Wyoming Arts Council

Saddle maker and leather worker Verlane Desgrange passes Dec. 2

Cody resident, renowned saddle maker and leather worker Verlane Desgrange passed away December 2.

She came to Wyoming when she was just 24 years old to attend saddle making school. There she met and apprenticed with saddle maker Cliff Ketchum of Ralston. Working with him for a year, seven days a week, she eventually moved to Cody and opened the South Fork Saddle Shop, building saddles, making bridles, chaps, purses and all manner of tack for local residents and clients throughout the country.

She won many awards. In 2007 she won 1st place in the International Leathercraft Guild’s Leather Carving Contest. In 2006, she was awarded the prestigious Al Stohlman Award for Lifetime Achievement in Leather Craft, when she also received additional recognition from Senator Mike Enzi and the Wyoming Arts Council. WAC also nominated her this past spring for the Ford Foundation’s USA Artists Award. From 2002-2004, she taught at Spokane Falls Community College where she resurrected the last formal (degreed) school of saddle making in the country.

In 1998, she received local recognition as Best Artist in Leather at the Western Design Conference for her creative interpretation of a 1918 lady’s astride saddle which toured the state for the third Wyoming Biennial. Her passion was studying historical saddles and leather work and creating fresh interpretations of these designs. She was also one of ten horse-related crafters in the WAC’s The Well Dressed Horse exhibit in 1992

Verlane was a backbone of the Cody equestrian community, donating her time and expertise to the Heart Mountain Dressage Club, of which she was a founding member, and to Pony and 4-H clubs. At the time of her death, she was working with 4-H groups in Spokane to develop leather working programs for middle and high school students.

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