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Canadian Artist Creates Horsehair Mementos
When Donna Murray creates a horsehair memento, it’s very personal. She knows something about the horse, which is usually dead, and the client, who sent her the hair to create a keepsake. Two large binders of horse/owner stories and photos share space in her work shop with bags of carefully labeled horsehair.
  Horses have always been part of the Lethbridge, Alberta, artist’s life - from growing up on a Saskatchewan cattle and grain farm, to working as a farrier. Time didn’t allow Murray to pursue her interest to be a horsehair artist until she was injured in an accident in 1989. With the help of videos and books by hitchers Shoni and Ron Maudling (www.hitchedhorsehair.com), she taught herself to braid and hitch horsehair.
  Many artists offer braided horsehair jewelry, Murray says. Fewer offer hitched horsehair, as it’s more difficult and time consuming.
  “Hitching is done over a wooden dowel. It’s a little like brick laying, one row interlocks with another - open hitching and then close hitching around strings. It’s lots of counting, like cross stitch,” Murray explains. Hitching allows the artist to create geometric patterns and letters/brands.
  All horsehair work begins by washing the hair and then creating “pulls” – 6 to 12 hairs evenly twisted together.
  Murray prefers hairs from the tail, because they are longer and stronger. But since it’s an emotional thing for customers to send hair from a horse that has died, some can only bear to take a snip of hair from the mane.
  “Key chains and zipper pulls are very popular and last a long time,” she notes. “I make a lot of hat bands.”
  After doing trade shows for 15 years, Murray’s hobby has become a full-time business. She is currently about five months behind on orders.
  “What I do takes time. I’m very particular and don’t want to disappoint people. I appreciate that customers are willing to wait for the pieces,” Murray says.
  By collaborating with other local artists who work with leather, wood and silver, she can incorporate horsehair designs into bridles, belts, blankets and jewelry. Recently she worked with a wood carver to create 2 Spirit Horse Sticks for an Arizona client.
  Besides horsehair, Murray also creates wool blankets and other useful items by hand-latching wool on burlap.
  “Because there is such a variety, it never really gets dull for me,” she says of her artistic business.
  Murray’s website includes details about how to harvest and ship hair.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Donna Murray, Custom Horsehair & Wood Creations, 5, 3440 - 23 Ave. S., Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1K 4K4 (ph 403 329-8660; www.customhorsehairandwoolcreations.com; donna@customhorsehairart.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2