Odin Clack can still remember almost everything about the Tandy Leather shop just outside the Loop in Houston, where his mom took him as a boy. On a day trip from his hometown of Galveston, Clack, only ten at the time, marveled at the primitive-looking tools on the wall, the seemingly endless piles of leather hides that covered every inch of the store, and that unmistakable leather smell. Twenty years later, in 2013, Clack was aimlessly driving around on a break from Texas Children’s Hospital, where his son was being treated for pancreatitis, and he stumbled upon another Tandy Leather shop. “I just walked in on a whim. I didn’t intentionally go looking for leather to be my medium,” he says. “It sort of found me.” He left the store that day with a leather-maker’s starter kit and a few pieces of hide and soon got to work on his first project, a sleeve for his laptop. Clack, who works full-time in marketing, began posting photos of the wallets, belts, and bags he was making to his Instagram account, and people started buying. Now when he gets home from his day job, he hangs out with his two kids for a few hours and then heads to his home workshop to spend four hours working on his line of leather goods, which he regularly ships to customers around the world. He recently sent several pieces from his Sandlot Collection—wallets made from old baseball gloves—to clients in Japan.
“As a young man just starting my career, I would spend all day and night on the computer, and that kind of lifestyle isn’t good for anyone,” he says. “Finding leather has allowed me to do something else that is a creative outlet and never requires screen time.”
Q&A with Odin Clack
You have said that you are proud to be an “island boy” who was born in Galveston. What does that mean to you?
People in Galveston live a bit more casually. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or your position in life. My dad was the banker at a small Galveston credit union. He didn’t care much about fancy things and cars, but he would happily shell out top dollar for a Ford and a pair of good shoes. That attitude lives on in me.
You have so many different tools hanging on the walls of your shop. Which one is the most important to your process?
Extremely sharp razor blades and knives. I also have a couple of industrial leather sewing machines that are the lifeblood of the shop.
Why are the knives and blades so essential?
If I try to cut a piece of saddle skirting with a dull blade, I am more likely to slip and cut myself, or not cut a straight line, which results in a poor look or wasted leather.
You take some custom orders. What are some of the unique requests people have made?
Gun holsters built inside of bags.
What do you love most about leather?
That it will patina and change based on the users. Every scratch, dent, scuff mark, or stain helps to turn items into something unique. Do you ever notice how people like to smell their leather pieces?
Speaking of, you and your wife recently created a line of candles to capture just that.
One thing we hear over and over when we are at shows is “I could smell your booth from down there.” Leather draws you in, so my wife started making candles in our kitchen, and we have already sold 350 of them.
You ride a Harley and practice jujitsu. Do these pursuits influence your designs?
The bike allows you to connect with what’s around you and meet new people you otherwise might not have crossed paths with, while jujitsu requires you to be humble and pay attention to technique. All that applies to leatherwork too.