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Meet A Michelle Page of Danger Dogs from Nepal – Folk Art from the Himalayas in Westside

Today we’d like to introduce you to A Michelle Page.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I first travelled to Nepal back in 1986 for a vacation. I fell in love with the country, the culture, the relaxed pace of life there, and especially the people. I went back often, when I started noticing hand-painted metal signs with dogs. There were chickens, pigs and goats denoting butcher shops, “Beware of Dog” signs on the front of homes, some with the Nepali lettering translated as “Brilliant dog in here.” They were charming, some painted in a naïve, whimsical style, others very detailed, while others were obviously warnings with snarling animals meant to scare off intruders (the “Danger Dogs” signs.) Around 2004 the handcrafted styles were slowly being replaced by mass –produced versions – stenciled and stark, with no personality. I started collecting the old metal ones, thinking there may be a market for them back in LA, so I sought out the studios and artists whose work I liked best. I took back a few, and sold them right away. People loved them!

Soon after, I was introduced to a woman with a gallery in Ojai, who offered me a show after seeing two pieces that Ed Moses had purchased. That first show led to 13 sales, and I decided then that it was a viable business.

I was fortunate to be interviewed by Marco Werman for Public Radio International. Nepal had just become a Federated Democratic Republic, and happened to be in the news that day. We talked about the business for about 15 minutes, which led to 15 commissions. That press really helped launch my business, along with articles in the LA Times and the NY Post.

When I again returned to Nepal I purchased 100 signs from my favorite artists. The signs sold out in weeks, so on the following trip I had orders for 300 signs, commissioned by art-and-animal lovers who had sent me photos of their pets. It was the beginning of many wonderful relationships and a very unique and FUN business!

As of today I have been to Nepal and Kathmandu 23 times ordering Danger Dogs. My process involves selecting 3 artists per commission to paint the same photo in whatever style the client desires. Clients pick the version they like the best (for $250), and I sell the rest, either on my website https://nepaldog.com/ or in galleries, museums or other retail outlets. The work has been carried by the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and The Craft and Folk Art Museum here in LA. The artists get paid upon completion of the work, whether their painting is sold or not, thereby helping out many artisans who otherwise would have a very meager income. The artists charge me much more than they would a Nepali citizen. I don’t ever haggle with them, and often pay more than they ask. At this point, I am the only one hiring these artists to paint I feel really good helping out so many, since otherwise they might not be painting at all.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Once I figured out there was a market for the signs, the hardest part was getting so many completed in a short time span. I go twice a year and stay for about 10 weeks in the spring and 6 weeks in the fall, staying until all the orders are complete. Not all the artists I try working with have proved reliable, so it has been challenging to establish professional working relationships with enough artists to produce the ever-increasing amount of orders. Also, many of the artists leave and go to other countries, including South Korea, India and Saudi Arabia, looking for a better life. I have worked with 66 artists in total over the years, although today I have secured strong ongoing businesses with about 12 who count on my business as their livelihood.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My business is called Nepal Dogs, and to the best of my knowledge, I am the only business like this in the world. My business model of selecting multiple artists to paint the same commissioned pet portrait allows the clients a choice to purchase the one they like best (although sometimes they buy all three) and gives me enough leftover supply to sell online or through other outlets. These “beware of dog” (or cat!) signs are fully personalized: the patron chooses the wording, the style, dimensions, even the background colors. I recently had an order for the dog to be painted on a golf course! People now know me as the Danger Dog Lady!

I was in Nepal during the big earthquake in 2015 and hired several artists to do portraits. They completed 90 pieces in two weeks under very challenging circumstances, amid rubble and after-shocks. I feel good about employing these people, and I know they feel good about providing a beautiful product. It is a very symbiotic relationship. Rescue dogs from America are rescuing the Nepali artists!

What were you like growing up?
I was the fifth of 5 children and was left pretty much on my own. What they call free range these days.

I loved reading, especially about travel. I learned to garden with my father and my mother hand sewed all of my clothes. I took 10 years of ballet and was terrible, but it gave me good posture.

Pricing:

  • Price of a commission of your pet for 1 of 3 signs that will be painted for you: $250
  • Price for 2 of 3 signs that will be painted for you: $400 Price for all 3: $500
  • There are over 70 different breeds of dogs and cats already painted on my website. Prices vary.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
My personal photo credit goes to Adams Archives. Same with the photo of me with the artist.

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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