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T-Shirt Showdown – TeeSpring VS Amazon

I’ve been using Print-On-Demand t-shirt services for a while as a way to put my artwork on shirts and other items. I love these sites because they allow me to offer more items to my audience, without me having to rent out a storage unit to keep all those items on-hand. With Print-On-Demand (POD) services, I can offer a wider range of merchandise without having to take the financial risk of having a bunch of products that no one wants. Also, I live in a small apartment with no storage, so mass-producing shirts or other large items would mean I’d need to rent additional space to keep those items. So POD just makes sense from a market testing and also a logistical standpoint for me at this point in time!

Recently I’ve been making shirt designs of my Birthstone Horses designs and I decided to order two sample shirts: one from TeeSpring, and one from Amazon. Below are my observations of each brand and a comparison of the two shirts.

Left – TeeSpring; Right – Amazon

TeeSpring

So, full disclosure, I have had the TeeSpring shirt for a few weeks longer so it’s been through the washer and dryer twice and the Amazon one just arrived yesterday. Right away though, there’s some big differences. Even though both shirts are an XL, the Amazon shirt is much longer and wider than the TeeSpring one. The print on the Amazon shirt is larger, clearer, and more saturated than the TeeSpring one, as well. 

I paid an extra $4 for faster shipping from TeeSpring, but my shirt still took about 3 weeks to arrive.

TeeSpring

One thing that I noticed as soon as I first got the TeeSpring shirt was that the print was a bit “fuzzy”. My copyright information under the Violets in the design is very hard to read in this design. It’s also a little bit washed out, despite that I darken the images slightly before submitting them to the t-shirt companies to accommodate this.

Here’s a better image of the TeeSpring print, including the blurry copyright info. 

This shirt blank from TeeSpring is Hanes, Made in China. The other color shirts on TeeSpring may be different brands and different countries of origin, but this is what the tag says on the shirt that I got from them. 

My biggest issue with the TeeSpring shirt is that it’s VERY see-through. You can see my hand straight through the fabric. I know that white shirts tend to be a little more sheer than darker colors, but I don’t feel like it should be THIS transparent.

Merch By Amazon

Amazon

Now on to the Amazon shirt! I chose the light blue color for this design because I thought it made the purple tones in the design really pop, and I totally love that I made that decision. This shirt looks great! I did make some minor changes to this design between the time I ordered the TeeSpring shirt and this one. This version has the copyright information moved slightly, and a white stroke around the text instead of black. As before, this shirt is wider and longer than the TS one, but it also hasn’t been washed yet and I can’t find any info about if it’s a pre-shrunk blank or not. So we’ll see how it goes after I wash it!

I have Amazon Prime, so I ordered my shirt on a Sunday and it arrived on Tuesday. If you have Prime benefits, you can get all of my designs with 2-day delivery! 

The light blue blank from Amazon is by Port & Company and is made in Honduras. Again, the other colors might be different brands and different countries, but the light blue XL Unisex fit is this company. 

The Amazon shirt is not nearly as sheer as the TeeSpring one! My hand is still slightly visible, but not nearly as much as the white shirt.

Conclusion

Overall, I feel like the shirt blanks from Amazon are higher quality. The design is printed clearer and more true-to-color as well, making the shirt look better. The print is much larger, so if you like shirts with smaller printed areas, go with TeeSpring instead. But if you like a big, bold print, go for the Amazon shirt. 

I’ve seen two of the Amazon shirts in person- the one I photographed for this blog post and one that my best friend ordered, and both of those I thought the actual t-shirt fabric was thicker and felt higher quality than the TeeSpring version. 

The big drawback of Amazon is that, at the moment, I am severely limited to how many products and designs I can have. So I only have Unisex, Fitted, and Youth t-shirts available of February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October. On TeeSpring I can make all my Birthstone Horses available and have them on Unisex shirts, fitted shirts, and tank tops at the moment. Once I unlock more space on Amazon, I can offer more designs and increase my product line to include other shirts, including sweatshirts and hoodies. 

So, if you like a clearly printed and saturated design on a thicker shirt, go with the Amazon link. If you like a smaller print to the shirt or want a tank top, go to TeeSpring. If you need the shirt for a gift and need it fast, go with Amazon if you have Prime because you can get delivery in two days.

Shirts are comparably priced on both websites, and I get roughly the same commission per-shirt on each one. However, I still need to sell 6 shirts on Amazon in order to be able to upload more designs and products, so if you don’t care either way and want my personal recommendation, go with Amazon!

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Liz Staley Studios Helping Animals In Need

 

During the month of January, I held a sale on several items where I gave 50% of the proceeds to RSPCA New South Wales to help animals threatened by the Australian Bushfires. I’m happy to say that I sent nearly $30AUD off to help animals in need last week! I know that isn’t a lot, compared to what some artists and influencers are raising, but being able to give anything to help pets and livestock in need made me happy, especially since January is notorious for being a slow sales month!

The items that were eligible for the charitable donation were my Australian Brumby designs (mugs, ornaments, prints, and the original Brumby drawing), as well as the PDF download sketchbook of the pieces I created for Equine March 2019. Here’s a photo from one of my fantastic customers who purchased a Brumby mug to help with the cause!

