Robert Beard - 1987 Al Stohlman Award Winner

Robert Beard: Winner of the 1987 Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft

Robert Beard began leathercarving in a small South Carolina town in 1970. He feels that the isolation from other leathercarvers allowed him to develop his own technique and style. It wasn't long before he began teaching in the state mental hospital where he was employed as a nurse's aid.

In September of 1975 his first article for Make It With Leather was published. Soon after he met master leather artist, Al Shelton and learned more "tricks of the trade." Christine Stanley also gave him many valuable lessons. Her encouragement caused him to join The Leather Guild and compete in the Leatherama in 1976. With his three entries, he won Best of Show and two First Place ribbons. This recognition spurred him on to begin teaching once more. Some students commuted over 60 miles to attend his classes. To make it easier for students to come to him he opened classes in various cities in California.

He wrote an article about making leather belt buckles for Make It With Leather and designed 2 clock faces for Tandy's clock kits in 1977.

In 1978, one of his belts won 1st place in the Mississippi Valley Fair which encouraged his students to enter craft shows across the nation. They won a Best of Show, 26 First places and 6 Second place awards. At Leatherama 1979, Bob's first 3-Dimensional Diarama was awarded First place in the Master category for pictures.

Bob took a job as ranch manager in Southwestern Colorado in 1980. This led to his teaching through correspondence. He began to teach his ranch hands leather art. In 1983 he demonstrated at the Federation of Leather Guilds show.

After five years in Colorado, Bob moved to Farmington, New Mexico. This move enabled him to devote more time to his art. During 1984, he received an order from Charlie Daniels to create a custom hatband for President Ronald Reagan. The publicity sparked enough interest to start a new leather class at San Juan College in Farmington. He also wrote the article for the September/October 1986 issue of The Leather Craftsman.

In January of 1987, he demonstrated his embossing techniques to the Leather Guild and received an invitation to attend the Leather Jamboree in Aurora, Illinois. At the Jamboree, his three entries received Best of Show for the Professional class, in addition to three First places. He is a member of the Prairie States Leather Guild and will be returning to the Jamboree this coming April to demonstrate his carving techniques.

He says that his current subjects are inspired by the surrounding southwestern environment and culture in New Mexico. His work is going in a 3-dimensional direction using multiple layers of embossed, carved and filigreed pieces and assembling them into scenic diarama.
All of the work created throughout his' career is 100% original and one of a kind; He never uses the same pattern twice.

When I think of Robert Beard, it conjures up thoughts of a keg of dynamite, ready to explode. His enthusiasm for leathercrafting is contagious and easy to catch. He has this crazy way of laughing as he talks that reminds me of a demon possessed. I had spoken with him often by telephone and was anxious to meet him even more after reading the many letters that accompanied his entry to the Al Stohlman Award.

These letters tell us that he is totally dedicated to his craft and will go to any lengths to teach and share his knowledge. "Bob is tireless when demonstrating and answering questions", we are told. One senior citizen told of the time Bob took his leather carving class to a leather store to show them how to buy good leather. He says that because of his newly acquired skills, he is now able to make some extra money with his leather work. When I turned over this year's nominations to the judges, I included some guidelines to follow when choosing the appropriate nominee. They are as follows;

  1. The complete and unbiased sharing of knowledge with other leathercrafters and the general public. In other words, the person would never deny another craftsman knowledge of a certain technique or skill.
  2. Aggressive promotion of leather as a quality medium for fine art and handcraft. The person should use the award as a means to promote leathercrafting and encourage levels from a beginner to an experienced craftsman to learn more and pass his own skills to others. The award is not meant to be added to a collection of trophies and ribbons and put away.
  3. Interaction with community and craft organizations. This helps spread leathercrafting into groups who may never have been exposed to it before. It encourages beginners.
  4. Leadership through personal example. The person is well-respected and known for his willingness to teach others. Perhaps he has formed a guild.
  5. The person should be very skilled at his craft. The beauty of his work should stand out among others.
I also asked the judges to ask themselves these questions about the nominee:
  1. How would this person's life have been different without his love of leathercrafting? In other words, what has leathercrafting done for the person? What has the person done for leathercrafting?
  2. Do they follow Al Stohlman's example by showing a willingness to give freely of their knowledge, to build leathercraft as an art form, as well as a craft and to encourage others by their personal example?

After viewing Robert Beard's work, I can say without a doubt that it stands out and is exceptional in quality and realism. As a client of his says, "it has a living quality about it."
A former student of Bob's had this to say. "The ultimate compliment I could pay to Mr. Beard is that his talents are such that he harbors no secrets. As an instructor, he gave freely of his time and knowledge by demonstration without reservation, each and every trick of the trade known to him. Only such a talented and gifted individual can, and will do so, as it is evident their interest is in the betterment of the art of leathercraft, without concern for proprietary techniques, or fear of competition."

Need I say more?

Nancy Sawyer.  "Robert Beard: Winner of the 1987 Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft”. The Leather Craftsman.  January 1988: p 18-19. Print.