Clint Orms is from Wichita Falls, Texas, and grew up surrounded by some of the best cowboys he’s ever met. Their lifestyle and integrity were a true inspiration. Starting his trade, Clint began making hand-tooled leather belts when he was in high school. He realized then that belts were just going to wear out and be thrown away, so instead he decided to make something that would endure.
Lucchese proudly supports the handcrafted process behind every craft and carries a selection of Clint’s handcrafted pieces in each retail store. We asked Clint to share a little more of his inspiration and the story behind his detailed, wearable art.
What did you grow up doing that led to where you are now?
In high school, I went to work for Western sculptor and saddle maker Buck Brumley, who hired my best friend, Brett Collier and me. Brett ended up running Big Bend Saddlery in Alpine, and I have a pretty good little business in the Texas Hill Country. I guess Buck should get credit for getting our careers going. Besides my polishing chores, I made a few buckles, which I sold to my teachers and friends’ parents.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a champion cowboy. I grew up in a rodeo family. My dad got us into rodeo as kids. ‘Rodeo-ing’ taught me a lot about passion and determination. Nonetheless, I could never make a living at it. Instead, I started traveling when I was 16 to meet and train with several silver designers throughout the West. They taught me the skills I needed, but I had to learn a lot on my own too. I studied vintage buckles as well as antique silver teapots, flatware, gambling chips, and Victorian jewelry.
Growing up in Texas and having seen many old classic buckles that grandparents were wearing inspired me. It was fun to see their grandchildren treat buckles with respect. I watched as grandparents gave their grandchildren cars and buckles and the grandchildren would treat the buckles with more respect than the car. They never planned to keep the car, but they were not about to trade their grandfather’s belt buckle in.
Tell us about Clint Orms Engravers & Silversmiths.
My desires as a western silversmith and engraver are to inspire my co-workers to do their best each day and to make sure that a feeling and a product can be shared across the world for many generations: past, present, and future. We do not try to make things cheaper and faster; we want to make things that are world class. When people purchase a Clint Orms buckle, I want them to know they are getting a part of Texas, a part of the cowboy tradition, a hard day's work. Our main objective is to keep our western heritage alive. I am especially proud to be able to say that all of our products are made in the United States of America—a country I am so proud to support and call my home. I have been very blessed by all the wonderful people in my life who have instilled in me the importance or quality, hustle, and patience.
Lucchese branded belts
Walk us through a day in the life. What does your day-to-day look like?
My day starts as early as 6:30 a.m. I have about an hour drive to the shop in Ingram. We get rolling about 7:30 a.m. I spend the time in the truck to plan my day in my head and get mentally prepared. When I get to the shop, I check in with my team and see if we have any special projects that need to be discussed. After I check in, I go to work at my design table and work for a few hours. My table is in the middle of the shop, so I am still pretty accessible. I really try to always be part of the activity at work, instead of being secluded. After lunch, I check in again with everyone. I spend the second half of the day at my engraving bench. Engraving is my foundation and what I first started doing years ago. The shop usually wraps up about 4 p.m. during the summertime. On my drive home, I spend that time talking to both of my kids on the phone as family is very important to me. I try to make sure I stay connected even when everyone is super busy. My evenings are spent with my wife, Roxie. We’ll have dinner and go for a walk. I am in bed by 11 or 12. Now that I look at it, I probably need to be getting more sleep.
Explain the steps and design process to create a single piece of product.
The process begins with getting to know the customer. I try to ask personal questions. “How do you plan on using or wearing this item?” or “What do you like to do for fun?” Sometimes customers have a specific item, look, or feel they want. Sometimes they have no expectation other than they want a buckle or money clip. Once we are able to determine the item’s shape, size and basic features they want, i.e. a small trophy buckle with their ranch brand, I begin drawing. The sooner I can start drawing ideas and capture the thoughts the customer has had throughout our discussion, the more committed they get to the piece. It can be as simple as initials or as detailed as a western scene that incorporates their ranch brand, kid’s birthstones, and anniversary date.
Clint sketching a project
After we have created the basic layout, we clean up the artwork, so everything is laid out to scale. The artwork then goes to our production team where parts are cut out and job boxes are organized. This is where the parts that the silversmith will need to build the buckle, from the silver sheet for the shape of the buckle or hand cut letters to swinger backs, saddle horns, and of course, the specific details of artwork like font style, brand examples and figures are sized to scale.
