Walden Leather Co.
JODY DOZIER STARTED CREATING LEATHER GOODS AS A HOBBY, EXPERIMENTING AND CRAFTING HANDMADE GOODS. FAST-FORWARD, DOZIER HAS CREATED HIS BUSINESS, WALDEN LEATHER CO., AFTER TURNING OUT HIGH-QUALITY AND FUNCTIONAL LEATHER PIECES.
ARTICLE BY STARLA GATSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY MOORE CLARK
You never know until you try — that’s a statement in which Jody Dozier believes wholeheartedly. After all, if the young craftsman hadn’t decided to go out on a limb and attempt something new, his leather goods business, Walden Leather Co., may not have ever come to be.
Dozier was only 15 or 16 years old when he first decided to try his hand at leather crafting. School was out for the summer and he was bored, he recalls, so why not take on the task of making a replacement for his father’s broken ax sheath? The then-teenager picked up some old shoe leather he had lying around and got to work on his first leather crafting project.
The product of Dozier’s boredom wasn’t quite as functional as he hoped it would be. “It did not work,” he remembers. His efforts and try anything attitude weren’t for nothing, though. He didn’t end up with a perfect product, but a realization: making leather goods was a skill and creative outlet he wanted to learn more about.
After that, the young maker purchased his first leatherworking kit from the local Hobby Lobby. Soon, more of these kits began appearing among his birthday and Christmas gifts, he says, and the dollars he earned mowing lawns went toward purchasing leatherworking tools. It was official: he was hooked. “It started with something silly, and I just slowly worked on it and started learning more,” he says. “It piqued and kept my interest, and now I can say I have a pretty consistent hobby that I can spend diligent time on and find fulfillment and fun in doing.”
Fast forward to now, when the hobby Dozier stumbled upon during his teenage years manages to do a bit more than simply bring enjoyment — it manages to put a few extra dollars into his probably handmade wallet, too. As time went on, the East Texas native’s leather crafting knowledge grew, and his skills improved to the point of making high-quality and functional gifts, like wallets or keychains, for his friends and family. It was a cop-out to avoid spending money, Dozier admits with a laugh, but still, his loved ones were impressed with the things he made for them. They were so impressed, in fact, that they were convinced he could sell his products to others.
If he was going to start a business, though, it would need a name under which to operate. That, he eventually decided, would come from a man who had inspired him before: his favorite writer, Henry David Thoreau.
Walden Leather Co.’s moniker is a nod to the American naturalist and writer’s most famous work, Walden. The classic book, which was published in 1854, is filled with Thoreau’s observations of nature and simple living and was written while he lived alone in a cabin along the shore of Massachusetts’s Walden Pond. Thanks to extensive study in an English class, Dozier fell in love with the text and realized Thoreau’s comments on nature in relation to society and a higher power had struck a chord with him. “I really liked the way he was simple but profound and connected nature and being outside, which is what I love, to the way people work and the way life goes,” the literature lover explains.
This, plus the experience of reading Thoreau’s words in the place they were written on a 2018 trip to Walden Pond, was enough to convince Dozier that Walden was the perfect name for his business. “I just needed a name, and this book kind of unites all of my interests and inspires people to be creative and kind of gives the summary of the human condition through natural observation. So why not choose this?”
In the winter of his freshman year of college, Dozier launched Walden Leather Co. via social media without any real expectations, just a desire to see if anything could come of his hobby. “I just made an Instagram page and thought, ‘If people like it, they like it, and if they don’t, they don’t,’” he recalls.
If Dozier was going to try to sell his goods, though, he was going to be certain they were good; his first goal was simply to create products people would be thrilled to buy. “I don’t want to make anything that people would not enjoy or would feel like they were being cheated out of something, so that was one of my goals: sell something that I knew wouldn’t break somebody,” he says. It didn’t take very long for Dozier to realize this goal was being accomplished. “A lot of people did start to follow it,” he says of the Walden Leather Co. Instagram account, “and friends were asking for gifts for their dads or their boyfriend or girlfriend. When it got to that point people that were DMing me for gifts, I knew they liked it, and they would deem it quality.”
Since Walden Leather’s establishment, getting messages for commissions and custom orders for the wallets, watch bands, camera straps, keychains, and desk caddies he makes has become business as usual for Dozier. In fact, the majority of the craftsman’s products are made to order, although Fine Line Supply, an art printing, reproduction, and supply store in downtown Ruston, carries a limited supply of Walden Leather goods in-store.
In the future, however, Dozier wants to be able to keep his own supply of his items on hand so orders can be shipped to customers more quickly and sold at local events. This will not only help him sell more products, but also give the Louisiana Tech senior construction engineering technology major more much-needed downtime during busier seasons of the school year when his coursework and other responsibilities become particularly hectic.
More importantly, there would be more opportunities for Walden Leather Co. products to land in the hands of northeast Louisiana residents who may not have otherwise heard of the small business. With the built-up inventory of his dreams, Dozier can take his products from the mobile phone screen to the streets, setting up booths at local farmers markets and maker’s fairs — two prime locations for meeting people outside of his usual demographic and expanding Walden Leather Co.’s typical customer base.
“I’d be able to reach people that are not on Facebook or Instagram or know me or my friends,” he says. “I’d like to be able to expand past my circle of college people and some adults that are in on the stuff that I’m doing. I’d like to grow that, and I think once I get to that point, I really could have an open door to a lot of different avenues.”
Until then, though, Dozier takes things one step at a time, filling orders as they come and creating new products whenever he can. As he works to continue the one-man operation he’s begun, the craftsman can be found designing product patterns and stitching and dyeing the pieces of leather he sources from Tandy Leather in Bossier City. There’s probably music playing as he works, he says, and the songs on his playlists act as a “continual engine to keep me on track.”
A good soundtrack inspires Dozier’s leatherwork projects for sure, however, he admits a few catchy tunes aren’t the only things that motivate his making. The work of other artists, even those experts who work with other mediums besides leather, tend to play a significant role in his creative process, he says. “YouTube videos are really inspiring,” Dozier explains. “There are tons of people with too much time on their hands that are just making random stuff.”
All sorts of creations pique his interest, especially carpenters, but one video detailing a man making a guitar from colored pencils particularly stands out to the leather craftsman. He notes that though this stranger on the internet does work that’s nothing like his own, watching this artist share his work was a positive influence. “It’s not like, a one-to-one to the stuff I do,” he says. “It’s still inspiring to watch somebody make something out of an object that would be seemingly useless for the end result.”
Since Walden Leather Co. itself is the result of simply trying something new, Dozier encourages other aspiring creators, makers, and artists to step out of their comfort zones and do the same. “Don’t let your immediate hesitations deter you from giving something a shot,” he says. “It’s better to go into something, try it, and then fail rather than psych yourself out before even attempting.”
After all, you never know what your attempt could lead to, he says, adding, “I was bored and you know, I tried. And I have found something that I really enjoy. If anything, that’s what a hobby is there to do; to bring you joy.”
To find out more about Walden Leather Co., or to order a few handmade leather products of your own, visit @waldenleatherco on Instagram.