Featured Designer: Borderline Rifraf

FK talks to Asher from Tasmania based label Borderline Rifraf.

Tell us about your organic tshirt label, Borderline Rifraf.
Borderline Rifraf is my organic t-shirt label, which I started in 2005 with my partner Jacinta. I hand print original designs onto Fair Trade Organic T-shirts in our home studio. I also make screen prints of the illustrations.

Our aim is to create a sustainable business using imagination and an emphasis on social and environmental awareness. We use organic cotton t-shirts which are WRAP certified fair trade, which is really important to us.

What are your backgrounds and how did you get started?
I was always drawing from a young age and when I decided to go to Art School I chose printmaking as there was no drawing major. Screen printing ended up being the perfect medium for me because I could draw intricate illustrations and I love the philosophy of selling large numbers of prints at affordable prices as opposed to singular works to one person for a hefty sum.

As soon as I made my first print (a tiny flying skull) I was hooked, I’m now always thinking of the next design by time the last one goes into production.

What are the inspirations for the t-shirt designs?
Most of the designs are inspired by music, I listen to a lot of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Modest Mouse and old Blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt. Whenever there’s music on I get a lot of imagery in my head and sketch it down, then those sketches evolve into the illustrations. I’m also inspired by old sea tales, mythology, tattoos, graffiti, surrealism.

Where we are living is very influential in my work, Hobart Harbour, the hills and animals in the Huon Valley and the ocean that surrounds Southern Tasmania. There are so many talented artists and designers at the moment, and so I am extremely inspired by all work that’s around at the moment.

What do you love about producing your own designs and what are the challenges?
I love all aspects of making the products, from the sketches to screen printing and then sending them off to customers and stockists. It’s very rewarding being involved in all the stages. I like to outsource as little as possible, mainly because to me having a sustainable business involves self sufficiency and control over the quality, the materials used and the products end up spending less time on the road.

Breaking into the market is a challenge especially because I want Borderline Rifraf to be as sustainable as possible which has higher costs than if used overseas labour and mass production to keep prices down. It surprises me how many T-shirts we can print ourselves when we are working up to a big order or a Market like the Finders Keepers!!

What did you love about living in the Blue Mountains?

There are a lot of really creative and talented people in the Blue Mountains, a good community of artists and musicians and of course the epic scenery so there’s a lot to like about it. I lot of my childhood was spent living in the Blue Mountains which really encouraged my creativity. We just spent a year up there again, which gave us some perspective on how quickly the creative scene has grown and evolved.

We moved down to Hobart four years ago, and studied at the Art School and spent a lot of time around the Harbour with all it’s beautiful ships. After spending time up in NSW, we have just moved to the Huon Valley in Tasmania which is also just as beautiful and very similar in that there is a community of creative people around. We have some really amazing Design Markets in Hobart too!

What new designs or work can we expect to see in 2011?

Jacinta is a furniture, object and fashion designer and we are working on a few collaborative products which will be ready next year. We are also developing a more in depth kids range including furniture and clothing.

I have just finished a new illustration called Deertopia which will be available soon, it’s probably the most intricate and detailed work I’ve done so far.


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