Thursday, 28 May 2015

Leaders in Leathercraft: Ben Moody

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ben Moody

Ben Moody (1920-2005) was a respected teacher and an award-winning leather crafter who received the Al Stohlman award in 1992 for nearly 70 years of teaching leathercraft.

Ben grew up a native of East Texas and was raised around leather.  His father was a cobbler who owned his own shoe shop and did business with Dave Tandy during the Tandy-Hinkley days.  Ben often ran around the leather warehouse with young Charles Tandy while their fathers were conducting business.

Much of his early enthusiasm for leathercraft came from Solon Aaron, a German gentlemen who worked in the family’s shop.  Mr. Aaron taught Ben how to carve belts and, every day after school, Ben would work in the shop and to make projects he had commissioned from schoolmates. By the time he was a teenager, Ben was making money doing leathercraft.  In addition to his orders, he would pull around a painted cart and stamp names on belts that he would sell at events.

His mentor held him to a high standard for his craft; however, he also encouraged Ben’s creativity by letting him use butcher paper to practice art.  Ben was always very artistic and was not only ambidextrous, but could draw with both hands at the same time.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ben Moody

Ben joined the war effort when he was 20 and went on active duty in the military.  He served as part of the 112th Cavalry in World War II, where he had many duties including cartography, however also volunteered to help with repairing the saddles because he loved working with leather.  His unit served in the South Pacific, however he got malaria and had to be brought back to the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio before the end of the war.  There, he taught leathercraft to other soldiers who were also in the hospital.

Ben won international army craft contests two consecutive years for different leather projects and retired from the military in 1960 at the age of 40.  After returning home to Texas, Ben wrote Tandy about returning to the states, mentioning his leathercraft awards and that he might like to work at the Tandy store in Austin.  After being hired, management recognized his work ethic and, before long, Ben was recruited to help open a store for Tandy’s new venture: Radio Shack.

He loved helping develop the new brand and worked 7 days a week to help get it off the ground.  His genuine caring for helping others grew him a loyal customer base, and the new enterprise did quite well.  In 1965, Ben and his wife had their second child and he left Radio Shack for the banking industry so spend more time with family.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ben Moody

Although no longer employed by the Tandy Corporation, Ben continued to be an active advocate for working with leather.  He conducted leathercraft seminars at Southwestern Texas State University, 4-H, Scouts, Texas State School, Austin State School, Travis State School, State School for the Deaf, VA Hospitals and more.  He was one of the go-to artists for both Tandy Leather and The Leather Factory, creating many doodle pages, pattern packs and books such as “Learn Leathercraft”.

Ben won the Al Stohlman Award in 1992; however this was not the only time he was part of the award ceremony.  When working at the Austin Tandy store in the 60’s, he introduced many young artists to the love of leathercraft.  One of those young men was Tony Laier, who went on to win the Al Stohlman Award in 1999.  Although he had difficulty getting around by that time, Ben was insistent on attending the ceremony so he could personally honor him with the award.

Some of Ben’s art hangs in the Tandy Leather Museum & Gallery in Fort Worth and many of his Doodle Pages and Craftaid Tracing Pattern Packs are still available on the Leathercraft Library.

Leaders In Leathercraft: Ben Moody