Clint Wilkinson, b. 1982 . Lives in Denton, Texas
Clint learned the basics of leather work growing up inside Weldon’s Saddle Shop & Western Wear located in downtown Denton, Texas. Weldon was his grandfather, he started his business in 1957 as a custom saddle maker. Weldon grew up on farm land that his family acquired after the civil war, there they had horses and cattle. Weldon's interest in leather grew from the love of riding horses as a kid, that love of riding spawned a passion for saddle making.
When Weldon’s Saddle Shop opened in 1957 it was strictly a leather goods shop where his grandfather primarily made saddles, but would occasionally make belts, purses, and other cowboy tack. You could catch Clint's grandmother, mom, and uncle in there tying ropes or helping with small projects. Several years later Weldon’s started carrying western retail items such as hats, boots, and jeans to help with cash flow. In the late 60’s retail slowly took over the leather department thus adding “& Western Wear” to the already established Weldon’s Saddle Shop title.
Clint was born in 1982, his grandfather traded a saddle for his doctor bill, a move that wouldn’t surprise those who knew him. Clint vaguely remembers fumbling around with Weldon's tools on scrap pieces of leather. He never really knew what he was doing, but every now an then Weldon would show him how to use the tools properly. During Clint's teenage years he was put to work helping his grandfather in the summer time around the shop, his coordination improved, he was able to soak in instructions which allowed him to use the leather tools correctly. However during this time period his parents surprised him with a dirt bike for christmas…
Clint spent most of his youth absolutely engulfed in riding dirtbikes. He completely left leather behind, he didn’t care about the slow paced life, rather more concerned about how fast he could go! Not knowing at the time, dirt bikes actually allowed him to free his artistic mind. While on the bike he would get lost in thought, it was such a freeing experience for Clint. During this time period he also found a love for design, film, and photography. He would spend time photographing his friends, take them back home and create desktop wallpapers for their computers. The love for media started to take over his love for dirt bikes and quickly found himself working as art director of a motocross publication.
After several years working in print Clint decided to join a couple guys in creating a website dedicated to the motocross industry. While there he taught himself web design and was named creative director shortly after. Often he found himself in front of the computer 12 hours a day. On top of all this, he was helping Weldon’s on the side. In 2013 he hit a wall and had to take a break from the computer, he was burning out mentally, physically and creatively. He took a month off, went back into his grandpa’s leather shop, sat down and made his Dad a belt.
The peace that fell over Clint was indescribable during the belt making process. It brought him back to the days where his life was much slower. It made him realize that he had forgotten what’s important in life……..time. Not just time but quality time. He had been in front of a computer for so long that everything had been a blur in his life. When he “disconnected” from technology for a month it was as if he was free again, like riding his dirtbike for the first time. So Clint had a very tough decision to make, he could either take the plunge or continue on with the website. He has a wife, 2 kids, a very steady job, so starting up a leather business seemed incredibly risky – especially in this day and age. However, sometimes in life you have to jump, and he did.
In 2014 he started a leather goods brand called Bell & Oak, a name Clint came up with that paid homage to Weldon’s Saddle Shop & Western Wear. It’s the two street corners that Weldon’s sat on since 1957 in downtown Denton Texas. He started making wallets, belts, accessories, and even incredible collaborations with other artists. There was a lot of interest in Bell & Oak the first year, Clint was gaining in popularity faster than he ever imagined. He was interviewed by several blogs, filmed by different media groups, and even put in several magazines. The notoriety allowed him to work on projects for some amazing folks such as George W. Bush, Stetson, West Elm, Leon Bridges, Monsterchildren, & Southwestern Seminary.
Even though Bell & Oak had such great success in such a short period of time, he wasn’t truly happy with the work he was creating. There was a trend in American made leather work, it was starting to all look the same. More machines. Higher quantities. Wholesale. This is not why Clint started working with leather again. He began to fall into a burnout like in his previous occupation. So he started to focus on the true art form of master leather work, there is where he finally found his peace of mind.
He started studying master western saddle makers, bespoke french bag makers, and the astounding perfectionism of Japanese leather craftsmen. There was a sense of artistry in their work that he hadn’t seen before, down to the tiniest details. All the work was done by hand, no machines, and very peaceful. This is the body of work Clint found interest in, so he made a decision to close the brand Bell & Oak in 2016.
Clint now creates under his own name as an individual craftsmen pursuing the title of “artist”. Moving forward he will create functional pieces of luxury leather work completely made by hand. Everything he creates will be hand sewn and hand cut. The materials are from the worlds best tanneries located in France, America, and Italy. His primary focus is on briefcases, handbags, and wallets. His use of master techniques will create timeless sophisticate products that can be used everyday.