In Design—Fashion Designers, Trendsetters

Tile Appeal

Leather-patterned tiles in luxurious shades create a stunning bedrock for backsplashes, countertops and showers that showcase your signature Western style.

By Alana Harrison 

Amidst the majestic high mountain deserts of the Pahsimeroi Valley near May, Idaho, Nancy Martiny is hovered over her worktable meticulously tooling a spray of Shasta daisies into a soft,sweet-smelling panel of leather at her home-based saddle shop on the Martiny family ranch. Known for her masterful free-handed cuts, intricate floral patterns and hand-painted designs, the saddlemaking maven and owner of Martiny Saddle Company carefully carves the lines of each delicate bloom, ensuring the toolwork meets her high standards of quality, flow and depth.

But this exquisitely tooled masterpiece isn’t destined to adorn one of her much-sought-after custom saddles or headstalls. Once completed, Nancy’s leather canvas will be transformed intoceramic accent tiles that complete a stunning, custom-made kitchen backsplash.

Nancy’s unique creations have an elegant aesthetic and signature feel that stand out in casual and formal rooms and add a distinctive Western touch to home interiors. With their rich colors and a mirage of sumptuous textures, these unique statement tiles evoke an atmosphere of the modern West, blending tradition with new sophistication. Learn how you can incorporate these signature accent tiles into your living spaces in a way that speaks to your personal style.

Learning Her Craft

After watching her dad tool leather while growing up on the family’s Idaho cattle ranch, Nancy turned to him for assistance when she wanted a tooled leather belt in high school. He dutifully introduced his teenage daughter to the art of tooling leather, and it wasn’t long before Nancy wascreating original designs and tooling belts for her friends.

“When my dad was a young man, he used to hang around a famous old saddlery and eventually convinced the owner to teach him how to build saddles,” Nancy said. “That always intrigued meand, after getting into leather work, I decided I wanted give it a try.”

Nancy soon met emeritus saddlemaker Dale Harwood, who lived in nearby Salmon, Idaho, and she was moved by his passion for making quality saddles as well as his reputation as a brilliant leather-working artisan. In addition to Dale’s fervor for the history and art of saddlemaking, Nancy was deeply inspired by his determination to pass his techniques on to the next generation of saddlemakers.

“Like Dale, I knew I wanted to utilize my creativity to express the connection I feel to my Western heritage,” Nancy said. “Saddlemaking was widely considered a man’s trade at the time, but no one ever discouraged me from following my passion. And now there seem to be a lot of younger women getting into the business.”

After receiving a few Harwood-designed saddle trees for Christmas, Nancy built her first saddle in 1987 under Dale’s tutelage. Through trial and error—and the occasional call to Dale—the intrepid young saddlemaker learned and honed her craft and started making custom saddles for family and friends. Word of Nancy’s superior craftmanship quickly spread throughout the Idaho ranching community and as the orders stacked up, Martiny Saddle Company was born.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2021 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.


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