Interview: Clint Wilkinson of Bell & Oak

Born and raised in the Lone Star State, leather artisan, Clint Wilkinson of Bell & Oak, is a study in the maker renaissance. His hand crafted leather goods have inspired a generation of individuals eschewing mass production in search of authenticity and purpose. More than the goods, these people have bought into an idea, an ethos, a way of life that resonates in everything made by the hands of Wilkinson.

But Wilkinson loves what he does and the people he does it for. It’s not merely making a product to sell, it’s building relationships and collaborating with other makers that fuels his work. We recently sat down with him to find out what drives this passion.

Q: What’s one thing every man should know? 

A: “If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there” – Old West Proverb

Q: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A: My time in the oilfields of Texas.

Q: What are you working on right now?
A: iPhone 6 sleeves!

Q: Name one thing you can’t live without.
A: A good support system and the good Lord.

Q: Who or what influences you?
A: My Grandpa & Dad. They’re just some great old cowboys that a lot of people respect.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I’m not a reader, but the only book I open on a regular basis is The Bible.

Q: Name one thing no one knows about you.
A: When I was 17, I got a phone call from the New York Yankees inquiring about me as a baseball player.

Q: It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
A: Sweet Tea with a big steak!

Q: If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?
A: Stay on the same path because you won’t end up where you’re at right now if you get off.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: A staple in Denton, Texas, just like my Grandpa.

Q: What path led you to start Bell & Oak?
A: Under too much stress, I decided to carry on my Grandpa’s leather craft legacy. You can read the full story here.

Q: There seems to be a renaissance of local makers. Weigh in on this.
A: I think people enjoy making things with their hands. Just like me, it’s probably therapeutic in such a technology driven age. Some people are tired of updates, instant information, “I have to have it now” mentality. The consumer likes knowing the maker and they know things are done right if it takes a little extra time to ensure quality.

Q: What is the most important aspect of running a small company?
A: Keep your circle small and try not to outgrow yourself too fast because it won’t be as fun. Also, always make time to talk to your customers and show them appreciation.

Q: What other makers do you admire?

A: Pastrana Studio, Mandy Cave, Lauren Apel Photography, Ely Ganzer, & Cary Schwarz.

Q: How did you decide on the name Bell & Oak?
A: Well, I wanted to somehow pay homage to Weldon’s and I chose to name it after the two street corners in which my Grandpa’s shop sits, currently in Downtown Denton, Texas.

Q: Describe your creative process.

A: I like to make a simple sketch, then I’ll study it for a few days before taking it straight to the leather for construction.

Q: What can we expect from Bell & Oak in the future?
A: Expect to see Bell & Oak in a few retails stores across Texas. Also, we’ll be adding a couple shop helpers to get orders out in a timely manner. Lastly, I would like to have a small collection of bags coming very soon.

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