Giving back to horses is so important to me and I definitely want to focus more on it this year, so this was a great start as far as I’m concerned. I chose the RSPCA New South Wales because they help livestock and pets as well as wild animals, and being able to help some of the horses that have been impacted was something I definitely wanted. I still think about all the photos I saw online of horses on the beach with the crowds of people who had nowhere else to go, or horses running from the bushfires, and I really wanted to help those horses. I’m so glad that I found the RSPCA and was able to give even just a little bit to help!

I’m hoping to do more charitable work throughout the year, especially with local organizations and rescues. If you know of any horse related charities in the Western Pennsylvania or Western Maryland areas that would be happy to work with a local artist, let me know! I have a few I’m considering already, but more leads are always great!

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How to Keep Horses On a Budget

Let’s be real for a minute: having almost any type of pet can get expensive. But make that pet several hundred pounds and the costs just go up exponentially. Anything with the word “horse” in the title or a picture of a horse on it can cost more than double the same item that isn’t marketed to horse owners. I don’t make a lot of money, but have still managed to find ways to have a horse and enjoy her without spending tons of cash. It takes some planning and careful shopping, but it can be done! Here are some tips to cut your horse expenses.

Disclaimer: Check with a veterinarian or a trusted professional before making choices about horse feed, supplements, or other nutritional needs for your horse. Each horse is different, with different needs and workloads. The following is general advice and not meant to diagnose any specific need for your personal horse!

Get a PPE before buying your horse.

If you don’t have a horse yet and are looking to buy one, make sure that you get a vet out to do a pre-purchase exam on any horse you are seriously considering. I don’t care how much you love that big, young Chestnut gelding at the rescue, without a PPE you may take him home and find out two years later that he has a terrible case of kissing spine because you didn’t get x-rays and a vet exam before adopting! If you already have a trainer you trust, take them with you horse shopping to get a second opinion. If you don’t have a trainer, find one with a good reputation and get their opinion before buying. It may seem silly to spend money on a vet exam for a horse you may not buy, but it could save you lots of grief and expense in the long run by catching potential problems before you’re the one responsible for thousands and thousands of dollars in vet care.

Self-care board or exchange board for chores or other goods.

Keeping a horse at home is the cheapest and easiest option for owning one, but sometimes having a horse in your backyard just isn’t possible. When searching for a boarding barn, see if you can do self-care (if allowed!) for a discount or if you can help out with barn chores or by trading some other service or goods for some of your board price. (For instance, if you’re handy with tools you can offer to repair fences or do other tasks around the facility!) Self-care only makes sense if you can afford the gas and time to come out every day, possibly multiple times a day, so be sure to figure that into your planning before committing to it. My best friend and I currently self-care at her parents’ farm, and we take turns coming out to feed the horses and change blankets so that all the running around isn’t just on one of us.

Feed the best quality forage you can afford.

Barring medical issues such as Cushing’s, most horses will do just fine on a steady diet of quality grass. Hay is cheapest in the summer when grass is plentiful, so buy as much hay as you can store during the growing season. Buy the best quality hay you can afford, and feed from hay nets or feeders that are up off the floor to minimize wastage. Just remember that horses are designed to eat from the ground, so try not to feed their hay TOO high. And if using hay nets, hang them high enough off the ground so that your horse won’t get a foot stuck in it! 

Don’t overfeed grain and concentrates.

Horses are designed to forage most of the day, not eat big meals all at once. If you are going to supplement with a feed, make sure that it’s appropriate for your horse’s needs and that you aren’t overfeeding grain and skimping on hay. Feed, supplements, and concentrates can add up quickly, so unless your horse needs “extras”, feed more hay than grains. Never feed horses any food that is for cattle, as it can contain ingredients that are dangerous to horses!

Check tack regularly for wear and tear.

Buy tack secondhand, perform regular maintenance on tack you already own.

Thanks to the internet, it’s becoming easier and easier to find horse tack second-hand. There are groups with thousands of members that are dedicated just to buying and selling used tack, from Western to English, and even Driving tack! If you need a piece of tack, look for it used first before buying new. Not only is it better for your pocketbook, but it’s also better for the environment, too! Also, most tack stores have a consignment section where you can purchase gently used items from other local horsepeople. 

Once you have your tack, be sure to perform regular maintenance on it. Clean your tack regularly to check for signs of wear, leather fatigue, or metal fatigue. Check saddle billets, girths, and bridles for wear. It will be cheaper to keep your tack in good shape with regular cleaning and conditioning than it will be to keep buying new tack. Also, keeping up with tack maintenance will help prevent sudden tack failures that could lead to vet or hospital bills.

Have your horse go barefoot.

If your horse doesn’t NEED shoes, he probably shouldn’t be wearing shoes. Obviously your circumstances will vary, but it will be much cheaper to just pay for a trim whenever the farrier comes out than having to pay for shoes. As a bonus, the horse can’t pull a shoe if they don’t have one on, so you won’t have to pay the farrier to come back out after you find the left hind shoe out in the muddy paddock two days after it was put on!

Clean and repair your own blankets.

Or, don’t blanket your horse at all if they don’t need it. Most horses don’t need a blanket at all unless they are clipped, old, underweight, or don’t grow a good winter coat. So you can save a bundle just not blanketing your horse at all! 

