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Equine Enterprise Profile – Donna Murray Custom Horsehair & Wool Designs by Carol M. Upton

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   April 13, 2013 10:12



Custom Horsehair Artist Donna Murray was raised on a mixed farm in southeastern Saskatchewan and horses were always a part of her life.  She says that she and her siblings were involved in 4H, fairs, rodeos, trail rides and wagon trains. During the summer months, their family operated a Vacation farm, hosting children from the city for horseback riding and other activities.
After graduation, Donna obtained a Farrier Sciences Certificate and worked with horses at racetracks and guest ranches. A serious injury in 1989 stopped her in her tracks. Unable to physically work with horses now, Donna looked for another way to stay connected to them. She became a self-taught horsehair braider and hitcher.  She credits the mentoring she received from Ron and Shoni Maulding – Authors of Hitched Horsehair Books I and II - with helping her work to evolve into what it is today.
Collaborating with other creatives meant more opportunities to attend trade fairs and other equine events, and Donna’s business grew. She started getting requests to make custom pieces – items made from the hair of specific individual horses. Donna says the majority of her custom work is done using the hair from deceased horses and she understands the desire many people have to keep a memento of their horses that have passed.
“Losing a horse is an emotional experience for the person,” Donna says, “and sometimes it is hard to take the step of cutting their hair.”
Items range from small pieces like zipper pulls to big pieces like hitched belts and the item/s made can be dictated by how much hair has been saved. Donna can also supplement a specific horse’s hair with additional horsehair she has in stock.

Southern Alberta is an area rich in artisans, and Donna has been fortunate to work with others to complete items - silversmiths, leatherworkers, potters, picture framers, and wood carvers. She is always open to suggestions from her customers, and some beautiful pieces have been created using their ideas.
Every day at Donna Murray Custom Horsehair can be different, depending on orders. Time of completion for an item depends on the item, what type of work is needed and whether there is dyeing involved. Donna receives orders from around the globe, but the majority of her customers are from the U.S. There is a lot of competition in this field of work, with Made in Mexico and China horsehair products readily available. Donna says the adage "You get what you pay for" really holds true, with her work being higher priced than imports but also much higher quality.

Anyone who wants to become a horsehair worker will need tons of patience, perseverance, creativity and another source of income. Donna says that is all offset by her enjoyment of working with clients and seeing that they are satisfied with her unique products.
Customers can purchase horsehair items without having to have horses, or take hair from their own horses. As well as the horsehair items, Donna makes hand-latched wool products - saddle blankets, wither pads and tush cushes. The saddle blankets are very popular, and she has many repeat customers for them.

Donna says her website has been a great tool for clients to find her work. Her site is newly redesigned, along with a Facebook page. She welcomes all enquiries and looks forward to an exciting New Year.

Donna Murray is a self-taught horsehair hitcher and braider, who resides in Lethbridge, Alberta. She started working with horsehair in 1992 and, with patience and perseverance, has learned to create high-quality, functional items. Visit Donna at:   www.customhorsehairandwoolcreations.com 

Carol Upton (604) 886-8951
Dreams Aloud Promotions
~ Linking your dreams to the world
Website:      www.dreamsaloud.ca
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Equine Enterprise Profile: Shannon Lawlor of Shannon Lawlor Fine Art Inc. by Carol M. Upton

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   December 31, 2012 17:04



A browse through Shannon Lawlor’s online gallery explains why she is considered by Western Fine Art Collectors to be a premier bridle horse illustrator. Her paintings tap into our imaginations, yet also capture, with energy and spirit, real-life moments of working stock horses, ranching families and riders. A striking feature of her work is the animation in the faces of her equine subjects, something that is often lacking in animal art. Other pieces by Shannon include detailed and memorable close up images of inanimate objects such as spurs, knots, and chapetons, which are so fascinating to lovers of historical Western riding traditions.

Shannon never knew a life without horses. She had Welsh Ponies as a child and then grew up on a ¾ Arab Gelding, whom she describes as “….the horse that shaped everything for me.” Shannon has always worked in the horse/agricultural business - as a veterinary assistant, starting colts, working on cattle ranches and in feedlots. She had not planned on being an artist; however, as she embraced the desire to paint and with horses as her clear inspiration, she realized that art as a business was quite possible, and made that transition 8 years ago.

Like the development of any business, building a name for Shannon Lawlor Fine Art Inc. has taken time and dedication. It requires being on the road at shows and doing what Shannon calls “brush mileage”, consistently spending a lot of time in her studio in Nanton, Alberta, perfecting and honing skills. She devotes weeks at a time to researching her subject matter and in addition, wears all the hats the average self-employed business person must wear, keeping up with office tasks and coordinating multiple Art and Trade show events.

“I keep reinventing myself,” Shannon says, “because I want to improve as an artist. My vision is constantly changing. Of course, raising your own bar can be the most challenging thing to undertake.”




Shannon sees forward thinking as imperative in the equine art business. She is inspired by the many great equine artists in Western Canada alone and she finds support in meeting them at the trade shows to be the best form of professional development.

Shannon still has finger paintings of horses from her kindergarten days and it is evident that her joy in her work is simply a passion for the equine. She continues to seek out the horses that inspire her as subjects. What is her advice to others who want to pursue a career in equine art?

“You need to have faith that it is going to work. Be prepared to pay your dues, to do without, and to keep at it.”

This discipline and commitment have served Shannon well over the past 8 years. Her art is featured on international magazine covers, including Western Horseman, and on television for Canadian Cowboy Country. She has an impressive list of awards in art competitions across the country, most recently first place in the Ex Arte Equinus International Competition for Art Horse Magazine in Beaumont, Texas 2011/2012 with her painting of Casey, a Grade Percheron stallion. Shannon is the only artist to have placed first twice in this competition. She continues to participate in many invitational arts shows, including the Calgary Stampede, Phippen Museum and the Greeley Stampede.

About the Artist:

Shannon resides in Alberta where traditional bridle horse culture is strong. Her images portray the working stock horse and pay tribute to working horsemen and horses alike maintaining old traditions throughout North America. Visit Shannon at: www.shannonlawlor.com

Carol Upton (604) 886-8951
Dreams Aloud Promotions
~ Linking your dreams to the world
Website:      www.dreamsaloud.ca
Twitter:         http://twitter.com/#!/Karolka
LinkedIn:      http://linkd.in/qyQNxy
Facebook:   http://on.fb.me/dTidfK

HOT:          http://www.horseownertoday.com/vendor.aspx?vid=79