It's difficult to imagine a better place other than Cowtown to be home to one of the greatest leathercraft exhibits. Fort Worth just seems like a natural fit.
The Tandy Leather Museum & Gallery is the area's only museum with such an extensive collection of hand-tooled leather articles. The collection's most prized leather pieces on display include four saddles, a hand-tooled golf bag, guitar case and "The Brush Popper" leather picture. This is just a sampling of the beautiful leather pieces hand-crafted by Al Stohlman, who is known for his amazing carvings world wide.
"If you have any interest in leather art, this is a must see."
Al Stohlman, who passed away in 1998, was a master craftsman, gifted artist and pioneer in leathercrafting techniques. His work has influenced hundreds of thousands of leathercrafters worldwide, through the media of tool designs, patterns, instruction books and personal demonstrations.
He left behind a long legacy of leathercraft books and leathercarving patterns, many of which have been published by Tandy Leather in its catalogs and instruction books. Many of the original leather pieces used to illustrate his published books are on display, some dating back to the early 50s.
His love for leather was exemplified by a willingness to give freely of his knowledge, to build leathercraft as an art form, as well as a craft, and to encourage others by his personal example. Although he is no longer with us today, his work and character will remain with us forever.
"Come and relive the dream of Al Stohlman and the Old West."
During the 1920s, a young Al Stohlman dreamed of some day illustrating the popular Western stories of Zane Grey and Bret Harte. Scenes of cattle drives, wranglers, chuck wagons and horses filled his imagination and his sketch pad. As a youngster, Al's passion was utilizing his spare time to sketch the animals that lived in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Al Stohlman had his first experience with leatherwork in 1942 while stationed in New Guinea while serving for the U.S. Army. It was then that he toyed with a GI issue leather belt to learn about the unique qualities of leather, using only a pocket knife and some filed nails. It wasn't long before Al discovered the need for certain tools and the importance of using a mallet or striking stick to achieve greater depth and detail to his projects. Four years later, back home in California, he learned to use stamping tools.
By 1952 he was earning national attention through work for the Craftool Company. Craftool, a west coast company, was purchased by Tandy Leather years later. Many of the company's tools were developed by Stohlman. Later, as a freelance teacher/artist he traveled the country attending craft shows and guild meetings, teaching and sharing his techniques.
In 1962 one of his most precious dreams came true- the opportunity to share his 20 years of knowledge with students of all ages and backgrounds, in the convenience of their own homes, through the mail. Sponsored by Tandy Leather, the Al Stohlman Home Study Course was recognized as one of the most comprehensive guides to basic leathercrafters available anywhere. Through this correspondence course and dozens of books, hundreds of thousands of people have been taught leathercraft. The original finished projects used for this successful Home Study Course are on display.
With over 50 years of experience in the leather and saddlemaking field, Al Stohlman gained tremendous pleasure of sharing his knowledge with all who cared to learn. He believed the best way to accomplish this was through instruction books. His dream was to eventually see his patterns and books published into encyclopedia form to preserve this valuable craft knowledge for future generations. His 'one-of-a-kind' books continue to be top sellers in our stores.
Ann Stohlman is quite a remarkable craftswoman in her own right. But then, she only had the world's best leathercraftsman for a teacher. During their time together Ann became an accomplished saddlemaker, leather carver and buckstitcher as well as a frequent contributor to various leathercraft magazines. Ann passed away in 2004.
Al Stohlman once wrote, "I have often been asked what it takes to create a leather picture. More than anything else, it takes ideas. And being a realist, I feel a picture or scene must be authentic in detail, so it takes time. Lots of time"
The largest hand-tooled picture on exhibit is "The Brush Popper", pictured below. Measuring 43" x 27", it also includes a beautiful finely tooled leather frame. It is a three-dimensional piece that incorporates the use of embossing plugs, a most unique style. This beautiful piece of art is probably one of Al's most ambitious projects. The carving alone took over two months. We are pleased that once again, this magnificent piece of art is available for the world to view and appreciate.
The museum also has on display leather art pieces by many of the past Al Stohlman Achievement Award winners. The Al Stohlman Achievement Award is given annually to a leathercrafter who has demonstrated continued dedication to the craft, following the examples set by Al Stohlman. Recipients of the medal are recognized on the basis of their overall achievements in the craft.
Other artists' work on exhibit include Rob Barr, Kathleen Bond, Paul Burnett, Silva Fox, Ken Griffin, Tim Grothen, George Hurst, Kat Kuszak, Tony Laier, Jim Linnell, Peter Main, Ben Moody, Gene Nolan, Jan Schoonover, Al Shelton, Christine Stanley, Elizabeth "Liz" Freriks and Charlie Davenport.