Don Butler - 2011 Al Stohlman Award Winner

Stohlman Awards Presented At 2011 Awards Reception

The Al & Ann Stohlman Awards were presented as part of the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show's Awards Reception on Thursday, May 19 in the Historic Sheridan Inn.

The Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft is awarded each year to an individual or individuals who have devoted their lives to mastering, and above all, promoting the art of working with leather. Promoting means unselfishly giving their time to pass on the knowledge and love of the art to others. Given with the medallion is a certificate signed by the Foundation Board and a check for $1,000.

With an air of anticipation and excitement, the following two recipients were announced.


Don's leatherwork began when he purchased a set of tools with money earned selling a couple of steers back in 1959.  Tools in hand, he signed up to take Leathercrafting as a 4H project.  Growing up he's had the good fortune to be exposed to the work and guidance of some very talented individuals - including Otto Ernst, Rudy Mudra, Ed Stock, Bob Douglas, Bill Gardner, Don King and Lloyd Davis.  After stamping belts for Otto Ernst to help put himself through school, he decided that his real future lay in “cowboying" for a living. Both were interrupted by a 3-year hitch in the Army, including a year in Vietnam.  In 1972 he traded Bob Douglas a winter's worth of stamping if Bob would show him how to put a saddle together. Then in 1976, after years of building saddles, making chaps and stamping belts for extra money, he and his wife, Kitty established the Custom Cowboy Shop in Sheridan and later expanding with another store in Cody.  From then until now, working in leather has been his main source of income.

Some of his other talents included: making stamping tools, working in silver, painting in watercolors, and creating etchings.  Folks describe him usually with the word "humble" and end with the words "gracious" and “sharing”.  He earned a number of well-deserved honors including being named "The Academy of Western Artist 1999 Saddle Maker of the Year".  He was presented with "The 2010 Governor's Art Award" and has won many, many "Best of Category" and "Best of Show Awards" over the years.

His willingness to pass on knowledge gained through a life dedicated to defining and perfecting his many talents is an inspiration to us all.  An "out-of-control gelding" tried to take him on his" last ride" several years ago, but fortunately we still have him here with us.

Reis, Dot. "Stohlman Awards Presetned At 2011 Awards Reception". Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal.  September/October 2011. p 26. Print.