Artist Sara England Talks Whimsical Pet Products
Her pieces are a hit in Rehoboth Beach and beyond.
Courtesy of Sara England Designs
Artist Sara England’s whimsical drawings of dogs were a hit on the dog-show circuit. But hitting 50 shows in one season was proving too grueling for England and her husband-slash-business-partner Michael D’Ovidio.
So, after a six-week tour around the country last spring, they pulled up in front of a Rehoboth Beach storefront, unloaded the van and set up a permanent shop, The Ruff Life by Sara England Designs. They recently moved to a larger, more visible location on Baltimore Avenue.
For more information on England’s shop and work, visit SaraEnglandDesigns.com.
How many dog breeds are represented in your art?
More than 150 the last time I counted. At the dog shows, I was drawing a lot of the rarer breeds. I wasn’t intimidated about drawing an Alaskan malamute or a leongberger because there was a market for it. Now I’m doing more of the designer breeds—mixes like the cavachons and doodles.
Is one breed harder to draw than another?
At the dog shows, if I didn’t do a good job, the customers would say: “Oh, honey! Your Chinese crested is awful!” When I heard “Oh, honey!,” it meant “Go back and redraw it.” There were certain features of each breed that, if you didn’t get right, meant the art wouldn’t sell. I found the cocker spaniels challenging. They have a goofy, puffy face, and if you exaggerate it, it looks bad.
What is the appeal of your art?
I’ll put a wine glass in a dog’s paw or put dogs in a camping scene, but the face and body are true to each breed.
How do you come up with new ideas?
I like fun products. I have useable items like cheeseboards and coasters. Now I’m doing T-shirts and garden flags. I’m always looking for something new and different.
Which breeds are the most popular in the shop?
Bostons, pugs, goldens, labs and pit bulls—because there are so many people into rescue dogs. We do custom orders, so it’s all over the board: Irish setters, Gordon setters, Belgian malamutes.
Do owners look like their pets?
I want to write a book on that! A woman came in the other day with crazy, fun, curly, long hair. She said: “My soft wheaten doesn’t look anything like your art. Mine has crazy hair. Come out and look.” I was like, “Oh!” He looked like a Rastafarian. So, yes—people look like their dogs.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.