As an owner of a handmade business, connecting with loyal customers fills me with appreciation and gratitude. People have so many options when it comes to trusting another with their time, money, and of course, their pet’s happiness and well-being. I was lucky to meet someone a few years ago with a little Morkie named Maks, and she has been an incredibly loyal and gracious customer — and friend!
When the holidays came near I knew I wanted to give Missy something special to celebrate and show my appreciation. As I brainstormed ideas with my husband, he suggested painting a portrait of Maks. Which was totally perfect, as this aligns with where I’m taking Oxford Dogma.
I’ve been working with oil paints for several months and took a course in the fine art of painting dog portraits, but hadn’t actually painted a dog. This was the perfect opportunity! Luckily Maks’ mom sends me lots of adorable photos of him so I was able to pick one and keep it a surprise.
How cute is this little guy?! Capturing his big, brown eyes was my top priority. And I also wanted to convey his sense of curiosity and intelligence (he’s the smartest dog I’ve ever met — no offense to my little Pipsqueak).
I wrapped the portrait up for Christmas and included it in Missy’s most recent order. She was delighted with it and framed it almost immediately.
Maks is a lucky guy who’s loved to pieces and I only hope this portrait helps support the bond he shares with his family.
This post is a part of Custom Pet Portrait series, where I share an in-depth look and answer questions. The rest of the posts are linked at the end of this post.
Put those pet photos collecting in your smartphone album to good use!
As a loving pet parent, you get a ton of joy every time you are around your pet. And if you’re anything like me, 90% of the photos you take are of your pet.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to frame the photos to hang around your house. Maybe you don’t love the quality of them (a snapshot that’s too dark, grainy, and a weird angle), or the style doesn’t quite fit with your style of decor, or there are elements you don’t want included in the frame.
A thoughtful gift for pet-crazy friends and family
I’ve found that many people want a Custom Pet Portrait as a gift for a special pet parent in their life. It’s a way to show someone you understand how much they love their furry kid without worrying about choosing the right size and color, or whether the item works with their lifestyle. It’s a personal and distinctive gift that they won’t already have. And don’t we all know people who we have such a hard time shopping for??
“Angie’s posture and facial expression are perfect. I love these so much!”
— Danette, dog mom to Watson and Angie
“Love these! So cute!”
— Jessica, mom to Zanzi and Archie
“The illustration of Bailey is my favorite picture in the house.”
— Matt, dog dad to Bailey
What you get
The Custom Pet Portrait is an entirely custom product made to order. I create the illustration based on 2–4 photos that you provide of the pet, from different angles and showing any unique characteristics you’d like to include. (read more about how the process works in this post)
Each portrait includes an 8×10 inch unframed art print, printed with archival inks on matte archival paper.
Doing more with your portrait: upgrade option
Interested in having other items made with your pet’s portrait? For an additional $35 per pet you can purchase the digital artwork file as well. With this file, you can order things like greeting cards or other stationary items, or accessories like a t-shirt, tote bag, mug, or pillow. But this is totally optional — if you’re happy to simply get the 8×10 print, there’s no need to purchase the digital file. The file will be available for purchase in the future if you change your mind so it’s not something you need to decide right away.
What makes this illustration unique
My background as a graphic designer + my penchant for subtle details and order influence my illustration style. The result is a portrait with a clean, simple, and timeless style — a bit like a classic screen print. And based on the details you provide about your pet, I translate the photos into a single iconic portrait that sums up your pet and makes you smile.
Many pet portraits are painted, with brushstrokes and expressive style, but that’s not a fit for everyone’s decor or taste. Pet parents have expressed to me that it can be hard to find other options that fit their style. So the Oxford Dogma portrait might be a good option for you if you like understated, refined, or iconic art and design.
How to order your own Custom Pet Portrait
Do you know someone who’d love to receive a custom-illustrated art print of their pet? (Or is that someone you??) Send me a note with the form on my contact page and I’ll follow up with next steps.
I love traveling and seeing new places, but I hate leaving my pets behind. When you’re pet is a part of your family, being away from them for several days is hard! I mean, who wouldn’t hate to leave these faces?
