Honghao Cai - 2019 Al Stohlman Award Winner
Honghao Cai - 2019 Al Stohlman Award Winner
I am Cai Honghao from Beijing, China. On the evening of May 19, 2019, in the atrium of Sheridan College's Whitney Academic Center, the world's Leathercraft shrine, I became the winner of the Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft in 2019. When Tony Laier awarded me the medal representing the highest honor of leather craftsmanship, I relived the sight of Ben Moody, Tony Tony Laier's mentor, placing the medal around Tony's neck 20 years ago. All along, the baton of Leathercraft has been passed from the older generation to the younger generation. Today, 20 years later, this inheritance has finally passed on to my hands.
When I look back on my career in leather craftsmanship, from an enthusiast to a full-time leather artist, I am glad to find that every bit of my progress has always been inseparable from the help and support of my family. My decision to leave my 20-year advertising career, resign a well-paid job as creative director and devote myself full-time to the leather art which would brought an unstable income was encouraged and supported by my family, which enabled me to get rid of my worries and devote myself wholeheartedly to the creation of leather art.
The advertising creative work I did 20 years ago brought a lot of inspiration and help to my later leather art creation. In many ways, the creative inertia thinking and creative methodology needed in advertising creativity are also applicable to Leathercraft creation art. This has enabled me to quickly become familiar with Leathercraft creation and gradually determine my own creative direction and personality style. As for how to improve the level of artistic creation, I have sorted out the systematic methodology and shared it publicly with students and leather carving enthusiasts.
Ten years ago, when I was just beginning to learn leather craftsmanship, I spent a whole afternoon making a leather carving belt on a small table in my own home. That was my first work of leather carving; all of the methods used by me to make it came from information I had found on the Internet. Back then, the art of leather carving was seldom known in Beijing; those few fans could learn from each other only by sharing their own experiences. At that time, by reading a large number of foreign books and online information, I began to learn and practice leather carving by myself. While beginning to customize leather carving, I also shared my experience with beginners so that they did not have to waste time in choosing tools, leather, etc. In the next few years, I summarized my understanding of leather carving creation and the skills I mastered as a systematic course, and began the teaching of leather carving. In addition to regular face-to-face courses, I also shared various cases of Leathercraft at home abroad with the students online and give them detailed analysis. At the same time, I also shared with them my own constantly improved art innovation craftsmanship.
In 2016, it was the first time that I took my work to the World Leather Debut in Sheridan. My work "Spring Deer" won the hearts of the judges who gave it the first place in the picture category because of its ingenious integration of Oriental elements and traditional Western leather carving techniques. From that moment on, I realized that if we want to inherit and develop traditional crafts and ensure them a sustainable development, we must use an international perspective to integrate the elements of crafts and culture and the elements of the West and the East, which will create infinite new possibilities, making itself an exciting job. I also encourage my students to try more possible combinations based on traditional leather crafts, such as materials, culture, forms and other possibilities, and constantly create exciting new works. I encourage and help my students to participate in international communication, so that their excellent works can be shown in exhibitions in Japan and the United States, hoping by so doing to add a different Oriental light to traditional leather craftsmanship.
I am deeply aware that since the moment I was awarded the Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft, I have begun to assume the responsibility of following Al Stohlman's aspirations - selflessly devoting to leather technology, possessing superb level of leather technology, willing to share and selflessly giving, and maintaining the spirit of continuous innovation in Leathercraft. I hope that my lifelong efforts can change the development process of Leathercraft, so that it can be loved and spread by more people.