Academy of Western Artists "Saddlemaker of the Year" For 2010 Awarded to John Willemsma

Top Quote Master western saddlemaker, John Willemsma, is chosen as the "Saddlemaker of the Year" by vote of the country's top working saddlemakers. End Quote
  • Oklahoma City, OK (1888PressRelease) August 20, 2010 - The Western Saddle Guide announced today that legendary Guthrie, Oklahoma saddlemaker John "Long John" Willemsma is the recipient of the 2010 Academy of Western Artists' "Saddlemaker of the Year" Award.

    John Willemsma has been building high quality, custom western saddles for more than 30 years. In 1986 John opened LJ's Saddlery in Guthrie, Oklahoma to design and build saddles that meet the needs of both working cowboys and non-professional horsemen and women.

    John has had the great fortune of being able to study under some of today's greatest saddle craftsmen, including Don King, Dale Harwood and Chuck Stormes. Combining the knowledge he gained from these masters with his study of early saddleries, particularly Visalia, Hamley and Ray Holes, has enabled John to bring very high standards to each and every saddle he builds.

    The Academy of Western Artists (AWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting contemporary western artisans. 2010 marks the 15th year the AWA has awarded the "Saddlemaker of the Year." The winner of the award is chosen by vote of top working saddlemakers. The pass recipients of this coveted award is a list of the finest custom western saddlemakers in the world.

    2009 Cary Schwarz - Salmon, Idaho
    2008 Pedro Perini - Marysfield, California
    2007 George Holt - Dillon, Montana
    2006 Steve mecum - Crowheart, Wyoming
    2005 Chas Weldon - Billings, Montana
    2004 Gaylord Thissel - Cottonwood , California
    2003 Eddie Brooks - Spring Creek, Nevada
    2002 Bill Maloy - Washoe Valley, Nevada
    2001 Dale Harwood - Meridian, Idaho
    2000 Pete Gorrell - Darby, Montana
    1999 Don Butler - Sheridan, Wyoming
    1998 Chuck Stormes - Alberta, Canada
    1997 Don King - Sheridan, Wyoming
    1996 Bob Marrs - Amarillo, Texas

    It was also announced that saddlemaker Forrest Shupe of Sonora, California was granted the Don King Saddlemaker Award, named for the legendary saddlemaker, historian, teacher, artist, and craftsman, Don King of Sheridan, Wyoming. This prestigious award is presented to a living saddlemaker as a recognition of a lifetime of outstanding work and contributions to the craft. Sadly, Mr. Shoupe passed away shortly after being chosen for this award. Forest Shoup began his saddlemaking career in 1954 and will be remembered as a master saddlemaker, teacher, and invoator. His fine saddles will be around for a long time as both using saddles and as valuable collectibles.

    The Academy of Western Artists (AWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving cowboy and western heritage by recognizing and promoting contemporary western artisans and their craft. The annual AWA awards recognize excellence in: Cowboy & Western Music, Cowboy Poetry, Western Music Radio, DJ's, Chuckwagon Cooks, Gearmakers, Leather working, Saddlemaking, Spur Makers and other Western arts and artists.

    The Western Saddle Guide is a free, in-depth, online resource dedicated to everything there is to know about the western saddle. Coverage includes information on saddle types, fit, parts, accessories, brands, makers, care, history, and decoration, plus helpful tips and buying and how-to guides. The Western Saddle Guide can be found at

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