Karla Van Horne - 1989 Al Stohlman Award Winner

Announcing the 1989 Recipient of the Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft: Karla Van Horne

Karla Van Horne was born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1957.  She made her first wallet, a “Roughrider” kit, at the age of ten and soon went on with other small kits as well.  She bought her first beginners’ kit in 1971 and began to teach herself to carve leather.

Karla graduated from high school as an All-Ontario Scholar and winner of the Eastwood Collegiate Citizenship Award.  She promptly enrolled in a science program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  She also continued working with leather, becoming more and more involved with it.

In 1979, she began teaching leatherwork at “Weatherworks Inc.” in Burlington, Ontario, and continued working there part-time until it developed into a full-time job in 1982.  She became a member of the Canadian Society for Creative Leatherwork (C.S.C.L.) by joining the Hamilton, Ontario branch.  It wasn’t long before Karla began demonstrating for both the Hamilton guild members and to other branches of the C.S.C.L. such techniques as airbrushing, figure carving and floral carving.

She attended her first C.S.C.L. Annual in 1983.  Several items made by Karla were used in the Hamilton branch’s table display and as entries in the Weston Trophy Competition, a major inter-guild contest which includes some of the most outstanding work of the members of C.S.C.L.

In 1984, she was elected secretary of the Hamilton branch and continued to be involved in several competitions that year.  She wrote her first article for “Canadian Leathercraft”, a quarterly bulletin for C.S.C.L.  The article was about dyes and finishes, a subject Karla has researched and tested thoroughly to discover the best means to achieve the results she strives for.  She also gave seminars and demonstrations to various branches and became more involved in the numerous C.S.C.L. activities.

Karla received her Associate standing in 1985 and was elected recording secretary of the C.S.C.L. executive council.  She continued her demonstrations, workshops, writing and competition items at a pace that was nothing short of remarkable.  She made the decision to leave employment at Weatherworks and establish her own custom leatherwork company which she called Great Northern Leather Company.

She wrote her first article, which was about dyes, for The Leather Craftsman in 1986.  She continued serving in office for the C.S.C.L. and took on even more seminars and workshops.  Karla had developed a love not only for leathercraft, but for teaching and sharing anything she knew about it with others.  She took every opportunity to encourage her students and expand their knowledge and develop their work to its full potential.

1987 was a very special year for Karla.  She had long dreamed of receiving her Fellowship standing in the C.S.C.L. and decided to apply for it.  She submitted a biography of her involvement with leather which included the following words: “I am a leatherworker.  The veg-tans, moroccos and calfskins have the opportunity to work with are as precious, functional and beautiful to me as any gold or silver.  To take a project from the raw state and to build on it with tools, dyes and other materials is a joy I cannot deny.  Leather is my life.”

She went on to become second vice-president in the C.S.C.L. and, in 1988, was also elected president of the Hamilton branch.  She also became more involved with another guild she had joined, the North Coast Leather Crafters of Parma Heights, Ohio.  She became a popular choice for demonstrations at the annual Federation and Jamboree shows.

I first became acquainted with Karla in 1986 through phone calls and correspondence back and forth.  I was impressed with the articles she wrote for the magazine and with her total commitment to leathercraft.  She soon attempted to convince me to come to the Annual in Canada.  Because of Karla’s persistence, I very nervously agreed to go to the 36th Annual in May of 1986.  Although I had found Kalra to be a very talented writer, I quickly realized that she was a leather “addict” and had used her own thirst for knowledge not only for her own benefit, but to eagerly share with others all that she had learned.

Over the years of comradeship, I was able to call on her help through the times of having to overcome many obstacles of past mismanagement to other everyday publishing problems.  I always look forward to her articles, which bring a lot of feedback from readers in the mail.  Karla seems to have a knack for “tuning in” to other reader’s problems and frustrations.

 At the 1988 Federation show in Cleveland, Ohio, Karla received a plaque from The Leather Craftsman with the inscription “To Express our deep appreciation for the outstanding efforts you have given us.”  Without Karla, it would have been a much tougher road for the magazine to reach the goals I have set for it.

Although I was not a judge for the award, I have no doubt whatsoever that Karla will carry the responsibilities of her award with the utmost pride and standards imaginable.

As Karla Van Horne would say, “If you commit yourself to the title of ‘master’ or ‘teacher’, then don’t pull back from the people who look to you to help them.  If you treat your students as your competitors, they will not learn a thing other than your own selfishness.  If you treat them as ‘just your students,’ they will learn only what you think they ought to know.  If, on the other hand, you treat them as the teachers of tomorrow, you will show them all you know.”  She also said, “We have not learned and loved this craft for ourselves; we have learned it for future generations to love and pass on.”

The winner and most deserving recipient of the 1989 Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft is Karla Van Horne.

*C.S.C.L. uses a graded system of membership which includes 1) General Membership (open to anyone interested in leathercraft); 2) Association Membership (a qualifying membership requiring 2 years as a general member, the submission of four articles for judging and involvement in the various projects of the Society); and 3) Fellow Membership (requires one year as an Associate, the submission of articles with a high degree of excellence, involvement in the Society, etc.)  The Council of Fellows is responsible for all policies involving standards and adjudicating.

"Announcing the 1989 Recipient of the Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft: Karla Van Horne”. The Leather Craftsman.  November 1989: p 8-11. Print.