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SHERIDAN — It may not be the most popular craft, but those who create art from leather are passionate about what they do.
Beginning Monday, leather crafters from around the world will descend on Sheridan to host and attend workshops and the 20th annual Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show.
“There will be stuff from other parts of the world that people have made and its free for people to come and take a look,” local leather crafter Chan Geer said. “It is a big show and everyone always enjoys it.
“There are quite a few good instructors from across the world, too,” he added.
Geer will teach three of the workshops next week — Billfold/wallet liner assembly, portfolio-style filigree notebook cover and Sheridan-style tooling of various flowers and leaves.
Geer said the biggest thing those starting out in leather work need to know is that they want to do it.
“After that, they need to get somebody to show them and teach them how to do it,” he said. “But don’t get discouraged, everyone started out at one point or another.
“Just look, listen and study everyone’s work,” Geer added. “You have to sort through it and pick out things you like and develop things into a style that works for you.”
Geer began working with leather when he was a kid, living on a ranch north of Sheridan in “Decker country.”
Geer’s father worked on saddles and Geer used to hang out in Lloyd Davis’ saddle shop or at Ernst Saddlery.
“I just always enjoyed working with it (leather) and I used to do a lot of tooling for Ernst Saddlery until they closed,” Geer said.
In the ‘60s, Geer began his own shop and in 2005 he was given the Al Stohlman Achievement Award for his dedication to the craft.
But ask any craftsman the key to those intricate flowers and designs and they’ll likely credit the tools they use.
“It is one thing to have the right tool and another thing to have a good tool that is the right tool,” Sheridan resident Barry King said.
King owns Barry King Tools, which manufactures leather working tools in Sheridan.
“There is a difference between a handmade tool and a factory-made tool and the quality of a good tool can make your work look so much better,” he said.
King began working leather when he was young and in high school began making his own tools.
After high school he attended Sheridan College for machining and then began his business 1994.
“It is hard to find good tools so I made some that would work for what I particularly needed,” King said. “Once I made a few, other leather workers started asking me to make some for them.”
Now, King sells his hand-crafted tools around the world.
King said one way to know if you’re getting a good tool is to try it before you buy it. Then, trust the brand’s reputation for quality.
King and his staff will attend the trade show May 17-19 at the Sheridan Holiday Inn.
“We’ve gone every year since the first year,” King said. “It is a very good gathering of leather workers from overseas and nationally. It’s one of the largest gatherings specifically for leather workers — other shows are usually for the Western industry as a whole.”
For more information on the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show, visit www.leathercraftersjournal.com/tradeshows.
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