rich in history

The Stray Dog Story

the stray dog story

In the picturesque village of San Miguel de Allende, high in central Mexico's mountainous desert, the stray dogs make a life for themselves.

They wander down narrow cobblestone streets, past wooden doors laden with flowery vines, in search of cafes where a hasty diner might have dropped a morsel or two. Independent, true survivors, these street dogs are not known for their looks, and are seldom loved.

Back in 1994, La Princessa stood above the rest. She was no beauty, just a black, short haired mutt with two tan dots over her eyes, and ears that stuck out something fierce.

"She looked like a bat," one observer noted, "and her figure was unfortunate."

Yet what the princess lacked in grace, she made up for in timing; during a pivotal moment she wandered into the apartment of two young expats, Bill Pritchard and Jane Gray.

Bill and Jane were newlyweds. After a marriage so hasty it could have been part of a reality television show, they fled to Mexico to "get to know one another."

Fresh out of ideas for the remainder of their lives together, the two eagerly took on La Princessa as their first joint project. They fattened her up and took her for walks in the hills and rides in Bill's red pick-up. Seeing how well they worked together gave the new couple courage to go full speed ahead with their next venture, importing Mexican pottery. With La Princessa in tow they scoured the back roads of Mexico for original items to sell back home.

The export business was a start, but they soon realized that Jane's talent for design, coupled with Bill's boundless energy was propelling them toward creating something uniquely their own. With La Princessa always by their side, panting with quiet encouragement, they explored several options until they discovered Guadalupe Alvarez's tin workshop.

Picking up on Jane's creative eye and desire for a design that was altogether different, Guadalupe told her, "Draw something." Jane scrawled a kooky lamp on a napkin and a few days later the first Stray Dog original creation was born.

In no time Bill's red pickup overflowed with lamps, mirrors, urns and anything else Jane could think to draw into reality.

Basking in their success, in 1995 they decided to take another risk. With La Princessa in tow they moved back to the states to exhibit their wares in the biggest gift show around, the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market in Atlanta, Georgia. The orders came in fast and furious for Stray Dog's initial oxidized tin designs, yet it wasn't until the next year that they gained a true following when Jane splashed eye popping color on the tin and iron pieces.

Over a decade later, Stray Dog Designs' core design principles are simple: all items are handmade with careful construction from quality and recycled materials, melding quirky charm and true artistry, and providing fair wages for local workers.

It's true that some companies, like some dogs, are all bark and no backup, but not so with Stray Dog Designs. This hound proudly runs with an impressive pack whose designs have been featured in House Beautiful, Elle Decor, InStyle, and a host of other publications.

Sadly, La Princessa is long gone. Yet the pair she helped turn into a family -- and a business -- is thriving.

Today Bill and Jane can be found perched on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. Their once small children are now off to college but the "empty nest" is anything but empty. They've got wildflowers, a cat, a couple of goats, and last but certainly not least... Mamie (a former stray dog).

papier mache, iron, and of course... paint!

papier mache

Our perfect Papier Mache has been passed down for generations by the Cruz & Iginio family.


Nacho, our tin man, is among a dwindling number of tin craftsmen continuing the trade.


We're nothing without a little color. The paint team works hard every day to bring our pieces to life.