My father will forever be a creator and a cowboy. This beautiful combination encouraged me to explore art, music, cooking, and leatherwork. His insatiable appetite for knowledge and growth is magnetic, as is his fascinating rodeo background. As we introduce the Legacy Clutches, it only make sense to introduce the man behind this dream.
Years in the making, we are excited to bring our collaboration to the world: the Legacy Clutch. We’ve taken my father’s incredible talent of tooling and applied it to our favorite piece: the Mandolin Clutch. We’ve gone back to our roots with the vegetable tanned leather that will hold the tooling and is traditional in western horse tack.
This collaboration feels magical…and we hope you love it!
Meet my father, Tom Nealey
1. Tell me a bit about your background in leather. What has being a craftsman taught you?
My Dad and brothers were good horsemen. We trained and sold horses from my earliest memories. I just sort of fell in love with the equipment side way back in high school. I'd send away for kits and learn from books, magazines or anywhere I could. I once sent away for a rein so I could tear it apart and learn how they made it.
Saddle making really grabbed me so I studied books, took saddles apart and did repairs. I eventually borrowed money from my brothers to buy a couple hides and commenced to build a piece of junk all by myself. It really discouraged me, but I kept learning and finding more resources then rebuilt it and sold it. Doing repairs and major rebuilds over the next several years showed me how others built saddles, tooled leather and made things. If anything its taught me is, "It has to be right when it leaves your shop" To this day if you buy one of my saddles you are in a club that gets lifetime warranty service. The buyer puts down some hard earned money, and I want them to be confident in it and me.
2. You not only make the saddles and leather pieces, but you design and craft your tools. What is that process like?
I've got lots of hobbies - I just like to create. I became a licensed engineer for that reason. Metal working has always been a keen interest, as well. I've made quite a few spurs and buckles, but knife making created a whole new need for knowledge of metallurgy, hardening, sharpening and shaping metal. Something about making your own cutting tools, awls and stamping tools is really satisfying.
3. Who have you admired creatively via craft, art, music or any other medium? Do you apply any of their techniques or philosophies into your work?
I'm not much into the hat singers and artificial pop/country music of today. It gets back to bringing something real to the table like Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix did. Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry , Lucinda Williams, and Slaid Cleves are true craftsmen of their art without the lights and gimmicks. The same with anything creative. It’s about the curve of the lines, the balanced shape, the quality of materials more so than sprinkling glitter on it. Look up pictures of the rawhide bridles and work done by Louis Ortega - braiding 128 stands of 1/16th width into works of art that he sold to everyday working cowboys- it doesn't get more real than that. No one has ever copied his work.
4. Tell us a bit about your tooling work for saddles that you have applied to the Mandolin Legacy clutches.
My tooling isn't complex or detailed like the craftsmen doing the Sheridan style work. However, not everyone wants to be a cowboy. Instead, I've tried creating more natural floral layouts to simple accent and not take over the overall looks of the Mandolin purse.