Clint bright cutting a buckle
Our silversmiths then begin by hand cutting or die striking letters, figures, or shapes for the buckle. Most of our figure dies are made in-house in our machine shop. They then solder and secure them to the base of the buckle (in this example). Our silversmiths are the engineers of the buckle, laying the foundation for the engravers.
Image 1: Clint and his son Clayton torching and soldering a project
Image 2: Clint and Gustavo solding a project
Once the buckle has been constructed, it goes to our engravers. The buckle is attached to a vise on their jeweler’s bench (this allows the engraver to move the buckle around with ease); this is when the engraver begins bringing the piece to life. Depending on the requested finish design, our engravers will use either a push graver or AirGraver to add cuts into the silver. These cuts are the beautiful swirls you see in our traditional western buckles. We also have a signature style of engraving that is popular with our customers called “wheatgrass.” This is where our engravers use a graver to cut a wriggle pattern into the silver. The result replicates the fields of the South Texas landscape. Our engravers are extremely detail oriented, paying close attention not only to the front of the buckle, but also to the sides and back as well. The entire piece is their canvas. No two pieces end up exactly alike.
Clint engraving a buckle
Buckle on engravers bench
Now that the buckle is built and engraved, it may need to go back to the silversmiths for some final touches. Then it is on to finishing. Our finishing process is not just cleaning and polishing; it is reviewing the piece as a whole. Does this represent our best work? Does it fit, feel, and look beyond the expectations of the customer? If it checks all the boxes, the piece is ready to be photographed and prepped for shipping.
We have our own in-house photo studio. Photographing accessories, more specifically sterling silver and gold, is no easy feat. I invested in a quality light box and camera a long time ago, so we can archive our creations. The value in our photographs has paid off in spades.
Now, it is time to ship. We take care to ship our product just as much as we do in any other step of the creation process. We want our customers to feel the quality and attention we took to make their item the moment they open the box. We invest in quality presentation boxes, polishing cloths and even colored tissue paper that accentuates the final product.
You’re regarded as one of the finest silversmiths in the business and have designed exclusive pieces for Lucchese stores and pieces that have our logo. Can you tell us more about these pieces?
It’s an honor to partner with a company like Lucchese Bootmaker. The Lucchese brand is synonymous with Texas. Handmade. Quality. I feel it is a natural fit for Clint Orms to make handmade silver pieces exclusively branded for Lucchese stores. Just like wearing a finely crafted pair of boots, wearing a fine buckle is just part of dressing well.
Cutting out the Lucchese mirrored L logo
Lucchese branded belts
Can people order custom designs through you?
Absolutely. We are usually working on one-of-a-kind pieces that have never been done before. Some of our pieces will have 70 separate parts to them. It is like building a racecar, figuring out how everything fits together. There is a lot to creating each piece, and I make sure to be hands-on with every one of them.
When you get dressed for the day, do you coordinate your outfit with your cowboy boots and belts?
I am a bit of a creature of habit. Button down shirt, Wrangler or Levi jeans and boots. Most of the time I am wearing the same belt and buckle for a long while and then one day, I’ll decide to change things up and go with a different belt and buckle. Right now, I am wearing a Travis 1830 with a black alligator strap. But it is not really planned.
Tell us about your Lucchese boot collection today. Why are you such a big fan?
In Wichita Falls, there is a store called the Cow Lot where my dad worked when I was a kid. The owner Nat Fleming was not only a mentor, but his store was the first place that sold my work. Nat and Sam Lucchese were close friends. They were both big believers, that a great fitting pair of cowboy boots could change a person’s life. Nat would spend time with each customer making sure that the boots they put on their feet were just right before they walked out of his store.
In addition to being made in Texas, Lucchese was the forerunner for creating anatomically correct, well-fitting boots. Lucchese boots make you stand taller, straighter; you can wear them all day. Not only that, but the mystic and historical influence of the cowboy boot helped pave the way for other western traditions, like the belt buckle.
For more information regarding Clint Orms Engravers & Silversmiths, visit clintorms.com or visit one of our Lucchese stores. You can find more images on Instagram @clintormsbuckles and Facebook @clintormsengravers.