Originally Published: March 10, 2014 6:02 a.m.
PRESCOTT - The 14th annual Southwest Leather Workers Trade Show wrapped up at the Prescott Resort this week after a move from Wickenburg.
Ralph Solome, who, with his wife, Charil Reis, owns the Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal, which sponsors the trade show, called the attendance for the three-day event "awesome.
"We wanted to have a bigger show in a town with more to do for our exhibitors and customers," Solome said. "It's worked out better than we expected."
He noted that, the first year when a show is moved, "you take a chance on a lesser crowd and you kind of take a risk," but "that has not been the case" this year in Prescott.
Among the visitors perusing the vendor booths was Scott Hagins from Phoenix. He was experimenting with a hand-made stamping tool made by Barry King of Sheridan, Wyo.
"(The show is) larger," he said. "They have more floor space here."
Hagins is a holster-maker, specializing in cowboy action shooting. He said his holsters are "functional art," and said he enjoys the process of making them because "it's doing something that's been done for hundreds of years."
Barry King has been making leather-working tools for "a little over 20 years," and has been coming to the Leather Workers Trade Show for almost as long.
"A show like this allows (customers) to touch the tools, rather than just seeing them on the website or in a catalog," he said. "They can actually try them on a piece of leather."
His tools are crafted from stainless steel. "That's very labor-intensive," he said, but sales are good at trade shows like this one, despite the fact that his tools cost more than the mass-produced ones.
Leather work is both functional and artistic, said instructor Chan Geer. "It's an art that we're trying to keep so it doesn't get lost."
Geer was teaching a class on wallet and billfold construction, one of nearly 40 classes held at the event to teach everyone from novices to the experienced how to improve their skills. Geer said he travels the country, putting on workshops like this one.
Even after 60 years working with leather, Geer said, students will surprise him.
"You're always learning something new," he said. "That's what keeps it going - the new stuff that you're always finding out."
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