Featured Apprentice: Marty Thompson
Before he was old enough to go to school, Marty Thompson remembers taking naps on wool skin while "helping" his dad, master saddle maker Glen Thompson. By age ten he was making things from scrap leather and learning to stamp his own designs. By fourteen he was making tooled leather belts, knife sheaths, and wallets.
Having a saddle shop outside his back door allowed Marty to work with and learn from his dad, both informally and as a formal apprentice in 1989. Today, Marty continues to make custom saddles when he has the time, still drawing from the experience and skills learned from his dad.
Whether it is checking fence lines or moving cattle, ranchers spend a lot of time working in the saddle. To make the job easier, the saddle must be comfortable for both rider and horse. A comfortable saddle is balanced. This balance is the result of careful attention to symmetry and smoothness during each step in the saddle making process.
The saddle Marty built during his apprenticeship is merely the final product of the saddle making process. This process includes various stages of shaping, cutting, gluing, and stitching unfinished and tooled leather to a saddle tree, the rigid structure that forms the foundation of the saddle seat. If the symmetry is off at any point in the process, it affects the finished saddle's overall balance. To ensure this final balance, saddle makers must think ahead and prepare during earlier steps of the process.
Check out this article on Marty's apprenticeship. Click the image to read it.