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Angie Wieck, Published March 10 2014

Pet project takes off: Personalized ceramic business captures faces of people, furry friends

FARGO -- When Marilyn Nielsen of Moorhead saw the My Pet Dish booth at the Pride of Dakota trade show, she immediately thought of her Shih Tzu-poodle cross Ringo.

The booth featured cups, plates, trivets, pet dishes and urns embedded with personal pet photos. Owner Dan Dietz uses a kiln to fire the images onto the products at his home studio in Fargo.

Nielsen knew something bearing Ringo’s image would make the perfect Christmas gift for her husband, Paul.

She purchased a mug as well as a trivet for her neighbors with a photo of their dog. She was so pleased with both that she’s since placed two or three additional orders.

“Because he makes them with our own pictures, it means a lot to those of us who treasure our pets,” Nielson said. “We also like to do business with a local person who does the work himself.”

Dietz got the idea for the business about four years ago when he began contemplating retirement.

He was interested in ceramics at the time. Not so much in making them, but in personalizing them. He wanted to find a way to embed photos onto existing ceramic pieces.

Incorporating his love of animals, Dietz launched My Pet Dish in 2011.

While he focused on pet photos in the beginning, Dietz said today he works with photos of just about anything. He has done merchandise for events like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings, and recently completed an order of 75 mugs for a reunion.

“I think of myself as a little fishing boat and not a big ship,” Dietz said. “I can change speed and direction instantly to meet customer demand.”

Dietz is always looking for new ways to use his kiln.

“My wife says once I get something going that I lose interest, so I started slumping wine bottles, too,” Dietz said.

Slumping involves melting the bottle into a shape where it can serve as something such as a cheese tray or spoon rest.

Dietz uses his image transferring skills to embed messages and designs onto those as well. He sells them alongside the pet products at trade shows.

After more than 30 years in the corporate world and several more doing home inspections, Dietz says he is happy to be working from his own home these days.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501