I’ve found that doing the work to be prepared helps ease my mind. When things are thought through carefully, there’s much less second-guessing about whether you forgot to mention your dog’s medication schedule, walk routine, or even favorite toy.
To help pet parents feel more relaxed about leaving their fur baby with a sitter, I worked with a professional pet nanny to create the Pet Sitter Checklist. We made note of things that are obvious, but still worth listing, and things that aren’t so obvious, like suggesting a movie night so your dog gets in some real snuggle time on the couch with a caring sitter and feels more relaxed about your absence.
Because it’s all about helping more pets feel loved! Sign up below to get the free Pet Sitter Checklist today.
Feel like a good pet parent, even while you’re away
Travel is one of life’s great experiences, but leaving a furry kid at home is hard. Feel good and have a happier pet by being prepared with the free Pet Sitter Checklist. When you provide your email address you’ll get the checklist plus the emails I send to my community with product news, workshop updates, and special offers.
Do you wear your mutt-owner status with pride? The Mutt Love Dog Leash was inspired by the lovable mutts of the world, with their mix of mysterious bits that makes them special and one of a kind.
I’m always looking for ways to design and create my products conscientiously, keeping the resource impact on the planet in mind and making as little waste as possible. One of the reasons I like to use reclaimed materials is to keep stuff out of the landfills. Wastefulness really bugs me! Finding new uses for things that are typically discarded is a mission and challenge I find really rewarding — the same approach applies in my kitchen, too. It wasn’t always that way though.
Before I started making more things from scratch, whether it’s a loaf of bread, a cake, or a dog leash, I wasn’t very aware of how wasteful I could be. But the process of making things with my own two hands instead of buying them from the store has given me a much bigger appreciation of the work that goes into the making. I save leftovers, I save jars, and I save fabric scraps.
So as I’ve created new handcrafted items in my workshop from reclaimed materials, like the Bag Dispenser and Tailored Dog Jacket, it leaves behind various bits and scraps that are too small, or the wrong shape, for many things. But they’re perfect joined together into something new and meaningful.
The design and materials of this dog leash are inspired by shelter pets of mysterious backgrounds. It’s the mix of mysterious bits makes them special and one of a kind — both the leashes and our furry family members!
The leash is 6 feet long, with a soft yet sturdy feel in your hands. It’s 5/8 inch wide, making it a good size for a small to medium dog, with a ring for attaching an accessory (a Bag Dispenser is perfect here). The materials are a mix of twill, corduroy, and wool, all reclaimed from cotton trousers and wool sport jackets in classic colors for timeless style. It’s made in small batches, and no two are the same.
With the special Mutt Love edition products, my mission is to highlight all that we love about mutts. These are often the animals found in shelters, in need of their forever home — the underdogs. All pets deserve love, but there’s a special place in my heart for those that wound up without families or homes and just need adopting. It’s why I choose to donate a portion of every sale to shelters. If you’ve adopted a mutt, you know how good it feels to invite one into your life. It brings joy and it brings challenges, but it completes you in a way that few things do. In fact, it’s hard to stop at one!
Each Mutt Love item is one-of-a-kind, just like your fur baby. To find the handcrafted Mutt Love Dog Leash that’s a fit for your family, visit my shop >
From now until the end of the year, each Oxford Dogma sale means doubled contributions to a local shelter. I’ll be donating 10% of the purchase price for each item sold through my online shop or in person at Crafeteria.
When I started working on Oxford Dogma, one of the first things I did was get clear on my guiding principles. These principles come from me personally, are the things I care most about, and they needed to be baked into my business as well. One of these core principles is to be conscientious — treating animals, people, and the environment with respect, appreciation, and care.
For me, this includes is participating in social good. I’m inspired by the one-for-one business models, and wanted to find a way to contribute to society as a small-scale maker. There are countless causes and organizations I’d like to support. If I could, I’d support all of them. But I know from experience that trying to push myself in too many directions causes burnout, so it became my mission to focus on a cause that connected with me personally and was something where I could contribute my skills and talents.
