Dick Giehl Remembered
Leathercraft has always been enjoyable for me, especially when I learn something new, and/or especially when I've picked up on a procedure I've not yet tried. I particularly enjoyed covering an old treasure chest in leather. The whole project was fun. Also, Dot and I enjoy meeting leatherworkers across the country, visiting with them at their shops. Yes, leathercraft is so relaxing and a lot of fun.
But now I must report to you a most unhappy, sad interlude. It is the passing of our dear friend, Dick Giehl. Dick died on June 10, 2002. Dot and I had the great pleasure of presenting Mr. Giehl the Al Stohlman Award in 1993 in Indianapolis at the annual IFoLG show.
Dick loved the outdoors and wildlife. While on a camping trip in Canada, he observed a lady constructing a pair of moccasins while she was seated on the bank of a river in Ontario. From that moment, Dick showed a devout interest in leathercraft. He was soon to visit a Tandy store and made numerous purchases, which began his working with leathercraft leading to a rewarding career. So, that which began as a hobby quickly developed into a serious pursuit of art study and photography for subject material. These new skills were applied directly to Dick's consuming desire to express in art form through the medium of leather.
A family trip was made in the early 50’s to Fort Worth and Los Angeles. They first visited the offices of Tandy Leather, then on to California and the Craftool Company. It was there that Dick and Margaret Giehl met Dick McGahen, owner and as luck would have it, a chance meeting with Lou Roth, Joey Smith, and Ken Griffin. Also a meeting with a new and exciting author and artist with ten thousand ideas, Al Stohlman was arranged. Lively discussions with these people concerning art, tools, and color ensued. Motivated with excitement and armed with new knowledge, Dick and Margaret returned home to Ohio with a solid direction as to what Dick's leathercraft was to take. For the next three decades, a determined and detailed revelation of Dick's leather medium, subject matter, and style developed layer upon layer, always with an inseparable eagerness to pass on this knowledge as quickly as it was gained. Large classes met weekly in Dick and Margaret's home.
Jim Lind, a life-long and close friend of the Giehls, has watched as Dick’s leather art evolved over a period of years. Jim reports, "I have a ways considered Dick a pioneer in leathercraft, and looked forward to his showing and demonstrations." Once he mastered the basics he had in mind, he proceeded to create wildlife pictures. A natural colored leather, which turned dark with age, always “bugged” him no matter how beautifully done. He wanted to add LIFE and REALISM to the piece. Dick started dyeing his pieces with alcohol dye. Then he tried antiquing and wiping off most of the antique, which did keep the piece lighter in tone, but still was not enough to satisfy him. Dick began using mission-grain leather as a canvas. It became a success for him in the art craft world. The work was a combination of sketches, leathercraft and painting.
"A funny thing happened at one demo I saw. Dick painted a mountain goat black. Audible whispers of doubt could be heard. 'Doesn't he know that the goat is supposed to be white?' The finished goat was white - the black undercoat became shades of gray/black subtle shading. His demos were always crowd pleasers. Margaret coined the phrase, 'Feel with your Eyes,’ because of the uncontrollable desire to touch Dick's pictures. They were so realistic. Betty and I cherish the many happy times together with Dick and Margaret, and especially the fall seasons we worked along the trail at Silver Dollar City, MO for so many years. Gone but not forgotten - our families became close friends over the years." ....Jim Lind
From 1967 to 1983 Dick and Margaret traveled to art and craft shows, primarily in the southeast and Midwest. Dick always felt that his greatest accomplishment to elevating the status of leather was the introduction of leatherwork to a public where it had not previously been viewed.
Dick spent 16 years as a visiting craftsman at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. In 1988, he was given the Craftsmen Hall of Fame Award at Silver Dollar City. A 30x40 inch picture of an eagle was bought by the Busch Gardens in Florida. One of Dick's customers would buy one or two pieces each year eventually built a special room onto his home to display Dick's works.
Reis, Bill. "Dick Giehl Remembered”. Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal. September/October 2002: p 24. Print.