Pooches with style


- Interview Emily Naismith Photograph­s Phoebe Powell

Hi Wanissa! Tell us a bit about yourself. Hi! I'm a Bangkok-born designer and academic based in Melbourne. I run a business called Dapper Pupper, creating bandanas and pet portraits of dogs and cats. I'm also currently teaching design and illustrati­on at LCI Melbourne. My work with

The Letterette­s involved live lettering and customisat­ion, with occasional signage work, murals and campaigns.

What’s a regular work day like for you? I often start the day with yoga, followed by a substantia­l breakfast, then I map out a to-do list. On the days I teach, I love going into LCI in Collingwoo­d. All the other days, I work from home from my apartment in Melbourne’s CBD. I focus best in the mornings, so I aim to get all the bigger tasks done then.

Tell us a bit about Dapper Pupper. Dapper Pupper is a project I started during Melbourne's lockdown. My sister Warisa (a ceramicist who makes the sweetest porcelain pieces) lent me her sewing machine. I picked up sewing and created some bandanas for dogs. I’m glad the lockdown gave me all this time to be creative and free.

How did you come up with the idea? I'm pretty crafty and often make homemade presents for friends. One Christmas, I hand-lettered some bandanas for friends' dogs. The fulfilling feeling of seeing my hand-painted pieces on such cute, furry beings is precisely what drove me to do more with the idea. I knew I wanted to design my own brand. I started sketching logos and looked into sustainabl­e packaging.

What does running Dapper Pupper involve? Dapper Pupper is a one-woman show. I run everything myself from the branding to marketing, product design and the website. I draw the pet portraits and make the bandanas from scratch, too. A lot of trial and error goes into the process, and that is what keeps things interestin­g.

Which has been your favourite pooch to draw? It’s so hard to answer because I love all dogs! If I had to choose, the best names I've lettered so far are Bean and Cricket. I love seeing how people name their dogs and putting a face to the name. It's the best feeling. I've also received a growing number of requests for cat portraits and bandanas. Nagano was my favourite cat to draw because he's so full of personalit­y.

How do you manage all the different aspects of your work? I spend a few days a week at LCI, either teaching or preparing classes, and the rest is for Dapper Pupper or other freelance projects. I’m big on self-care, so I prioritise exercise, being with friends and family and being out in nature. I constantly check in with myself to make sure the work I’m doing aligns with my visions and goals.

How did you find working on the MSI laptop? I love how the touchscree­n function allows me to work faster and more efficientl­y. Having used drawing tablets a lot, I find functions like pinch-to-zoom and fast scrolling on the laptop to be very user-friendly. I also like that I'm able to see lots of detail in my artwork due to the high pixel density. The battery lasts a long time, too, so I can work from anywhere without the need to keep it plugged in.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own business? My advice is to start with something you’re passionate about and consider who your audience is. Also, remember to be kind to yourself when things don’t go according to plan. We learn a lot when things go wrong.

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