But, if you do blanket your horse, you can clean and repair blankets on your own! There is a commercial blanket wash you can purchase that you use in the washing machine. Taking your blankets to the local laundromat will likely be cheaper than having them washed by a professional blanket person in your local area. Just be sure to use only recommended cleaning agents so you don’t damage waterproofing on your blankets, or treat them with a waterproofing spray after they’ve been cleaned.

You can also repair rips and tears either with iron-on patches specifically designed for horse blankets, with patches meant for tents, or by sewing the rips by hand. We’ve sewn up several rain sheets because Raven is tough on Glory’s blankets and like to rip them up, and have even re-attached broken straps on a bellyband of a winter blanket just by sewing it back on with a heavy-duty curved needle and waxed thread.

If your horse blanket does get a rip and you purchased it recently, contact the store you purchased it from or the manufacturer and see if the damage is covered under any sort of warranty. The previously mentioned winter-blanket-with-the-broken-bellyband was brand new and was still covered under the warranty, so we got a refund for the cost of the blanket and bought a new rain sheet (bonus: we got to keep the winter blanket, so after we repaired it we’d gotten two blankets for the price of one!)

Those are some of my tips for keeping horses on a budget. For more ideas, be sure to check out one of my favorite YouTube channels, The Budget Equestrian

Do you have any money-saving tips for taking care of your horse? Share them in the comments!

Have you seen my merch on Amazon yet?

Birthstone horse shirts are available on Amazon! You can get February-October’s designs on a variety of fits and colors, while taking advantage of your Amazon Prime benefits! I got to see one of these shirts in person just yesterday and I am BLOWN AWAY by the quality. The print looks amazing and the shirt itself is high-quality. Definitely recommend getting a shirt for yourself or someone you know who loves horses through my Amazon shop if you want the best feeling shirt ever!

I will be adding more shirts to Amazon as I can, however the way that this program works is different from other t-shirt storefronts I have. With Amazon, you have only so many design “slots”, and as you sell more shirts you rank up and get more slots. I am currently on the lowest level and only have 10 design slots, so I can’t put up all the months until I open up more slots. This means I have to get more people to buy shirts on Amazon! So if you know someone who would love one of these designs, please share the link with them! I need to sell 7 more shirts before I can get to the next tier, so there’s still a ways to go but I know we can do it.
 

Featured photo created by katemangostar – www.freepik.com
Horse with saddle photo created by topntp26 – www.freepik.com

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The Great Cart Crash of 2014 – How I Broke a Breaking Cart By Accident

With horseback riding, it’s not a question of “if” you will fall off the horse. The only question is “when” are you going to fall off the horse. Some horse people even say that if you haven’t fallen off a horse, you haven’t been riding long enough! In my almost-seven-years of being an equestrian, I’ve had my share of falls. Thankfully, most of them have been pretty minor- like falling off a horse at the mounting block (which I have done multiple times…), but there are two times so far where I had a pretty dramatic horse-related accident. The one that did the worst damage to me and to equipment was the great cart crash of 2014, where I managed to destroy an entire breaking cart and make my forehead bleed.

I want to preface this by saying that I believe EVERYONE who is doing something around horses should be wearing a helmet. We wear helmets whenever we ride or drive. I can make an entire blog post about the arguments against helmets that I’ve heard, and maybe I will one day, but I personally believe that a helmet is important whenever a horse is being ridden or driven. In the two accidents I’m about to write about, a helmet saved my noggin from being hurt even worse than it was. Okay, now that I’ve been on my Helmet Soapbox, let’s get into the story.

The Great Cart Crash – October 5, 2014

It was a beautiful Fall morning, and I was in a pretty bad mood. I decided to go to the barn and drive Glory, even though I would have no one to drive with and that makes it a little boring for me. I hadn’t been around horses for very long, but I’d been working with Glory for several months now and had been cleared to drive the cart on my own. So, believing that some horse time would cheer me up, I headed for the barn. After grooming and hitching up the cart, I headed down the fields. 

Back behind the arena is a pretty steep hill, but if you stay toward the left side of the property and go through the ditch between the hill and the arena, you will get to a decent-sized flat area that is great fun to ride and drive in. At the time I didn’t like driving in the arena much because I felt like I would crash into the fence all the time, so I preferred to drive out in the fields where I had a bit more space. Despite being with Glory, I still wasn’t out of my bad mood, but I decided to stick with it and work the horse. 

We got warmed up in the little red wooden breaking cart, and a little bit into our drive I decided to work Glory at the canter on the flat bit of land behind the arena. We were going around to the right, at a lovely even canter, and suddenly everything went in slow-motion. I don’t know if we hit a gopher hill, or if the tires were too full and bouncy and we just hit a bump in the ground, but suddenly the cart was airborne. The cart, with me in it, bumped and then rolled to the left in mid-air. Both shafts snapped away from the body of the cart and came away as Glory kept cantering on for a few more yards. The cart flipped and dumped me out onto the grass, face-first. I hit the front of my helmet on the ground first before rolling a few feet. 

