How a Pandemic Pivot Turned One Texas Dad Into an In-Demand Leatherworker
“I’m getting four hours of sleep a night, but I really want to do this.”
Jacob Clack’s leatherworking career kicked off with a seven-piece starter kit from 102-year-old leathercraft brand Tandy. Now — following a pandemic pivot during which the dad-of-two devoted his former commuting time to refining his craft — he’s rehauled his work life. If you’re looking for a custom-made leather belt or a sweet new pair of sandals, he has (just) a couple slots left for holiday orders.
Here, we talk to Clack — the proud founder of Clackdaddy Leather — about making a big, mid-career shift while not abandoning his kids on the weekends.
InsideHook: What was your connection to leather working? Did you have a special piece from your dad or grandfather?
Jacob Clack: So looking back now, I would say yes to that question — but growing up, I didn’t realize that was the case. When I first got into leather work, I found an old belt that I’d had as a kid, with my name all tooled along the sides and on the back. And my entire elementary school was wearing the same belt. I never realized what it took to make a belt like that before I started doing leather work — but now that I look back, a good portion of my family had something special like that, a custom-made belt or wallet.
When did you know you had a business on your hands?
I originally got into it just to make cool stuff for myself or my friends — I just loved the art form and making something great you could wear on your hip or pull out of your pocket. But once I got into it, I realized how much demand there was for it.
Looking back to when you started out, can you see how your work’s evolved?
The first thing I made is the first thing on my Instagram — a hat patch with the shaka symbol. I was, like, “This is the most amazing thing that anyone has ever done.” [Laughs.] I put it on a hat and I wore that hat around for like three months. My skills started progressing — and then one day, I had my hat on my bench, and I started just really looking at it, and I was like, “That’s … not nearly as good as I thought it was.”
When you first decided to get into leatherworking — where did you look first? Amazon? YouTube?
When I first got into it, I was originally going to make things without any tooling involved. But then as I got more into, I started looking around, and I ended up getting on the Reddit leatherwork, and I just consumed as much as I could — and I said, I’m going to give this a try. I got the seven-piece starter set from Tandy.
Were you more like, “Where do I start?” or “The world is my oyster”?
I was like, “Oh, these things suck.” At the time, I was seeing all these crazy, awesome things that people were doing online and I was like, “How did they do that, with these seven tools?” I was doing my thing and like, “That does not look like the same thing over here.” Then I saw somebody’s background shot of their tool bench, and there’s 150 different leather stamps. And I was, like, “Oh, that’s what it is — you just go find more and more tools.”
Were you always artistic?
Before I got into leather work, I was into woodworking — so that’s what I spent all my money prior to leather work: fine woodworking tools. I’ve always appreciated functional art pieces — I enjoy art for art’s sake, but I love to add a little artistic flair to something that’s going to be used on a daily basis.
How did COVID affect your journey as an artist?
Prior to COVID, I was driving up to Austin every day for work, spending two-plus hours in the car every day. Once everybody started working from home, it was like, OK, I’ve got all this extra time. I’ve got an hour-long break at lunch. I don’t have to worry about waking up super tired in the morning and then trying to get in the car and drive an hour. So I was able to stay up later and work longer.
How do you balance everything with being a dad?
I take everything I want to do and try to wrap it around my priorities as a dad. I’m not going to say to them, “On Saturdays, you’re not going to see your dad for six hours.” They come first.
It’s probably horrible advice, but I took the time where I could, which means I’m getting four hours of sleep a night. But I really want to do this. And so I’ve just decided that at least for this point in time, I won’t sleep as much — that’s just how it’s going to be.
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