From the May 2019 Issue, Photos provided by NDJ Designs
Nancy Johnston is the mastermind behind NDJ Designs.
Nancy and her three daughters traveled for twelve years from rodeo to rodeo, with the first NDJ Designs being painted shirts and custom earrings sold out of a booth.
“My three daughters rodeoed from a small age and still do as young adults. They were big competitors,” she said. “Fashion was always a perk for them, so we made sure we had ‘western style’ going on. I would set up booths on occasion with painted shirts and custom earrings.”
Starting out with real feather earrings and jewelry, Nancy eventually moved on to leather feather earrings “just for fun”. Her son is a graphic artist, and worked alongside Nancy’s husband to create the NDJ Designs website.
“My daughter Lauren Riley, of Wild Eye Ranch, suggested I put these leather feathers on horse tack. She sent me some of her tack so I made larger leather feathers and put them on the tack,” she said. “We had not seen anyone doing this yet, and they looked really unique. It became a big hit wherever she would go, which launched our tack business.”
Nancy’s husband also became involved, and turned out to be quite the talented leather artist.
What started out as feather earrings has turned into a full-fledge enterprise of leather goods from western and boho handbags to guitar straps.
“We have continued to add other lines such as bags, mens cuffs, kids cuffs, dog collars, belts, gun slings, guitar straps and of course steady in the ladies jewelry arena,” she said.
Nancy’s original inspiration was her daughter Lauren, but what keeps her creating might just surprise you.
“Besides my daughter Lauren, who kept pressing me to make more jewelry, then tack, I love to create, paint and work with leather. This completely fell into my wheelhouse. It started with real feathers on earrings to leather feather jewelry, to leather feathers on tack,” she said.
“We had our own lane for a while. We enjoy being different and nothing inspires us more to add something new than to see others mimicking our style. Our style doesn’t appeal to all, but to those that it does, it soars!”
With over 400 different tack sets out there in the world, Nancy’s favorite part of NDJ Designs is the reveal.
“The response we get once our customer receives their product [is amazing],” she said. “Photos never do them justice. We have many repeat customer orders. I love creating new designs and surprising people.”
“We work closely with our customers and bring their dream to life. The most common response we get is ‘this is better than I expected!’ To describe our business in one word would be serendipity.”
The same fun, unique, confident, and original who loves her NDJ Designs tack set may also be set to fall in love with some of the new handbags that Nancy has debuted this year.
“I have had bag ideas in my head for a few years, but too busy with tack to get started,” she said. “[Then], my husband, who does alot of carving on our tack and bags, purchased a nice leather sewing machine. I played around with it and loved it. He made some of our original bags a few years ago. They turned out amazing, hand carved and tooled. I wanted to do the same but my bags had a totally different stye and I started out just making small cell bags. Many of our bags, so far, are hand sewn. Just making small cell bags in the beginning on the machine lit the passion for all type of bags. My personal favorite are our hippie style, long fringe and beads bags.”
The most important traits her bags should have are “unique style, quality leather, durability and individuality”.
So what’s next for NDJ Designs?
“Continue to add new designs to our tack, bags, jewelry, belts and create new leather products,” she said. “We have a few pillow designs, and provided there is time, we may add window treatments. My background is interior design, so home fashion is always in my creative brain file.”