Jürgen Volbach - 2020 Al Stohlman Award Winner

Jürgen Volbach - 2020 Al Stohlman Award Winner


The Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft is presented each year to an individual who has devoted his or her life to mastering and above all, promoting, the art of working with leather. Normally, the presentation would have been made at the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show in Sheridan, WY. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, the presentation was made via video on the LC&SJ website and Facebook Live.

Jürgen Volbach, this year's recipient of the Al Stohlman Award, was born in Bergish Gladbach, a small town near the city of Cologne, Germany. From a young age, he was interested in painting and various types of art. Thankfully, his talents in the arts were fully supported by his parents and grandmother. 

After finishing school at the age of 14, Jürgen was able to work and learn in the studio of Master Engraver, Professor Rudolf Niedballa. The Professor's patrons included the Vatican, English Royal House, and European aristocracy. After completing an apprenticeship of 3-1/2 years, Jürgen spent the next three years becoming an accomplished goldsmith. During this time, he received international awards for his work and was entered into the Who's Who" of artists worldwide. Leaving work as a goldsmith at a Cologne jewelry store, he opened his own store at the age of 26.

A passion of his during this time was also riding and working on Harley Davidson motorcycles. While attending bike events in the States in Daytona, FL, and Sturgis, SD, he met many leather artists and noticed a similarity in their leather designs to the works he had made in silver. Later on, during a trip to Kerrville, Texas, Jürgen met saddle and boot maker, Dan Atkinson, who showed him how to carve leather.

After returning home to Germany, he began making his first leatherworking tools using nails, screws and whatever else he could find at the time. A return trip to Texas for a workshop and 14 days of hands-on instruction in Don's shop set his new hobby into high gear.

Back home in Germany, he educated himself further, learning to handle and become proficient with the many different tools used in the leather trade. As the number of his clients grew, he realized that he had found the job he loved the most. During the last few years, he has been experimenting with, mastering, and creating new styles of carving, tooling, and modeling works in 3-D. He passes on what he has learned and mastered, doing workshops for students in his Cologne studio, all over Germany, in the United States, and in other countries.

Jürgen's 45-year commitment to art and his very enthusiastic willingness to pass on what he has mastered is an excellent example of what it takes to be deserving of the Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft.

Congratulations! (Herzliche Glückwünsche!)

-Tony Laier, Stohlman Foundation Vice President