SHERIDAN — Jim Linnell just wants to pass the buck. He spends his time in retirement traveling the globe teaching others the intricacies of leatherworking, and from 9 a.m. to noon on May 18, he will continue his approximately 20-year tradition passing the skill along to people ages 19 and younger.
The Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show held in Sheridan each May for around the last 21 years has brought in leather businesses of all types.
The event is hosted by the Leather Crafters and Saddlers Journal and provides those working with leather the opportunity to peruse and purchase materials for making saddles and other leather items.
Rolls of leather pieces transform the Holiday Inn Sheridan Convention Center into a leatherworkers paradise. The show itself is catered to the makers, as not a lot of finished products are available for sale.
Saddles with intricate designs sit on display, tiny tinkering metal pieces that aid in creating designs on those saddles are for sale and also being used and demonstrated by the sellers.
The craft of leatherworking, whether for saddlemaking or other items, spans the interest of people throughout the world.
While some believe the art is less popular than it was before, others believe the craft still thrives, due in part to classes like those Linnell teaches.
“Relatively speaking, there aren’t a whole lot of people doing leatherwork in this world, so whatever means we can use to keep the interest alive and keep the craft alive is what we’re interested in doing,” Reis said.
Linnell happily disagreed, noting several states and countries he recently visited to teach and interact with those engaging in the craft of leatherworking. He said the popularity has never been greater, and often people are less aware that the craft is being shared among people globally. Even in the United States and in Sheridan, Linnell’s class has had good attendance throughout the years.
The free class is limited to 40 students this year, but preregistration is required for planning purposes.
“What we’re always trying to do is introduce the craft to new people of any age, but particularly our youth,” Leather Crafters and Saddlers Journal Publisher Charil Reis said. “We feel like it’s one of the most worthwhile ventures that we get ourselves involved in because it has such lasting effects.”
Reis said if you can get a child to pick up leatherworking and they keep after it, they might go away from it for a while but a lot of times they’ll come back to it later in life and encourage their families to get involved in it as well.
Linnell agrees. For the adults already creating things out of leather, he challenges each one to share the craft with a younger generation.
“That’s my role in this industry,” Linnell said. “I have been called by some the ‘ambassador of the craft to the world,’ and I really have had the privilege of teaching what I teach around the world.”
Linnell worked for Tandy Leather for many years before retiring and continuing leatherworking through trade shows and teaching.
Students may register by calling 715-362-5393 or online at www.leathercraftersjournal.com.