I didn’t lay in the grass for long, got up almost right away because I was worried about Glory. Thankfully, my rock-star driving horse had stopped only a few yards away and was standing there, looking back at me as though to say “Why did we stop? I was starting to have fun!” The only reason why she wasn’t eating the grass, I believe, is because the overchecks were keeping her from doing so. I stumbled over and grabbed her, then took stock of the cart, which was in pieces all over the field. I believe that Kennedy was out of town this day, but her parents were home and we up at the house, so I pulled out my cellphone and called the house to tell them what had happened. I called Kennedy too while I waited for help to come down, and she actually thought I was joking!

In the midst of my frantic phone calls, I noticed blood dripping down above my left eye. I took off my helmet and realized that when I hit my helmet into the ground, the helmet lining had scraped open a spot of skin on my forehead. After Kennedy’s parents got down the field to me, we took the broken cart shafts off the harness and gathered up the rest of the parts, and we all walked up the field together. Below is a photo of what was left of the poor little red cart…

All things considered, this entire accident could have been a LOT worse. Glory wasn’t hurt, and I was only minorly injured. I was sore and had a scrape on my forehead that hurt like hell for about a week, but it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet. The breaking cart did exactly what it was supposed to do- breaking apart if something happens. I got off really lucky. And I’ve been pretty lucky with riding as well, since I’ve only had one really bad fall while riding and one semi-bad fall… but those are stories for another blog post!

Have you seen my merch on Amazon yet?

Birthstone horse shirts are available on Amazon! You can get February-October’s designs on a variety of fits and colors, while taking advantage of your Amazon Prime benefits! I got to see one of these shirts in person just yesterday and I am BLOWN AWAY by the quality. The print looks amazing and the shirt itself is high-quality. Definitely recommend getting a shirt for yourself or someone you know who loves horses through my Amazon shop if you want the best feeling shirt ever!

I will be adding more shirts to Amazon as I can, however the way that this program works is different from other t-shirt storefronts I have. With Amazon, you have only so many design “slots”, and as you sell more shirts you rank up and get more slots. I am currently on the lowest level and only have 10 design slots, so I can’t put up all the months until I open up more slots. This means I have to get more people to buy shirts on Amazon! So if you know someone who would love one of these designs, please share the link with them! I need to sell 7 more shirts before I can get to the next tier, so there’s still a ways to go but I know we can do it.

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My Goals for February 2020

I took a mini-break from the blog yesterday because I went and spent the morning/afternoon with my parents. We had a lovely time and I was so tired by the time I got back that I just didn’t want to put up a blog post. But I also know that if I don’t maintain my habit of blogging, I will likely stop posting and never post again. So I’m making this post before I head out to feed the horses their breakfast.

This year I’ve been trying the Powersheets Goal Planner to gain clarity, set goals, and try to really ramp up my art business. It was an expensive planner for me to get, but I made purchasing it work and I’ve been loving the entire thing so far. (This post is not sponsored and I’m not an affiliate, just someone who loves this planner so far and has been enjoying the features!) You do prep work at the beginning of the planner to get clear about what’s important to you and then set large goals for the year. Then each month you pick some goals to focus on, brainstorm action ideas, and set yourself monthly, weekly, and daily tasks on the Tending List. I use these pages to plan out my entire month, then use my Daily Task Manager pad to set a schedule and tasks for each day.

So, here are my goals for the month of February, in no particular order.

  • Create 15 new pieces (Including some smaller pieces… I’m hoping watercolor!)
  • Ride my horse 10 times – this has been harder than it should be because the weather has been a nightmare and we don’t have an indoor arena.
  • Apply to 3 vendor events (have sent in an application for 1 so far)
  • Create an income/expense spreadsheet (signed up for Wave Accounting instead and have been using it to track income and purchases for my art business)
  • List new prints on shops (Have you checked out the LizStaley.com shop or Etsy lately? Lots of new stuff on both!)
  • Find more blogs or magazines to write for to reach a wider audience
  • Blog three times a week
  • Release one new video on YouTube a week
  • Post regularly on social media
  • Research some charities to partner with. Giving back to the community is very important to me so I’d love to include more charitable donations in my business plan this year!

By the way, you can now get Birthstone Horses shirts on Amazon! I’ve actually had shirts available on Amazon for awhile, but the designs I had up weren’t selling, so I’ve decided to replace them with these (and hopefully get the other designs back up at some point). You can go directly to the shirts on Amazon by clicking the image below!

I will be adding more shirts to Amazon as I can, however the way that this program works is different from other t-shirt storefronts I have. With Amazon, you have only so many design “slots”, and as you sell more shirts you rank up and get more slots. I am currently on the lowest level and only have 10 design slots, so I can’t put up all the months until I open up more slots. This means I have to get more people to buy shirts on Amazon! So if you know someone who would love one of these designs, please share the link with them! I need to sell 7 more shirts before I can get to the next tier, so there’s still a ways to go but I know we can do it.

Featured image psd created by freepik – www.freepik.com 

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Birthstone Horses – Part 2

If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen my new series of horses I’ve been working on this year – Birthstone Horses. These are horses with coloring based on the birthstone associated with each month, and they also are bordered on two sides with sprigs of the monthly flower as well. I’m so happy with how well these designs are being received, and I wanted to introduce the next four horses to my dear readers. So, read on to see some new Birthstone Horses and to read about the properties of each stone and flower.

