Back then, there wasn't a lot of variety of things you can get for your furry best friend. Basic primary coloured collars and leashes. Not very exciting to me.
But now we have variety and I'm thrilled to introduce Sarah Struett of Four Black Paws to you today. A fellow member of The Artisan Group, Sarah's Handmade Dog Collars, Bed Covers and ID Tags are the perfect accessory for your best friend.
How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I have always loved doing arts and crafts; I always felt it was something I was good at. When I was young, my friends and I were always looking for ways to make a buck. I remember making all sorts of crafts to sell in little stands on the side of the road just like lemonade stands. I never really did anything with my love for crafts until December 2010 when I decided to try my hand at makind dog products. At the time I was teaching in a very low socioeconomic area of Southwest Michigan that was so in need of money that they were doing staff cuts in the middle of the year. Since I was a newer teacher, my name was on that list and I knew that if I were to be laid off I wasn't going to sit at home and do nothing. That is when my love for dogs gave me the outlet to help myself. I figured, with all of the money I spend on fancy collars for my dogs, why not make them myself! And that is where things took off.
|Drifting Blossom Collar|
Honestly, I do remember the first collar I made for Four Black Paws and I still have it becuase to me, it wasn't quality enough to sell.
Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
Seeing that my inspiration is my dogs, I would have to say that I am constantly thinking about them when I am creating something new. I love finding fun fabrics that will stand out on my black dog but I also search for fabrics that I know will look good on the manliest of dogs. Anything that is unique or a conversation starter will catch my eye (I've had many spontaneous conversations with people about my dogs collar).
|Michigan State University Collar|
Over the past year or so, I have tried many different things. At the very beginning, I was trying all different kinds of ways to put my collars together. I went through about 3 or 4 different styles before I found the one that I liked the best. Now that I have that process down, I am adding in different things to expand my line of collars such as adding martingale type collars, thicker collars and collars with a variety of different fabrics. I have also tried my hand at other types of pet products like handstamped ID tags and dog crate covers. In time I may add those things to my line again but they aren't something that excite me to make.
What inspires you creatively?
My dogs and my love of dogs are, hands down, my inspiration. Without my dog, Leila, I certainly would not have this business. She is the inspiration behind this company and also behind the name of Four Black Paws (she is a black lab).
|Large Elk Antler Dog Chew|
I've hit so many milestones already within the past year; many more than I could have even imagined. My first goal was to sell collars and over the past year I have done that successfully at craft shows, fundraisers and online. Speaking of online, my second goal was to get my products out on the internet for consumers to see. My website is not up to where I want it to be but I am happy that I have my Etsy shop to display my products. Another important goal was to sell wholesale. I have had the opportunity a few times to sell wholesale to a few local places. Handmade and made in the USA seems to be important to people these days and I am a huge advocate of supporting local. Lastly, this wasn't a goal of mine but an opportunity that I was so incredibly honored to get. My collars will not only be featured in the press swag bags at The Oscars but they will also be in the celebrity swag bags at the MTV Movie Awards. This is something I could have never imagined back in December 2010 but am so extied about.
Who are some of your favorite artists/crafters and why?
I find inspiration in just about every artist and crafter. Everyone who creates something with their hands has such an incredible talent. When I was young, my Grandma used to take me downtown Chicago to the Art Museum. It never matterd what exhibit we were going to see, I knew I would always love it (and I did!).
|Small/Medium Deer Antler Chew|
My one obvious goal for the future is to expand. I would love to one day have my own shop or even expand nationally. I wouldn't mind being nationally (or internationally) known! I would also really like to get my website up to par.
What do you do in your spare time?
In what spare time that I do have, I really enjoy cooking, creating new things and spending time with my dogs. I show two of my dogs in UKC and AKC events and right now we are training for some performance events.
|XLarge Dog Bed Cover 36x24|
Right now I have a few local places who are selling my products. There is a small dog boutique up in South Haven, MI who sells our collars and there will soon be a place right here in St. Joseph, MI selling our collars.
If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
I work full time and do Four Black Paws at night so I would have to say that I spend about one or two hours per night on the business side and another hour or so a night on the creative side. Most of my creativity comes out on the weekend when I have hours of time to spend sewing and creating.
|The Triple Threat ID Tag|
Go for it! The worst thing you could do is do nothing at all. The first few months may not bring anything but if you don't give up, you will see the rewards of your hard work. Also, network, network, network! You never know who you will meet wherever you are.
*****Thank you so much Sarah! Be sure to visit Sarah to see and learn more about her wonderful products at: