Mutt&Co feeders add a touch of whimsy for dogs of all sizes by Scott Rose
In George Orwell's short story A Hanging, a large woolly dog comes out of nowhere and tries to lick the face of a prisoner being led to the gallows. Convinced that dog really is man's best friend, the founders of Mutt & Co. (www.muttandco.ca) selected an Orwell quote from Animal Farm as their company motto: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." It's for sure that any mutt or pedigree dining out of one of Mutt & Co.'s fun feeders is more equal than canines not given that privilege. Here, I interview Heather Douglas about the company's activities.
Who designs Mutt and Co.'s feeders, and what are those person's artistic influences?
The dog feeders are designed by each member of the Mutt&Co. team collectively. We play around with ideas, shapes, sizes and colours and patterns until we find something that we all look at and just say "yes". The dog feeder guy is Craig Corner, one of the partners of Mutt&Co. Among his artistic influences are Ralph Steadman, Tim Burton and Anthony Gaudi.
You can definitely see those design influences! Please tell me about the different designs you carry.
Right now we carry two shapes: an inkblot shape and our original bone shape. We use dots and lines in varying patterns and are currently working on a hibiscus design as well. In addition to this we also have some bold colours that I think stand on their own without patterns. The leash hooks are done in solid colours made to coordinate with the feeders, allowing customers to have two pieces that go together in their home.
What inspires the different designs of Mutt and Co's feeders?
All of our designs, from the feeders to the new line of leash hooks are inspired by us, our love of dogs, and our desire to have interesting things in our homes. We are really big on the form and function thing.
We look at what is out there, identify why we wouldn't be interested in it, and then try and figure out what we would want and how we could get it. If it doesn't exist, we try and create it.
In addition to the dog lines, we are a fully functional metal art studio, and we do a lot of design work with railings, fences, gates and art pieces. This is where we are able to meet interesting people and their dogs and create something for their space. We love colour and we love interesting lines - that's how our visions transform. We have spent the last few months designing fixtures for some of the pet boutiques that carry our products, from spinners to hang leashes and collars to custom steel and stainless steel signs for their stores.
Please tell me about your larger-sized feeders.
The feeders that we make were designed because my partner Craig had a big Newfoundland with neck problems. He and his wife could not find anything that fit into their décor and were forced to get something gawky and plastic. With a torch in hand, Craig set out to make something that would fit into the houses of trendier people, and people interested in art. From there came the first feeder.
Once they came into production, we were faced with people wanting taller ones, but because the structural integrity would not be there with the current design, we were forced to start playing around with new ideas. From there, we came up with a steel stick person who holds two larger bowls and stands tall for bigger dogs. We introduced that at the Atlantic City HH Backer show and really took it out there at Woofstock in Toronto this year. It will be featured in our Christmas lineup.
Are you planning to add any other new designs to the collection?
We are always looking for new things to add to the collection. We are, however, a small studio and we like the uniqueness of our products. Despite larger orders and increased demand, we are still very committed to ensuring that each feeder is one of a kind. Too many new designs would hinder our abilities to do this.
What we are planning to do though is introduce other things into the lines. The leash hooks were introduced at Woofstock and have been more popular than we could have dreamt! We will be introducing them to the US market at the Chicago Backer show this October, and they will be available in retail stores for Christmas.
Which feeders seem to be your best sellers?
The best selling feeder is our large bone shaped brown one with blue or pink dots or stripes, and have been since we started!! The line of stainless steel feeders has also grown in popularity in the last 6 months.
Do you ever custom-make feeders?
We have made custom feeders with names and colours before; they generally start at around 200 dollars (retail) depending on what is wanted.
How can interested customers order your products?
We have stores listed on our website, and people can contact us to find out about stores in their area or to order directly. Anyone who lives near where we have product or a relationship with a store will have the product sent to that location and bought through our retailers - they are all so amazing and we want to support them as much as we can!
Online stores that carry the product include www.bitchnewyork.com and www.ohmydogsupplies.com, as well as www.doggiestylesonline.com.
What's the history of Mutt&Co.?
Mutt&Co. started a year and a half ago. I was in the process of starting a publishing company and Craig was starting a metal art company. In a marketing collaboration discussion we started discussing the dog feeders. He showed me a copy of Modern Dog magazine and tried to explain the dog culture to me. I immersed myself into the world and learned everything I could. We decided to throw everything that we had into the feeders, bought and renovated an old machine shop and set to work! We, quite literally, had electricity for less than a week before going to our first trade show, PIJAC, (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) in September of last year.
We were lucky in the beginning because we took our prototype to a chain of upscale dog boutiques in Canada, and they gave us the right advice, encouragement and support. They took our feeders into their stores and the owners and managers provided us with feedback and support from that point. When we went to PIJAC, we went with the knowledge that our product was good. It was unique and people liked what we were offering. It was a great feeling!
Now we are in 60 stores across North America and gaining more and more on a very regular basis. We are looking forward to the creation of new products, developing new ideas, and we'd really like to do more of the store fixtures and custom work for our retailers. We find that people who have these great stores are looking for something that sets them apart - that's where we come in!
What plans does Mutt&Co. have for the future?
Our plans are really centered on growth. We love what we are doing and want only to be able to do it more, and more often! We would like to see the unique fixtures and store signs part of the business grow, while being able to offer our retailers funky new designs and constantly staying ahead of the trends.
Do you have any favorite dog anecdotes?
My best anecdote is probably the most personal.
When we started out, I didn't have a dog. I was waiting for the right time, the right dog, etc. One day I got an email from a friend telling me that there was a cocker spaniel that was going to be put to sleep for being so aggressive and mean. I love cocker spaniels so decided to go and see this vicious creature. Upon my arrival there, she jumped up and kissed my face and extended her paw (not a word of this is a lie) and I knew at that point that Mutt&Co. had found a new spokesdog. She loves her feeder and she has versions at her house, the studio, her grandmother's house and cottage... it's great. This is not an anecdote about our feeders, but she got to come home with me because I was in the world of dogs. That's her in the poster!
I grew up with cocker spaniels and have loved them my whole life. My best friend has a Bernese and a Golden and they quickly developed themselves as my niece and nephew. Bailey came into my life a year ago last May and has been making my life better since the day she came into the house and peed on my floor.
Craig had Abbey for 10 years and lost her just last Christmas. His opinions on dogs are that they are the only creatures that love you no matter how you look, smell, or how much money you make... as long as you come home.
Did George Orwell say anything else that guides you in your life?
Our t-shirts say it best with a George Orwell quote: "Four legs good, two legs bad." However, we still love dog owners!