George Hurst - 1991 Al Stohlman Award Winner

George E. Hurst – 1991 – Recipient of the Al Stohlman Award For Achievement in Leathercraft

What a genuine delight it was for Dottie and me to represent Al and Ann Stohlman in awarding the medallion to George Hurst!  To help with the ceremonies, we were joined on the dias by Karla Van Home, Kat Kuszak, Paul Burnett, Bill Gomer, Robb Barr and Bob Beard — all Al Stohlman Award honorees.  Kat and Paul gave personal insights to the meaning of the Award.  Mr. Hurst's nomination was selected collectively by a panel of five judges from across the country — each one independent of the other and for the most part, unaware of who the other judges were.

The announcement of the honorarium was received marvelously as 250 plus people in the banquet hall literally erupted into a standing ovation.  Along with this was a special presentation to this year's honoree — a beautiful handmade leathercrafter's tool box of exotic wood from Timber Products of California, a very special treasure shown here on the table just behind Mr. Hurst.

So many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people recognize George as an accomplished carver and a man of outstanding ability, encouraging others with that positive attitude that helps us all to stick to it and do more.  Anyone acquainted, even briefly, with George will soon be aware that leathercraft dominates his life not only in business, but it also dominates the hobbyist and artist in him as well. He has made video tapes on his own time and with his own investment to help advance leathercraft through his own guild and the Federation.  His deep sense of commitment to the leathercraft guild organization prompted him on the night of the award to present his $ 1,000 cash honorarium to "The International Federation of Leather Guilds."

George is what many leathercraftsmen refer to as a complete craftsman; he is able to turn out not only pictures, but he has learned the techniques of construction and fabrication of components that are known and practiced by very few craftsmen and not available in textbooks.  George enjoys himself most when he has the chance to teach these procedures to others.  Follow, if you will, the highlights of some of George’s career in leathercraft.

George first got started in leathercraft in New Berlin, Penn. in 1945 as a member of the local Boy Scouts.  He continued to be active in Boy Scouts and improved his leatherworking skills in high school until his graduation in 1951.  While serving in the US Army from 1952-55, George continued his leathercraft, constructing many items.  In 1955, he married his wife of 35 years, the former Emma Jane Kline.  They have one son, Keven.

George was soon doing leatherwork in a very serious fashion, even selling his work to friends and family.  Soon after his work was in demand throughout the region.  Belts and wallets gave way to much larger projects which eventually included saddles, one of his is on our cover.  During these years, George started teaching leathercraft to friends, neighbors, at a retirement center and the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Penn.

From 1955 to 1961, George had a very lucrative career in the furniture manufacturing business while operating his leather business as a part time avocation. The leather business continued to grow, and he decided that he would be in the leathercraft business for life.  Tandy Leather Company had been pursuing him for some time, and George decided a change was needed.  H is burning desire was to pass his knowledge on to others, and that is how he wanted to spend the rest of his life — advancing leathercraft.  

George started with Tandy Leather Company in June of 1961.  On his first day of employment, he did a demonstration at a summer camp for children and a workshop for a church group that evening.  

It would take volumes to list all of his accomplishments over these 46 years of leathercraft activity.  Here are just a few: Articles for Leathercraft magazines spread over a span of 30 years; various books, including Basic Leathercarving, two stamping books, two books on beginning saddle making, two books on cutting leather and more; many video tapes for both Tandy Leather and as a volunteer for The Lone Star Leathercrafters; a National Boy Scout Jamboree program and video that resulted in the awarding of 1,464 Leatherwork Merit Badges being awarded in a 10-day period.

With the help of professional educators, George has developed and implemented a number of leathercraft programs for schools.  Technology for Children Leathercraft is a course of instruction for elementary-aged students which was later updated to be w called, Adventures in Leather.  It includes: student and teacher texts and a video program titled Beginnings in Leather, a program for special education students: Operation Leather, a computer program for classroom manufacturing and free enterprise.  This also includes student and teacher texts, a computer software program, and a video tape.

The list of accomplishments goes on and on, including many training programs on the business side of selling and servicing leathercraft customers. These programs include both written and video programs.  He is also responsible for introducing many new and innovative items and techniques into the craft. The most successful being three-dimensional leather stamps. Of course, it is no secret that he has done many, many doodle pages and other patterns.  Add to all of this his leader ship position in Tandy Leather Company.

George says, "There is so much yet to be done."  You can rest assured that he is busy every waking hour dreaming up new projects, new ideas, new ways of doing things and new way of promoting leather craft. His current work is the development of curriculum material for teaching leather art in our educational system.  As he says, “This may be my most important project ever."  It is his dream to have this program of instruction adopted by every school in North America and even the world.  It could be a very Important step in leather being accepted by the art community of the world for what it is: the most versatile art medium available on this earth.  Stay tuned, George is just getting started.

Reis, Bill. "George E. Hurst -1991- Recipient of the Al Stohlman Award For Achievement in Leathercraft”. Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal.  Nov/Dec 1991: p 34-35. Print.