Donald "Don" Butler
1945 ~ 2014

Don Butler, photo by Meg Glaser  We are saddened by the passing of master saddlemaker and silverworker Don Butler yesterday, Sunday, April 27. Over the years we have had the honor of working with Don and displaying some of his beautiful leatherwork and saddles, most recently in our Between Grass and Sky: Trappings of a Ranch Life exhibition.

In addition to being a fine artist, Don was a generous teacher and mentor to many, including his participation in our "A Gathering of Masters: Leather Carving" workshops presented in recent years at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.


Don was born in Montana and raised on ranches in southern Montana and northern Wyoming. He worked for big ranches in the area, and after serving in Vietnam started his own cattle operation with the help of his wife and three kids. In the mid 1970s he had to make a choice between pursuing a career in art or in saddlemaking. The latter won out and Don's Custom Cowboy Shop in Sheridan, Wyoming, was established. Don was especially known for his carving skills, and his creations in leather and silver work received many awards in gear exhibits across the region. He was the recipient of the 2009 Wyoming Governor's Arts Award. He will be missed by all of us at the Western Folklife Center and by all who knew him.

Visit the Facebook account of the Custom Cowboy Shop where you can leave condolences for the family. The Billings Gazette has a brief obituary here.

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See photos from prior Gatherings in our Photo Gallery.

Watch Gathering Moments on Film, short and casual "guerrilla" videos from prior Gatherings.

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