A chef friend of mine recently showed me a photograph of a leather bag and I gasped it was so beautiful. And when he told me they were being made by hand in Little Rock I said I needed to meet this person and get to the bottom of it all.
The company is Dower and the maker is Jack Lloyd. We recently visited him in his studio to watch him at work and hear his philosophy on what it takes to be a creative entrepreneur. The best part? Hearing him talk at length about how much the strong women in his life have inspired him and taught him–from his partner to his mother to his grandmother. Keep reading to see him in action.
When and how did you first become interested in creating beautiful leather goods?
A few years back, I was introduced to Joe Brogdon. Joe was a belt maker. Well, more of a ‘repurposer.’ He would take old straps and vintage saddle tack and create these one of kind fashion belts. He needed some assistance and I started working for him. After awhile, he wanted to start creating his own more elaborate designs. He started sending out the sewing work to a local saddle maker and I saw the results and was unimpressed. I’ve got lots of experience with sewing and told him I would love to take a stab at it. So I started learning how to sew leather together by hand. Generally speaking, the process is simple. It just takes lots of practice to get really good at it.
How did you come up with the name?
Honestly, it’s a word that I thought that I made up years ago. Just thought it sounded cool. Then, I looked it up years later and found it loosely related to and fit the ideals of the brand. Making things that can be passed down for generations and after death. But really, I just liked the word.
How would you describe the style of Dower handbags?
Pretty, simple, functional.
Your favorite part of running Dower is…
Definitely seeing the finished product. Sometimes designs can be months in the making. Numerous samples and prototypes go into each design and when you see the piece that finally works… yeah. Until you decide to change it again.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to create their own maker driven business?
Don’t be afraid and just go for it. We are all our own worst enemy and lot of times it’s just taking the plunge that is the hard part. Of course, that statement is coming from an incredibly privileged person. I’ve got a support system like you wouldn’t believe. I would be nowhere without my partner. She has supported me immensely the entire way. And, my parents and Aunt have given countless hours of their time, too.
What motivates you most?
I wish I had some glorious answer to this but honestly, it’s working for myself. Knowing that you are the only person responsible for your progress, success, or demise is all at once amazing and terrifying.
Why do you believe in the hand-stitching aspect of leather goods?
More than anything I want to make and do things with intention. Hand cutting and hand stitching the goods leaves the quality control completely up to me. Sometimes I fail. Things have come back in need of repair but ultimately, it’s the relationship with the customer I am striving to keep. Offering a guarantee along with the craftsmanship helps me do that.
The best memory you’ve had while running Dower:
The day I saw my bag in Garden & Gun for their Made in the South Awards. I bought 4 or 5 copies of the magazine. It felt very validating to have that happen in my first year.
Favorite type of leather to work with:
Right now it’s this stuff called Buttero. It’s an Italian vegetable tanned leather that looks and feels amazing. Just the right amount of firmness for my projects.
What effect do you want to have on your local community?
I’m not sure leather goods can have an effect on the community but, I hope that I can make the business thrive and flourish, so that I might be able to hire some friends. I do hope that something I make might bring people’s attention to Little Rock. So they might come across the wealth of creativity and talent in this city that I feel mostly goes unseen. However, I think there are far better talents here to do that.
Who inspires you most?
Right now, I am obsessed with a leather crafter that I follow on Instagram (@libbycap). They do amazing work and I aspire to produce things of that caliber.
What do you do to get creative inspiration?
I find the easiest way to get creative is to stay creating. I am also a musician and that plays a huge part in what I do. A lot of times inspiration strikes when I am doing something very different but, something that still forces me to create.
If you could pick one person to design a purse for who would it be?
Anyone that is willing to buy one. 😉