Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why Animals?? Don't people matter more?

Cecil Totes have raised $400+
for humane wildlife research.
Click Here to order your own!
Last week, I decided to launch a Cecil the Lion tote bag fundraiser to help raise funds for humane wildlife research. I fully expected to sell a handful of totes and raise a few dollars for WildCRU, the organization at Oxford University that has been studying Cecil and his pride for the last few years. At the start of the fundraiser, we set a goal of $100 to send to help WILDCR. In the last 7 days, we have raised $425 in donations. Quadruple our goal!

I often hear that my cause is wrong or that I am silly working to save animals while there are people suffering in the world. I have gotten nasty emails, phone calls and posts on social media (most often) criticizing my decision "to support wildlife research vs ending abortions". I will never understand what those two things have to do with each other, so I delete the comments or emails and move along with my day. 

The valid comments, questions and concerns, however, don't go unnoticed and because I have always wanted my business to be open and honest with my clients and supporters, I wanted to take a minute for those that may be interested, are new to my business or just unfamiliar with my fundraising program to go over the questions I often see. Being a small business, I love to chat with each fan, supporter, or curious passerby individually, but in case anyone is shy or just wondered, I figured this would be a great spot to talk about what goes into each fundraiser! 

Hanging with Olivia, a pit bull mix who was rescued after
being abused. Olivia has since been adopted!
What/Who is Pet Studio Art? 
Well, that's simple. It's me! My name is Stephanie Conrad, I am an artist who loves all animals. A few years ago, I was working for a vet clinic just outside of Austin when a friend's beautiful dog passed away. As a gift to remember his sweet pup, I painted a portrait for him. As other co-workers and friends saw the painting, they asked for one of their own. Things spiraled from there and after some time, I was able to leave my job at the vet clinic and become a full time artist (well, I did do some odd jobs pet sitting on the side). I am married to an amazing, supportive man, and we have adopted four pets together. I have been a vegetarian for six years or so now and love to experiment with new veggie recipes, from time to time, you can see those on my blog! My studio is located just outside of Austin, TX and you are welcome to visit with an appointment.

What do you sell during fundraisers? 
After a year or so of painting full time, my husband and I decided to branch out and add in a few products to my line. First came the necklace line, then the oh-so-popular tote bag line!

At the time, I was photographing rescue animals for various shelters and rescues in the area (of course, I still donate my time photographing). My collection of photographed animals grew and grew and while they were used, of course, to promote pets to find them homes, I wanted something more from these photos. Thus, my tote bag line was created! Each tote bag in my line is made based on an original piece of artwork or a photograph that I have created. Some of these pieces I have painted for clients, some of them are rescue animals, sometimes I just feel inspired by an incredible story (take Cecil for example). 

How much do you donate?
Each tote is hand-printed!
Order your favorite here!
During each fundraiser, we sell a variety of items for a variety of prices. The donations vary between 20% and 50% of the sale most often, with a few select paintings raising up to 100% of the proceeds. My donation amount varies based on several factors, including the costs that I incur while making the items (unfortunately, they don't just fall from the sky like rain), the time it takes to create each item and how much time went into the creation of the design. As much as I would like to give items away to rescues, that would never work since I need to stay in business in order to keep giving back! I am incredibly proud of my fundraising program and over the last 4 years, I have raised close to $20,000 for some of the best rescues in the country! How many other small two-person operations can say that? When I started Pet Studio Art, I imagined giving back, but to see that number continue to grow AND being able to support my family, I am just humbled and touched that there are so many individuals out there that love and appreciate the work I do. 

Why animals - aren't people important too?
Bunny is just one of the many rescue
dogs that I have photographed to help
find them a forever home! 
Yes, of course people are important!! I hear this all the time,"it's great you saved a dog, but there are starving children in the world". Those people are correct, of course, I HATE seeing any kind of suffering, human, animal or environmental, but I fully respect each person's right to support the cause that they feel passionately about. For me, that passion is animals. It does not in any way diminish or disqualify the work that human-based charitable organizations do, there are many human-based organizations that I have personally supported and cheer for. Hope Alliance is a perfect example. They are an organization that helps victims of domestic violence. Last year, I teamed up with several other local crafters, including Lip Glosserie, to create some tote bags full of beauty products for the women living in the shelter. My hope is that, instead of simply questioning or criticizing others for their choices, the people who question my choice to give to animal charities are stepping in to help the cause that they so passionately support.

How do you choose the organizations for your fundraisers?
This question comes up a lot. It seems to many people that I only work with organizations that have grown to hundreds of thousands of social media followers. That is true for my art fundraiser program, yes, because we need to reach a huge audience in order to make a huge amount in donations. However, every reputable rescue organization is welcome to participate in my referral program - basically, send some clients my way, and I am always happy to reward that referral with a 'Thank You donation". To get in on the action - just have an authorized representative for your rescue organization email me at and I will happily get you set up! I love my partner rescues, I set up my referral program to be a huge win-win situation for everyone. 

Visiting with Tia Torres of Villalobos
Rescue Center before one of our
yearly fundraisers!
A few years ago, we teamed up with an organization called Villalobos Rescue Center (VRC). This organization is incredibly special for many reasons, one of which is being featured on the show Pit Bulls and Parolees which airs on Animal Planet. VRC is a pit bull rescue and advocacy organization. If you have never watched the show, it's well worth a few episodes - I promise you'll be hooked. Each dog that comes into the rescue has a story to tell as the rescue works to find them a forever home. Some of these dogs come from horrific abuse cases, some just need a helping hand to get back on their feet. Whatever the reason, VRC steps in and from then on, that dog knows nothing but love. When we teamed up for our first fundraiser, I painted a few of the pups that they love so much and we raised close to $2000. Over the last few years, our partnership has only grown stronger and to date has raised $16,000+ for Villalobos alone. 

In addition to my partnership with VRC, I have had the pleasure of working with several other amazing organizations, such as the Beagle Freedom Project, Panda Paws Rescue, Love-A-Bull Rescue and so many others! With each fundraiser, we have been able to reach a broad audience which not only includes my fans and supporters, but the fans and supporters of the rescue organizations. This makes each fundraiser completely unique as we grow both awareness for the rescues and promote my small business at the same time! 

What fundraiser is up next?
One of the paintings that will be
available in our next fundraiser!
As of this moment, we have been building up a relationship with the adorable Pinups for Pitbulls and will hopefully be launching the fundraiser on August 15th! Stay tuned for lots of adorable doggie art! 

For questions, concerns, or to learn more about my referral program, send me an email directly to!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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