Ava Ostrander - 1994 Al Stohlman Award Winner

Ava Ostrander 1994 Recipient of The Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft

An exciting moment indeed was when all of some 275 conventioneers rose to their feet and thundered their applause and approval at the announcement of Ava’s name as this year’s Al Stohlman Award selection.  Dot and I were particularly pleased as we had watched throughout the late summer and fall as the decision of the judges came in one by one.  Ava demonstrates by her commitment and dedication to leatherwork through her consistent devotion to teaching.  For many years, Ava has been conducting prison seminars in Indiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kansas.  As word spread that there is someone to help convicts learn and advance their leatherworking skills, some even became guild members, and with Ava’s help, presented their work in shows.  Ava’s family of convicts participating in all stages of learning exceed five hundred and from over sixty prisons.

As a factory worker for over twenty years, Ava would schedule her vacations to attend prisons to do seminars.  The effects of these labors of love have resulted by these men equally sharing their knowledge with fellow inmates.  Shoe repairing, custom boot making, saddle-making, leathercraft and leather art work make up the list of leatherwork these men pursue and, with Ava’s help, enter their work at many area shows.  “It is with pride that I watch these men gain self-esteem and self-worth, and thus, for many a new life lay ahead of them as the debt becomes paid,” exclaims Ava.  Her teaching also takes her to high schools, grade schools, cub and boy scouts, summer camps and 4-H projects, young people and retired citizens alike have received teaching from Ava.  Helping to start a leather guild, helping some to become members of the Federation such as a South African guild and the first prison guild to become a member as the case with the Harp City Guild.  Over 700 ribbons won at fairs and shows in the U.S. and several other countries – all this added to her extensive charitable work has earned Ava Ostrander leatherwork’s highest award, the Al Stohlman Ward for Achievement in Leathercraft.  We asked Ava to write a few lines about motivation and purpose –

Thoughts from Ava:

I cannot write about myself.  I can, however, give you my thoughts and feelings.

I do not work to achieve fame or glory.  I work that others might win in this race for self esteem and worth.

Although I have worked with the scouts, retired folks, children, teenagers and more, I take the greatest pride in my friends called convicts.  Several of these men have climbed the ladder to become Masters in the field of leathercraft.  All men have good in their hearts.  Sometimes it needs a little help to surface.  A famous saying from a very old book remains posted in my shop.  It is:

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if yourself were suffering.” – Hebrews 13:3

You will hear it said many times, “Share your knowledge, teach others.”  How many times do you hear Love mentioned?  To teach and share without love is to teach for self gain.  To teach with love in your heart for your fellowman is to teach for his gain; in this way, everyone gains. 

The Way to Happiness:

Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, fill your life with love, scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others.  Do as you would be done by.

I have never refused to teach anyone if within my power, and if it is not in my power, then I pray to be granted the power and strength to fill the need.  God is my strength; I can do all things through Him.

"1994 Recipient of The Al Stohlman Ward for Achievement in Leathercraft”. The Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal.  Jan/Feb 1995: p 43-44. Print.