an active proponent of the expansion of leathercraft in Japan.  Impressed with the traditional western styles, Okada puts her own twist on the Sheridan tooling technique, producing world renowned art work with her own definitive style.

2013 – Wayne Christensen – A devoted educator, Wayne Christensen is passionate about teaching leathercraft.  In addition to teaching classes in his California based leathercraft store, he also offers a series of free instruction to school teachers and to camp counselors so that they can impart the knowledge on to others.  

2015 – Bob Park – Bob Park, an Arizona native, honed his leatherworking stills in the mid-60s to the late-70s while working in saddle shops, western wear stores, and ranches.  After serving in the Army, he pursued a career in the construction industry, still maintaining his love for leathercraft.  Now Parks runs his own leather shop and devotes his time to teaching, be it in person or through his published tutorials and design book.

2016 – Kathy Flanagan – Kathy Flanagan’s career in leather began as a 4-H member in 1970 and evolved into a lifelong passion. She established herself as a 4-H leader, teaching for over 20 years, and being awarded the “Outstanding 4-H Leader of the Year” award. Kathy is a true artist and has taught thousands of others through her tutorials and classes taught all over the world.

2017 – Serge Volken – Serge "Bigfoot" Volken is a Swiss leatherworker with a passion for restoration of historical leather antiques. Additionally, Volken has taught leatherworking worldwide and opened the Shoe Museum Lausanne in Switzerland.

2018 – Jim Jackson – Jim Jackson has spent most of his life around leatherwork, growing up working with his father at Ernst's Saddlery in Sheridan, Wyoming. Throughout his life, Jackson's work has been sought out by an impressive list of celebrities, as well as teaching leatherworking all over the world.

2019 - Honghao Cai - Honghao Cai transitioned from a 20 year career in the advertising industry to become a full-time leather artist. He encourages his students to integrate the elements of the West, East, and experiment with different materials, culture, and forms to bring different Oriental light to traditional leather craftsmanship. 

2020 - Jurgen Volbach - Jurgen’s artistic journey originated as a Goldsmith, but it was at Harley Davidson motorcycle events where he discovered his passion for leather crafting. He now educates and shares his expertise while exploring new styles of carving, tooling, and 3-D modeling in Germany, the United States, and various other countries.

2021 - G. K. Fraker - G.K. Fraker’s passion for leatherwork ignited at the young age of 5 years, leading him to his apprenticeship and career at the Tack Shop. Renowned for his hand crafted saddles, strong work ethic, and desire to pass on his skills, Fraker actively mentored young artists across the globe, keeping an art form and heritage of craftsman alive. 

2021 - Michiko Matsuda - Michiko Matsuda started her career in interior design and began leather craft after being inspired by a Scandinavian furniture exhibition. Matsuda developed her own technique, incorporating traditional Japanese leather batik, leading her to create three dimensional objects using leather thermoplastics. As an educator for over 30 years, Matsuda is dedicated to teaching her students how to explore new techniques and contribute to the progression of the leather craft industry. 

2022 - Chris "Slickbald" Andre - Chris “Slickbald” Andre began his leathercraft journey at a young age when his mother gifted him with a comb set. His passion and talent grew as he showcased his work at county and state fairs. Although he pursued other careers and served in the Marines, Andre’s passion for leathercraft remained, leading him to transition into working with leather full-time in 2011. Recognized for his skill, professionalism, and commitment to mentorship, Andre was recognized with the Al Stohlman Award in 2022. 

2023 - Annie Libertini - Annie Libertini is an award-winning leather artisan, highly respected leatherworking instructor, and an active instructor with Elktracks Studio! She was recognized in 2023 for her on going contributions to the advancement of leathercraft through her thorough teaching, advanced artistry, and pushing the boundaries of leatherworker's imaginations around the world through her three-dimensional workshops and sculpting classes.