Serge Volken - 2017 Al Stohlman Award Winner

2017 Al & Ann Stohlman Awards

As part of the Honors’ Night program of the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show held in Sheridan, Wyoming, at the Historic Sheridan Inn, two annual Stohlman awards were presented.  The Al Stohlman Award for Achievement in Leathercraft went to Serge “Bigfoot” Volken from Switzerland, while the youth award was presented to Kacey Rosendahl.

Serge “Bigfoot” Volken embodies all of the necessary qualities and more to become an Al Stohlman Award recipient: commitment, dedication, determination, passion, and a willingness to learn, then share, his knowledge with all.

His approach to leatherwork is fundamental in teaching the skills needed.  They include addressing the work, giving it your skill and concentration, never giving up, always continuing to try new and different techniques, and when all is said and done, share your experiences, because it’s the sharing that helps us best move ahead and grow.  

He has said - as he trained under many leatherworkers - “the more secretive ones were the one trying to hide what they didn’t know, rather than sharing what they knew”.  Thanks go to teachers like those who taught at this year’s Southwest Leatherworkers Trade Show in Prescott, Arizona and the Rocky Mountain leather Trade Show in Sheridan, and the teachings of this year’s Al Stohlman Award recipient for sharing their knowledge.  

To go over the history and accomplishments of this year’s winner would take much more space than is available.  What we can briefly tell you is that he began his career in leather by maintaining and restoring harnesses for horse powered taxis in his native country of Switzerland.  He then realized that the leather bug had bitten him and that the profession he was trained for, certified French chef, was not to be.  Instead, he sought out skilled leather artists worldwide to learn from and opened his own retail custom leather shop.  Continuing along his path of gained knowledge, he became a qualified researcher and restorer of irreplaceable antique leather items (even opening a leather museum with his multi-talented wife, Marquita) and has organized and participated in many leather related events worldwide.  He speaks five languages and continues to be a sponge for knowledge, which he passes on willingly through lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on teaching.

In his acceptance speech, Serge stated, “Many people have the impression that knowledge is power, but it’s exactly the opposite.  If you know something that somebody else doesn’t know, you’re at their service… to know is to be at the service of those who don’t.”  We are sure that he will be adding a great deal to his amazing and inspiring life story in the years to come.

Laier, Tony & Reis, Dot (2017). 2017 Al & Ann Stohlman Awards. Leather Crafters and Saddler's Journal, 27(4), 36-37.