The first part of this blog post series can be found here.

Emerald (May)

Emerald is the first green stone in the line-up, and with May being a month where everything really starts to bloom and be covered in green, it’s a fitting choice! Emerald mines existed in Egypt as early as 300 BC, and the stones were used in jewelry in ancient Greece and Rome. The stones weren’t introduced to Europeans until the 1500’s, when the Spanish invaded South America. The Inca people had valued emeralds for hundreds of years! During this same time in history, the brilliant green stone was cherished by Indian Emperors, who used the emerald as talismans to get the protection of the gods.

In mythology, emerald is the stone of Venus. This gives the emerald an association with romance. It is said that emeralds bring passion, bliss, and unconditional love. Wearing emerald has been said to give the ability to see the future and the truth. Some of the most famous fans of emerald are Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor.

The flower associated with May is the Lily of the Valley. Another name for this flower is “May lily.” The name of the flower means “return to happiness” and it symbolizes chastity, purity, luck, happiness, and humility. The Lily of the Valley is used in religious ceremonies, perfumes, and in celebrations around the world. 

June (Pearl)

The ancient Greeks believed that pearls were tears of joy from Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Ancient Egyptians were buried with pearls to show their wealth, and Cleopatra once crushed up a pearl and drank it in a glass of wine to prove to Mark Antony that she could “devour the fortune of an entire nation in one meal.” Greek culture viewed the pearl as a symbol to make love and marriage more abundant, while in ancient Rome the pearl was a status symbol that showed wealth and power. Many countries in Europe banned regular people from wearing pearls, as they were seen as a sign of power and so could only be worn by those with power. 

The pearl is said to bring clarity, innocence, and faith. It is also said to improve focus, inhibit overexcited behavior, increase productiveness, relieve bloating, and even ease childbirth. Pearls are commonly worn by brides.

Roses are the flower of June, and I specifically chose pink roses for this drawing. Pink roses symbolize gratitude, grace, joy, and admiration. While researching for this series, I learned an interesting fact about roses! Did you know that in the Middle Ages, roses were hung from the ceilings of rooms where important meetings took place? Because of the flower’s association with secrecy, it was understood that anyone under the roses was sworn to keep the meeting confidential.

Roses are used on four of the traditional Tarot cards: The Fool, The Magician, Strength, and Death. The white rose on The Fool symbolizes purity and is a reminder to clear the mind. The rose on The Magician signifies unfolding wisdom. It represents balance on the Strength card. And on Death, it is a reminder of purity and clarity. 

Ruby (July) 

The July birthstone, Ruby, was regarded by ancient Hindus as the “king of gems”, and was believed to protect its wearer from evil. It was believed that wearing a fine Ruby would bestow good fortune upon its owner. To this day, the ruby remains the most valued gemstone. The most important characteristic of the ruby is its color. Rubies come in a wide range of color, from cool red to orange-red. The most prized color is often the “Burmese ruby”, a rich, full red color with a slight blue hue. This color is also referred to as “pigeon’s blood” in the gem trade. 

The hardness of ruby is second only to diamonds. In centuries past, it was believed that the ruby could predict misfortune, cure inflammatory diseases, and soothe anger. Burmese warriors believed that the stone made them invincible in battle. Medieval Europeans associated ruby with health, wisdom, wealth, and success in love. 

The July flower, water lily, is the national flower of Bangladesh. It symbolizes love and life, and is used there in almost every religious ceremony. The scientific name for water lily is “Nymphaea”, which comes from the Greek word “nymph”. Nymphs were a feminine spirit in Greek mythology that inhabited bodies of water. The water lily has been given symbolic meaning in various cultures all around the globe. The lily was the symbol of Upper Egypt, and when paired with the papyrus flower (the symbol of Lower Egypt), it depicted the unity of the people. In Buddhism, however, this flower represents universality and enlightenment.

Peridot (August)

The word peridot comes from the Arabic “faridat”, meaning gem. Throughout history, peridot has often been confused for other gems such as emerald and topaz. Topazios, an island in the Red Sea and probable source of the name “Topaz” actually produced peridot. The Shrine of the Three Holy Kings in the Cologne Cathedral has 200 carats of gems that were believed to be emerald, but are, in fact, Peridot. Some historians even speculate that the famous emerald collection of Cleopatra may have been made up of peridot. 

Peridot has been used for centuries as a protective talisman against evil spirits and nightmares. It began being used in priests’ jewelry as early as the second century BCE, and later was used in chalices and churches of medieval Europe. Peridot can be found in many locations around the world, but it has also come to Earth via meteorites!

The August flower, Gladiolus, gets its name from the Latin word “gladius”, meaning sword. They were named for the sword-like shape of their leaves. This flower symbolizes strength, moral integrity, and also represent infatuation. A bouquet of Gladiolus is supposed to convey to the recipient that they pierce the giver’s heart with passion. Gladioli are part of the iris family, and there are over 255 species of them. They are most diverse in South Africa, which is where they originated, but can now be found all over the world.

Future designs

I will be continuing to do more Birthstone horses until I have all twelve months complete. Here is the list of stones and flowers I’m planning, broken down by month.