Puppy-dog eyes everywhere
In the summer of 2014 I visited an animal shelter for the first time and adopted our sweet little Pipsqueak. I entered the shelter unprepared for just how many animals needed adopting. While I was very happy to be bringing our girl home with me, it was very sad to leave all of the other animals there.
Finding a way to support animal shelters would become my primary cause. Animals have always held a special place in my heart. They soften the hard edges and help my husband and me share something special and meaningful together — something bigger than us as individuals (like kids do in many homes).
Adopting Pipsqueak opened me up to a whole new world of animal lovers. Previously, we had cats who were pretty much the center of our universe, but since cats stay home they have a different role in our lives. Dogs go in car rides, go camping with us, walk outside with us, meet (or pester, as the case may be) all the other dogs in the neighborhood…they need us in a different way and we form rituals around their daily behavior.
Losing the cats to old age and spending too many months without any pets at all made one thing clear: Pets make me happy. They make millions of people happy. For us, life without them is a little too quiet, a little too serious, even a little too selfish.
Finding my own way of doing social good
After we got Pipsqueak, the shelter sent an email checking in and suggesting ways we could continue to support them. And soon after, I caught a segment on PBS about sewing cage comforters and donating them to shelters. Cage comforters are like simple little quilts that fit in a cage and help the animals get off a cold surface and be more comfy. That was the perfect fit.
With each purchase of an Oxford Dogma product, I’ll sew a cage comforter and donate it to a local shelter to help an animal waiting for their forever home be more comfortable.
Update: During my research to find shelters who’d like to receive some cage comforter donations, it’s become more clear that what animal shelters need most is monetary support, followed by a list of specific items to help run the facilities. I’ll still be making a donation with each purchase, but I’m going to open up my commitment for supporting them by donating that which will help them most — likely money or wish list items. Or if their greatest need is cage comforters, great!
When I started contacting shelters to see if they’d like to receive the cage comforters I sew, I learned that they’re super busy and it’s tough for them get back to everyone. If you work at an animal shelter or know an animal shelter who’d love to receive some cage comforters, I want to hear from you! Please get in touch with the form below so I can add the information to my contacts and reach out.
And since I’m expanding my support to include financial support, if you have a favorite shelter whose top need is funds, feel free to submit that as well.
Have you had the DNA of your mutt tested?
Because many shelter pets are mutts, I’m working on a new monthly project highlighting the charm and uniqueness of mutts. If you had the DNA of your dog tested (yes, that’s a thing, and yes, we totally did it), I’d love to know what you learned! Maybe I can work your dog’s personality into the project. Email me with your story: email@example.com.
* For more on this idea, check out the Kindle Single Betterness: Economics for Humans by Umair Haque. It’s a bold call for organizations to make the shift from business to betterness. As he puts it: “I believe it’s the next step in the evolution of prosperity and that its foundational principle is living lives that matter in human terms.”
The day I visited a local animal shelter “just to check out our options” was a pivotal day for me. Once I arrived, it quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to leave there without at least one dog.
After hardening my heart against all of the big, puppy-dog eyes (I wouldn’t even let myself look at the cat kennels — the sting of losing our cats after 16 years was still too much), I zeroed in on our little Pipsqueak. She drew me in like a tractor beam and it was settled.
I left the shelter, immediately fell completely in love with Pipsqueak, and thought about how I might continue to support the local shelters. There were SO MANY animals in need of adoption, and this was just one of the many shelters in the area. I pondered for several weeks how to contribute, then by chance saw an episode of Sewing with Nancy where she interviewed someone about cage comforters. Cage comforters are basically small, thick quilts sewn by volunteers that give cats and dogs a soft, warm place to lie while they wait to be adopted.
I contacted our shelter to see if they’d be interested in getting some of these, and the communications eventually broke down, and then we were temporarily relocated to a new state and etc., etc. Well, I finally made time to sew a few comforters and got in touch with a different shelter who was happy to receive them.
These comforters are a way for me to get started with supporting shelters, and factor into my new business, Oxford Dogma. As the business becomes more established, it’s my goal to increase my contributions to shelters accordingly, providing the things that are needed most. But for now, this is a gratifying and feasible way for me to provide some TLC to animals in need.