Drawing on life’s challenges leads one artist to the doghouse
by KENDRA HARTMANN | San Diego Pets
05:23 PM, Tuesday, January 01
SHOP PUPPY PAWS PRODUCTIONS at the Golden Hill Certified Farmers Market 
 Every Saturday Rain or Shine, 9:30 am - 1:30 pm — On B Street between 27th and 28th street
SHOP PUPPY PAWS PRODUCTIONS at the Golden Hill Certified Farmers Market Every Saturday Rain or Shine, 9:30 am - 1:30 pm — On B Street between 27th and 28th street
In 2005, Barbara Fuscsick was working in management for FedEx Kinko’s in San Diego when tragedy struck her family – twice. When her father passed away, Fuscsick found herself traveling back and forth to her East Coast hometown to settle her family’s affairs and help her mother settle into a nursing home – and worrying that she might lose her job because of it. A week after her mother moved into the home, she, too, passed away, just six months after Fuscsick’s father. It was enough to shake the strongest person to the core.

“The aftermath of these two traumatic back-to-back losses left me profoundly questioning the meaning of life and time,” she said. “It was then that I decided that with the time left in my own life, I needed to pursue what my purpose was.”

Fuscsick had always enjoyed drawing, and had even designed a logo to use as a personal calling card – a dog wearing a beret, with a catchy, alliterative moniker: Puppy Paws Productions. Until that tragic year, she didn’t have any real plans to turn the logo or her passion for drawing into anything more than a hobby. But when her parents’ deaths prompted her to start asking the big questions, she realized she needed to make a change.

“I had a deep need to find what made my life meaningful, to do what made me truly happy and to occupy my time engaged in the art of living, rather than merely making a living,” she said. “So I summoned every ounce of courage I had and made a terrifying leap off the cliff and – Holy Batman! – I quit my job.”

Hoping to turn her hobby into a lucrative – or at least self-sustaining – business, Fuscsick went to the drawing board – so to speak – and for a year and a half, “drew [her] heart out.”

“In that time, I finally knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to draw; to express and communicate visually,” she said. “And I wanted to spend my day with my dog. ... The fear of transitioning to an entrepreneurial life initially took my breath away. But each new breath now comes from what I feel is authentically inside me.”

Fuscsick had no formal training, only the drawings she had done for her own amusement and the occasional card or sketch for a friend. It took some time, she said, to “practice and develop the skill and confidence” in her ability.

But develop it she did. Starting with greeting cards and gift tags, she has since added a growing repertoire to Puppy Paws Productions. She now offers handcrafted items, like photo frames, leash holders and Christmas ornaments, in addition to dog-inspired products – Mighty Mutt Magnets, Pooch Memo Pads and ceramic commemorative collars. In partnership with Café Press, she has a line of T-shirts and other merchandise, including dog bowls, coffee mugs, and kids’ coloring cards that feature stalls at the Golden Hill Farmers Market, “so that the little ones can commemorate their experience in a fun way.” She even produces customized postage stamps.

“The impetus for the creation of new products is always inspired by what I, as a dog lover, would go crazy for if I were shopping,” she said.

As for a model mutt, Fuscsick relies on her second CEO, Carmelle (the first CEO of Puppy Paws Productions, Pepper, reigned for several years, but sadly, passed away in January), and Carmelle’s pals. Fuscsick often observes dogs and their owners, “trying to guess what they are thinking or imagining what they might say if they could speak.”

“Luckily, my fascination with these beings that somehow communicate so deeply with us while never uttering a word has never left me dry for material,” she said. “They are the real source of my creativity as I suppose I have a yen to help interpret their world. My best friend is convinced that I was a dog, myself, in a former life, and perhaps my Karma has led me to being their snout piece.”

And how has her life changed, since making such a drastic change those years ago?

“The entrepreneurial life is a fun and satisfying way to make my way through the world,” she said. “Putting kibbles in Carmelle’s bowl is always a challenge, especially in these rough economic times and when digital communication has taken center stage. But, I do what I love and I love what I do. What could be better than that?”

Catch Fuscsick’s cartoons in San Diego Pets Magazine every month. For more information, visit www.puppypawsproductions.com.

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