September – Sapphire and Morning Glory

October – Opal and Calendula

November – Topaz and Chrysanthemum

December – Turquoise and Holly

You can purchase prints of each of the Birthstone Horses in the shop here on my web-site, or on Etsy. T-shirts, stickers, bags, journals, hoodies, and more are available with and without text on TeeSpring, RedBubble, and TeePublic.

 

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Adventures in Mad Science – Making Brush Cleaning Fizzy Bombs!

Wow, it’s February already! January felt both extremely long and like it went by in a flash. 

Today I wanted to write about a fun project that my best friend and I started two weeks ago, and we’re having so much fun with it that we’re hoping to really branch out! There’s a little backstory though that I’m going to talk about but not go into too much detail about because I don’t want to paint anyone involved in a bad light. The story I’m about to tell is true, but I won’t be calling anyone out.

A while ago, I purchased some brush cleaning items from a small business. I liked the brush cleaning items enough that I recommended them to another friend, who placed an order in summer 2019 with the same business. Weeks passed and the order never showed up. After several attempts to contact the seller, my friend got a message saying that this person had suffered an injury, that someone was coming to help them fill orders, and that they’d get their items soon along with a free gift to make up for the delay.  So, they waited another few weeks for their order to show up, but it never did. It still, to this day, has never arrived, and the seller disappeared off the face of the Earth instead of continuing to communicate with those who were waiting for their items. 

Since I’m a small business owner myself, I totally understand getting behind on things- especially if an emergency happens. But what I don’t understand at all is getting an order from someone and then not only not delivering the item that was ordered but also not communicating. So, since we were all disappointed by this turn of events, Kennedy and I decided to do something nice for our friend. We decided to learn how to make “bath bombs” that would clean horse brushes!

First, we had to do some research on the ingredients that we’d need. We wanted our brush cleaner to have a satisfying FIZZ when added to water, to smell nice, and to be antimicrobial. But they also couldn’t leave any residue that would be difficult to rinse out. We decided on a recipe and some secret ingredients to use, then set to work on our prototypes.

Filling molds with our prototype mixture

As with any new product prototype, we ran into some issues with the first batch. Since we only had two of our molds and we wanted to make four different scent blends on the day we were making prototypes, we decided to try to “kiln dry” our brush fizzies in an oven that was set on a low temperature. Little did we know that we had added too much of our wet ingredient and there was a chemical reaction going on that made them puff up out of the molds! Plus the heat from the oven made the edges hard and almost melted? So that experiment did not work at all! 

Once we got those out of the molds, though, we started to get the hang of things. The batch that got messed up turned into our testing batch and we used every single one of them that day to clean brushes with because we were having too much fun tossing them in the water and watching them fizz. Plus, the amount of dirt and grime they got out of our brushes was insane! I’d cleaned Glory’s brushes a few weeks prior, but even then the water was coming out gross and dirty. As we mixed and tested, we came up with fun names for each of our scent blends.

Now that we had our brush cleaners made and tested, I got to do the really fun part- design packaging! We wanted a label for each individual scent, as well as a label that would go on a larger bag to contain a collection of different scents. By the time I got to designing packaging, we had come up with six different scent blends (and now we have two more on the way, for an even eight!)

“Run for the Roses”- A romantic floral scent that will take you to the Winner’s Circle. This blend was inspired by the wreaths of flowers given to winning racehorses.

“Florida Cracker”- A bright and sunny scent evocative of warm and sunny days. This blend is made from orange and lemon and has a zesty, bright scent! (This was the first blend I created and the initial batch is what is pictured in the image where the brush fizzies puffed up and didn’t come out of the mold correctly, but the ones in this photo turned out perfectly now that we have the recipe down!)

“Winter Ride” – A wintery blend of pine and cinnamon, reminiscent of a ride through a snow-covered forest. This is one of my favorite blends. It smells so nice and like you’re riding through an evergreen forest! The cinnamon also reminds me of the cinnamon pine cones you can get around Christmas.

“Cubbing Season”- A woodsy scent that brings to mind early morning Autumn hunts. This blend is so nice. It really reminds me of the woods in Fall because of the oils that Kennedy put into it!


“Spring Invitational”- The scent of a warm breeze in your face as you gallop cross-country. The best word to describe this blend is “green”. It’s not exactly a floral scent, but more the smell of nature.


“Muddy Boots” – Tea Tree Oil and Mint pack a powerful punch for extreme muck and grime. First of all, I am so proud of the name I came up with for this blend. This is like our “super cleaner” for when you really need to fight some nasties. I did add quite a bit of mint though because it has come to my attention that not everyone likes the smell of tea tree oil as much as I do. 

We have two more blends in the works, “Mare Stare” (Dragonsblood) and “Foal Watch” (Lavender), but I don’t have photos of those.

And here’s our big packet of assorted scents! The large bag holds four of the four-packs, so it contains 16 brush fizzies. We’re hoping to start selling these to other people who want a fun and easy way to clean their grooming stuff. The tabs fizz really nicely when you toss them in water (Click here for a video!), they get the gunk out of the bristles, and they rinse clean very easily. So, we met all our requirements for brush cleaners!

After we had these packed up, we delivered them to our friend who never got her order from the other seller. She was so happy that we surprised her with these that she cried a little! I can’t wait for her to test out her cleaners and tell us how she likes them. We really enjoyed using our test ones!

