Leather workers from all over were at the 18th annual Southwest Leather Workers Trade Show last weekend in Prescott.
Among the cowhide was Jerry Van Amburg, founder of Van Amburg Leathers in Blackfoot, Idaho. Not only does he make items out of leather for a living, but he sells his products internationally and just celebrated 25 years of selling his work in Japan, Amburg said. He said he got into leather out of a desire to be an artist.
“I always wanted to be an artist and I couldn’t draw,” Amburg said. “The first time I ever made a leather project, I got compliments from it … I kind of tended to have a natural ability to put it together to where it looked good and success breeds success.”
To this day, Amburg said he sits up until the wee hours of the morning, all excited and making things out of leather like a 12-year-old.
Also there was Barry King, a toolmaker and staple of the trade show with King noting he’s always going to any show put on by the Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal. His family has a saddle company in Wyoming and he started making the tools when he was in high school and it turned into a business, King said.
In making the tools, King said he does a lot of work with computerized machines as well as a lot of work by hand.
“It’s combining modern technology with the old world handwork to make the best tool that we can,” he said.
Some people came from much farther than the southwest to see King, including Rusty Darnell, operations manager of Springfield Leather Co. in Springfield, Missouri. They visit every year to see King because he’s driving the leather crafting and tool market, Darnell said.
Rick Nielsen, a Prescott local, also spoke highly of King and his tools.
Paul Zalesak, of Leather Wranglers Inc. in New Mexico, had a presence as well. In fact, he’s been coming to the show in Prescott ever since the Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal brought it from Wickenburg, Zalesak said.
“They started doing the show up here and we just tagged along,” he said. “It’s a lot better than the Wickenburg venue. It’s bigger and much nicer.”