As most equestrians know, the horse world is an incredibly small community. Barn owners, staff, and riders all see each other at horse shows, tack stores, sell horses amongst each other, and move from barn to barn.
Go to a Grand Prix and you will find top level riders completely approachable and walking amongst the crowd, taking care of their horses with their grooms, and even watching the competition.
So when my daughter’s trainer posted a gorgeous custom piece of art on Instagram about her horse and dog, I was really intrigued. I loved the level of detail. I asked her about the artist and put it aside to contact her myself. Fast forward a few months and the artist was hired as a trainer at my barn. See? Small world. In my totally awkward (but endearing) way I introduced myself and my blog.
I asked Ashley if she’d be willing to answer some interview questions for Bridle & Bone. She did, and I love the story she included in her email to me. So read how Ashley began White Stallion Studio.
M y first horse, Pete, was my inspiration for the business (he is a white stallion). He was a stallion that my trainer used as a school horse because contrary to most stallions, Pete was extremely calm and patient. I leased him for a long time and then finally bought him after college. I used to get yelled at a lot in art school because I would constantly do these portraits of Pete and my teacher thought I was just sort of drawing this white horse and it was too cliche and symbolic to mean anything. I had to keep explaining that I saw this horse on a daily basis and he was a real part of my life, not a myth. I learned a lot from that tension: drawing what I loved, but not being cliche or a one trick pony. I think that’s when I really took to animal portraiture. Even when doing something realistic you can have a style that captures something that is beyond just an image. You have to make people feel something for what you are drawing.
Read on for my questions for the artist, Ashley Gilbert, of White Stallion Studio.
White Stallion Studio
Tell us a little about pyrography. What is it exactly?
Pyrography is the art of drawing with a heated tool or fire. I have a tool that heats up to varying temperatures and I can change the metal tip at the end to get the desired drawing effect that I want. Some people do actually use a torch, but I have not been so adventurous to try that. You can burn on almost anything that can withstand the heat, leather, paper, but the most popular is wood.
How did you learn how to do pyrography?
I taught myself pyrography. I got a few books from the library and watched a few youtube videos. I’m still not convinced I do it right, but as with most art it really doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you like the results. I wasn’t planning on getting into pyrography when I tried it, I was just going to experiment, but when I tried it, I definitely fell in love. I love tedious detail work and pyrography totally filled that need for me to work slowly and focused for long hours.
Do you do any other mediums?
Yes, I started my art career selling oil paintings of carriage horses and then I also love drawing portraits with colored pencil.
What is your most popular product?
My most popular product are pyrography ornaments that I then color in with colored pencil. I put the pet on one side and then the name or a special message on the other. It makes a great very personal gift.
If I wanted a custom piece, how does the process work?
Right now I use Etsy to sell my work. I have broken down the listings into the products that are popular to customize, so ornaments, different sized stall signs, leash racks, ribbon racks, frames, etc. Each has in the description what is customizable about each piece. Some of the simpler items people are simply sending me the text they want, but some of the larger items require a bit more of a dialog and I can send a proof prior to burning so the customer will approve the layout. I like when I get to do that because I learn some details about the owner and pet that helps the piece have more character. I also have one listing that just has a list of different sizes and shapes of wood. That listing is for someone who has an idea beyond what I have in the shop. I’ll put anything on the size wood they choose for a flat fee (found in the listing). I’ve made signs with quotes for kids rooms, a portraits of multiple animals, maps, you name it.
What is your turnaround time?
Each item in the shop has a different turn around time. The smaller items take 1-2 weeks and larger items 4-6 weeks. It also depends on time of year. Christmas is the busiest!
Do you create pieces for other animals besides horses and dogs?
Yes I have done cats and I even did a guinea pig once. I have been hoping someone would something of a bird as they have pretty color feathers and lots of detail, but so far none yet.
What is your price range?
Why would your art make a perfect gift?
I think the portraits created with pyrography are more unique than your average portrait. They have a dynamic quality to them because of the warmth of the wood shining through. This type of art is also extremely practical. That sounds silly to say about art, but it is a portrait or memory that is special and yet can be useful. Racks, boxes, frames will all be used and seen often. I also just love to celebrate other people’s animal and accomplishments. As I am not a huge company, I am working on your order with individual attention and I feel connected to my customers and their stories. I love my animals and have my own goals with them so I know how special it is to have something that marks the bond you share with your pets!