How do you like to clean your brushes? Let me know in the comments! 

 

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Look for Liz Staley Studios Creations in Chambersburg, PA, this weekend!

This weekend is IceFest in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania! This annual celebration features ice sculptures, glass-blowing, an ice slide, and more. Held in Downtown Chambersburg, all the shops on Main Street get into the festivities. And The Foundry Artist Co-Op is no exception!

I’ve been a member of The Foundry for about two years now and it’s an amazing place! We have about 25 members, local artists of all ages, styles, and mediums. Jewelry, painting, fabric art, sculpture, wood-working, and more can be found at 100 South Main Street. And for IceFest we have a huge number of art activities that festival attendees can participate in, as well as the amazing selection in our store. 

You can find many of my designs in the shop, from originals to prints to magnets to scrunchies and key fobs, I have a wide range of items available. So if you’re going to be in Chambersburg, PA this weekend, stop by the shop and have a look around!

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What I’ve Learned From Horses

Over the past years that I’ve been able to achieve my dreams of working, caring for, riding, and owning horses, I’ve learned a lot. I read hundreds upon hundreds of pages in books about horses when I was growing up, but even those books couldn’t prepare me for the things that working hands-on with horses would teach me. This list goes beyond such things as general horse care and goes more into the ways I’ve changed as a person because of my contact with equines of all types over the past few years. 

Horses Build Confidence

This one should probably be obvious, but I had no idea the effect that just being around horses would have on my confidence levels. I’m not talking about arrogance, either. Horses are inherently dangerous animals to be around, and you need to be confident to even be on the ground with them, much less ride them. 

When I first started being around horses, I was scared and timid. I didn’t know what to do to work with them, or even how to properly lead one on a lead rope! It took a lot of weeks of working with Glory on the ground, taught by my best friend, in order to even get to the point where I was confident enough to lunge Glory and make her back up on the lead. 

I have discovered that horses respond to a quiet sort of confidence. They respond to the anxiety of other animals, and as someone with an anxiety disorder, this means that I have to get hold of that around my horse or we are going to have a bad day! The horses I’ve had the honor of working with in my time around them have taught me to be a quiet, confident leader, who is both firm and fair in their decisions. Learning this lesson has helped me in my art career and taught me to stand up and be the leader without giving in to my anxiety.

Tiny Steps Turn Into Big Things

One thing I’ve definitely learned, especially because of setting riding goals, is that small steps forward are better than no steps at all. The first riding goal I ever set was to learn how to canter, and after that I wanted to be able to canter on my horse. Glory has a pretty terrible canter sometimes. She rushes into it, bucks in her transition, she’s off-balance, falls forward, and she pulls herself with her front legs instead of pushing with her hind end. To a person who is a bit timid in general, trying to get her to canter under saddle is downright terrifying. You MUST commit to the canter aid, you can’t be wishy-washy with your aid, and you need to be balanced and breathe. 

So, in order to get to my goal of cantering on my own horse, I had to break every part of getting her into the canter down into small steps. Glory also needed to build her strength and stamina so that she would rush less. Over many, many months, we worked both in the harness and under saddle to build strength at the trot, work on transitions, and I also worked on my canter aids. Then, once I was used to the feeling of her super-fast-trot-that-is-trying-to-be-a-canter, we worked on me getting my aids clear and precise enough that I could get her to canter just a few strides. Once I knew that I wouldn’t die or fall off with a few steps of canter, we worked on getting further and further around the arena, and now cantering on my horse is one of the joys of my riding time. 

Though we may want to get to the end of the road as fast as possible, sometimes we need to break down the trip into small steps and just go forward a tiny bit each day. Eventually, you reach your end goal and grow exponentially in the process.

Be Present and Listen to Your Feelings

Long hours of doing barn chores, riding, and doing all the other things that horses require you to do leaves you with a lot of time to be in your own head. Especially if you’re at a larger barn and spending hours and hours each day doing things all by yourself! Horse care, whether it be mucking stalls, feeding, brushing, or even going for a hack, can be contemplative and quiet. In a world that is becoming more and more noisy, this quiet is invaluable sometimes. 

I’ve found that time with horses has really put me in touch with my thoughts and feelings. If I’m having a bad day, the barn is the best therapy ever. But if I insist on continuing to be in a bad mood after I get to the barn, then therapy is not going to go well that day. Some of the worst days I’ve had around horses are days when I’m in a bad mood and trying to stay in that bad mood. The day I crashed my first cart was a day when I was in a bad mood and didn’t really want to go for a drive, but I did it anyway and ended up destroying a breaking cart. Now, could that have been a coincidence? Sure. But did my bad mood possibly have a hand in distracting me from what I was supposed to be doing? Possibly. 

Horses have taught me to be present in the moment. To reach inside and try to figure out what I’m actually feeling before I get my horse reflecting something I don’t want back on me. If I’m afraid, my horse will be afraid. If I’m calm, Glory will pick up on that and trust me to take care of her.

