dogTim Vidra and Mary Andrews of 17 Apart — soon to be Tim and Mary Vidra after their upcoming June wedding – are a dynamic duo who create compelling DIY projects, run successful blogs, design jewellery and parent their adorable Weimaraner, Basil. Pawsh chats with this couple about multi-tasking, creating dog-friendly projects and running a business.

1) What are your professions?
Mary — I help lead up Etsy’s Merchandising Team where I love to discover and share the many talents and stories of so many amazing artists and vintage dealers each and every day. In my free time, I also design and sell jewelry in my own Etsy shop, Contrary.

Tim — While I hold a corporate day job in sales, my passion in life centers around food and working towards living a more sustainable life. In addition to all the goodies we share on 17 Apart, I also write a food blog, E.A.T., where I share my point of view on all things food related and more recently joined the board of directors as Vice Chair for Richmond’s Food Co-op. And, if that weren’t enough, I also maintain a vintage shop on Etsy, Behind The Screen Door.

2) How did Basil come into your lives?
Tim — Believe it or not, we found him on Facebook. We knew we were ready to add a dog to our family and had narrowed it down to either a Weimaraner, Vizsla or a German Shorthaired Pointer, since we both wanted an active dog we could get out and go with. We’d been keeping an eye on rescue lists for all of the above but when I was sent a link to a Facebook album of a new Weim litter and saw Basil’s long ears, I knew he was the one.

Mary was in NYC at the time, so I sent her the link and told her to look at the one with the big ears. Long story short, when we went to go take a look at the litter, Basil was the dog that followed us all over the farm and he’s been with us ever since. We still talk about the day we might add a German Shorthair or Vizsla to our family — Basil just stole our hearts first.

3) You are very open about your 17 year age difference on your blogs. Do you find that age difference has influenced your pet parenting styles — if yes, how so?
Tim — Well Basil is 17 1/2 in dog years. But I still think of him just being 2 1/2 which means he still has to go to bed at a decent hour except on weekends he can stay up until 10:00. Joking aside, I think the main difference comes from the fact I grew up with dogs and Mary didn’t, so Basil is her first dog.

Mary is definitely more on the softer side of parenting but we both find ourselves spoiling him rotten. We both agree one of the best things we’ve ever done as dog parents, was signing up for puppy training classes as soon as we got Basil. The training turned out to be more “parent training” for the both of us rather than Basil, but it put us on the same page together very early on.

4) Can you tell me a bit about each of your Etsy stores.
Tim — With my passion for cooking my main Etsy shop, BehindTheScreenDoor, is focused on and centered around vintage in the kitchen! I really like the look, feel, and simplistic nature of utensils and gadgets from kitchens’ past. Plus, they just don’t make things the way they used to — Mary and I love visiting antique shops and estate sales in our free time and more often than not, we’ll find new-to-us treasures we keep and use in our daily lives instead of listing in the shop.

Mary — I design and sell jewelry through my Etsy shop, Contrary. The name is a play off the old nursery rhyme, Mary Mary Quite Contrary. Some of my favorite materials to incorporate in my designs are unique vintage odds and ends that can be brought back to life and into the spotlight in the form of wearable jewelry. Like Tim mentioned above, sometimes the thrill of the hunt in finding new treasures to reincarnate into jewelry can be the best part.

5) Where do you find your inspiration from?
Funnily enough, inspiration usually finds us! Since we’re always striving to live more sustainably, we might come across an object otherwise headed for the trash and try to come up with ways to repurpose it into something fresh and functional. Alternatively, we might challenge ourselves to grow a type of vegetable we haven’t tried before or new recipe with a sustainable twist — we find inspiration in the challenge.

6) What advice do you have for balancing so many different creative projects without sacrificing quality?
Keeping it fun and not taking ourselves too seriously. The projects we take on and share on 17 Apart are things we’d be doing in our free time together whether or not we write the blog — it’s an added bonus for us that we have such a fun platform to share our goings on through and are amazed every day that people tune in to read. We document the bits and pieces that are meaningful to us in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s a balancing act, but when we step back and look at all the things we’ve got going on, it makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something together.

We certainly aren’t experts, but we have a lot of fun tackling the world together, so as far as advice goes — do the things you love and don’t sweat it if something doesn’t go as planned since there’s most likely a lesson learned in there somewhere.

7) You do a lot of beautiful DIY projects. Are there any pet-friendly DIY projects you could share with Pawsh readers?
Yes! We’ve had a lot of fun making DIY natural dog treat recipes. A few of our favorites include apple treats, carrot & banana treats, and homemade frosty paws. Our most favorite DIY dog treat by far has been the homemade version of dehydrated sweet potato chews we slow cook on the lowest heat setting in our oven — not only are they super healthy, but they give Basil a chew to pass the time and have saved us tons of money in the process.
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8) How do you come up with your DIY ideas?
It usually starts with a conversation about one idea or another. One of us might have a project in mind we want to try or came across — then we show the other and begin bouncing ideas back and forth. It’s fun having one another to bounce ideas off of, seeing how one project idea might evolve into something completely different or that much better after we’ve talked about it for a while. We’re good partners in crime.

9) If Basil were your creative director, what advice would he give you?
Tim — Personally I think he would ask for us to concentrate more in the “treat” department and expand on the natural, holistic, and organic treat recipes we’ve grown so fond of making.

Mary — I think he might fire us both for not including him in our blog banner.
8469697276_d8e94f4fbd_c10) Do you have any tips for running a successful Etsy store?
Taking the time to get great photos of your wares is usually all the marketing you’ll need. Getting a great shot is also easy to achieve at home — my favourite photography tip is shooting in natural light next to a windowsill (no lamps or lights on in the room), turning the flash completely off your camera, and shooting in either the macro setting or with your macro lens if you have one.

2. Offer options for personalization, variation and customization. Etsy shoppers love options for making something their own, so think of ways you can offer a customized version of your product and allow your customer to choose options to make it uniquely theirs. Maybe it’s the colors you offer or the size/length of a particular piece — or maybe you are able to include an initial, name or other identifying marker that personalizes your pieces.

3. Expand on what’s already working in your shop. If you have a specific item that gets a lot of activity, try exploring how you can expand on it’s reach. Maybe it’s by offering the same thing in different colors, or taking the same design and turning it into a related product offering. By “listening” to your customers in this way, your shop may evolve in ways you never imagined.

4. This may sound simple, but I always like to remind shop owners to offer international shipping. Etsy is a global marketplace with shoppers all over the world — you just might be surprise at many international orders roll in when you are set up to ship overseas.

11) Is there anything else you would like to add?
Pet ownership is a huge commitment. We’d recommend to anyone out there thinking of adding a pet into their lives to take the time to do some research. Pet ownership is fun and rewarding but it is also a commitment and one that can last several years, decades, and some can actually outlive us! Make sure the pet you choose fits your lifestyle and habitat so you are both comfortable and happy. Thanks so much for the opportunity chat with PAWSH!


Thanks for chatting with Pawsh Tim and Mary! Be sure to keep up with their awesome work on Twitter and Facebook!

{All photography courtesy of Tim and Mary}

PAWSH PERK: Meet a creative trio and their dogs!