6a00d834557c7069e200e553dbf0578834-800wi.jpg Name: Shannon Riffe
Company: Rifferaff
Website: www.rifferaff.etsy.com and rifferaff.typepad.com

Q: Where did the name Rifferaff come from?
I wanted my business name to be very Googleable, memorable, and to incorporate my own name. The Internet is so important for a small business; if a storeowner, customer or magazine editor wants to find my work online, I want it to be very easy for them to do so.

Q: Your products are amazing! Where do you find inspiration for graphics, materials, etc?
Thank you! I’m inspired a lot by the medium in which I work — screenprinting. It’s so easy to create anything you want on the computer, but it’s also overwhelming to have too many options. Screenprinting is an older, low tech form of printmaking that will not work for every design. For example, designs with numerous colors and fine detail are difficult to create via silkscreen. So bold, simple graphics, and one- or two-color designs work best; those are the parameters what I work within. I love to see really simple designs paired with creative use of color.

riff.jpgQ: What’s your most favorite/least favorite part of the design and/or execution process?
Product photography is the worst, and it’s so important for an online shop! My brother is in photography school and I’m planning to outsource my product photography to him. I never seem to be able to get the shot I want.

Doing my own production is a favorite part because it’s incredibly empowering to be able to make things from scratch with my own hands. It’s a kind of alchemy: I start with blank paper, blank screens and a drawing on paper and I end up with a card collection! If I want to play with colors, I mix them on the spot. If I want to print on a different color paper, I just order it and try it out. Many color combinations have been discovered this way. These are the types of things you can’t do when you send your digital files away to a printer. With that said, printing my own cards is also very frustrating, especially since I am self-taught and make plenty of mistakes along the way. At the end of the day, it’s worth it and very satisfying.

Q: Tell us a little about how you go from a concept to the end product.
Everything starts with a drawing, more like a doodle. I’ll draw with a felt tipped pen on a clean piece of white paper, scan that into the computer and then use Adobe Illustrator to make that drawing into a vector image, which I can play with on the computer until I get it right. Then I send my file to a local t-shirt printing shop, which makes my screens and once I get the finished screens back I get to printing. I mix colors by hand- printing on text weight paper for gift wrap, or cardstock if I’m making cards — then after everything is dry, I cut, score and fold. The last step is to match it with an envelope and then wrap with a kraft paper band.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic?
Simple, organic, handmade, colorful.


Q: People are so e-mail happy these days. How do you imagine customers using your products? You’ve definitely got me thinking about writing more letters.
The cards are blank inside so they can be used for any occasion: thank yous, birthday notes, or simple correspondence. It’s so much fun to get mail that’s actually meant for you (and not generic spam or bills) so I don’t think sending cards and letters will ever go out of style.

I also love the idea of someone using something I made for a use that I never thought of. One customer told me she was planning to frame some gift wrap pieces for décor in her home. I was totally flattered and loved that she saw the potential for “art” in my work.

Q: You chronicle your entrepreneurial journey in great detail on your blog. We know it’s not always easy when you’re trying to get a business off the ground. What makes it all worth it for you? What are some important lessons that you’ve learned?
I’ve always wanted to be my own boss and be in charge of how I spend my days. I have too many ideas in my head to work for someone else for my entire life.

I still have alot to learn, but one of the most important lessons is to be consistent with my product line, branding, customer service, etc. It’s so important to have a distinct look, because there’s so much competition. I’ve learned to start small- rein in some of my crazy ideas- and really work on branding, photography, and staying true to the reasons why I started the business. It took me about 8 months of experimentation and going all over the place to really figure that out.


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