Speaking of trust…

Trust In Others

Working with horses requires a lot of trust, not only in the large prey animals that you’re working with but also in the other people that you can encounter along the way. In order to begin doing things with Glory, we had to learn how to trust each other. She had to know she could count on me to not lead her into harm, and I had to learn how to read her body language and adjust my own so we could communicate. Earlier, when I was talking about learning how to canter on Glory, I left out the fact that we had to learn not only the physical way to get to the canter but also learn to trust each other at that gait. I had to trust that Glory wouldn’t throw me off and run away, and she had to trust that I was ready to go. 

Because of the way my childhood friends treated me, I found it hard to really trust people for a long time. For most of my life I’ve had only small groups of friends, and most of them I would keep at a little bit of a distance out of fear that someone would turn around and hurt me. But if you aren’t keeping your horses on a personal piece of land and doing all their care yourself, while teaching yourself to ride, then you HAVE to trust others. For several years I kept Glory at a boarding barn, and though I worked there 5-6 days a week and could make sure she was being taken care of, I had to trust that she would get her dinner, would be fed and taken care of in the hours I wasn’t there and on my days off. Later on, when I stopped working at the barn I kept her at, I had to trust even more that my horse would be taken care of. In a boarding barn, you need to trust that other people will respect your property and respect the facility so that it’s all in good working order to be used. And now that my best friend and I do self-care for our horses, we each have to trust that we’ll do what needs to be done to take care of our girls when the other person isn’t there and make informed decisions on what they need.

I’m happy to say that today I have a great group of wonderful friends who I trust, all because of horses!

Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Riding a horse isn’t like running marathons or playing soccer. Your teammate in equestrian sports is a huge prey animal with a fight-or-flight instinct, a distinct personality, and a mind of its own. Even after you’ve gained their trust, worked with them, and taken the baby steps, sometimes your time with your horse just might not go as planned. Horses have bad days, they have days where they’re tired, cranky, or just want to go back to the barn and eat instead of being ridden. You have to pick your battles when you’re around horses. It’s a delicate balancing act to be both assertive and caring, to be a leader and also to know the limits of your team. 

Because of horses, I have learned that sometimes you just need to know when you’ve done all you can do. You can have a plan for your ride or your groundwork session, and your horse just might not be feeling it. In those cases, you have to learn to be flexible and patient. You don’t have to give up on those bad days when things aren’t going to plan, but learn how to adjust the plan so that you can achieve a different or smaller goal. If you can’t get your horse to canter the entire way around the arena, go for a small circle, or one side of the arena, and be happy with that. This goes hand-in-hand with the second lesson I talked about, where you sometimes must take small steps in order to get to the big goals.

 

Those are five things that working with horses have taught me. I’m sure I could come up with a hundred more, but those are the five biggest ones that I’ve noticed have an impact on me even in my non-horsey life. What lessons have horses taught you? Let me know! 

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Longer Living Through Art?

I was browsing for art news last week and stumbled across an interesting article on a site called Newser, which is apparently a site that curates news from various sources and writes easily-digestible “news briefs” about the story on their own site. Anyway, according to this article, a study was conducted to discover if exposure to the arts has any effect on lifespan.

According to the study, which was published in the BMJ, over 6700 subjects over the age of 50 when the study started were then tracked over the next 14 years. The study tracked how often the participants in the study were exposed to the arts, and how many had passed away by the end of the study. 

After controlling for other factors, the researchers found that the subjects who engaged in the arts “frequently” (at least once every few months) had a 31% lower risk of dying compared to those who never engaged in the arts. Even those who only went to an art-themed event only once or twice a year had a 14% less risk than non-engagers. 

Theories on this correlation include arts lovers being more engaged with the world at large, less sedentary, more empathetic, and less lonely, which are all factors in living longer. 

As amazingly cool as this study is, I think it’s pretty much a “No Duh!” moment for me. Despite the fact that the arts are usually the first thing cut at schools, there’s no doubt that they are extremely important. But it is nice to have a study to point to that can quantify, at least somewhat, just how important the arts are.

Creating a new piece of art, writing a story, listening to a beautiful piece of music, seeing a good movie, going to a concert, looking at something inspiring created by a fellow artist, or reading something that captures the imagination are all things I can personally count on to help with my depression and anxiety. Sometimes, when I’m feeling depressed, the best thing I can do is get out my pencils and put on some music that I love, and just get it all out in my work while I sing along at the top of my lungs. (Be glad you aren’t my neighbor, because I am not a great singer. Sorry to all my current neighbors who may have to deal with hearing me singing along to whatever music fits my fancy at the moment.)

Being an artist and being involved in art has also done wonders for my social anxiety. Joining an artist cooperative has given me a pool of other artists to gain wisdom from, and I can also teach them the things that I know. It’s lovely to know that I have a group of people with similar interests and who all have similar goals. Art means that I always have something in common to talk to my fellow co-op members with. Also, when I do a convention or a craft fair, I don’t have to be afraid to be out in the crowd, because anyone who shows an interest in my wares probably has similar interests to me, so I can talk to them about something. 

So, in my personal experiences, art of all kinds helps with my depression and anxiety, makes me more social, improves creative thinking and keeps me learning, and gets me out of the house when I maybe wouldn’t necessarily want to go be in a crowd of people. 

I guess this study just proves I’m going to live forever! What positive impact has art had on your life?

 

Title Image Courtesy of AenagGaz on DeviantArt.