To be a tastemaker today means to influence what is fashionable and set the standard for excellence in one’s field. Anna Bond surely wears that label with grace. Beginning with wedding invitations and then note cards and greeting cards, Bond has made the written word stylish again with designs that offer a glimpse into a time when our communications were more thoughtful and elegant. Bond’s designs do not dwell in the past. Instead, they bring an updated look to a classic medium of expression.
Bond’s training is in graphic arts. Her preference was to be more illustrative, and she realized that stationery would be a good creative vehicle for her designs. “I have always loved stationery. I had a friend who moved back to Japan and we kept up as pen pals,” she says. “I still have her letters on this gorgeous Japanese paper.”
To start Rifle Paper Company in 2009 amid a recession was a leap of faith, but Bond and her husband, Nathan, were undaunted. “We lived in my mother-in-law’s garage apartment and worked from there,” she recalls. “I thought that my illustrations could add something to wedding invitations that go beyond the usual letter pressing. I put some of the invitations I designed online, and the response was immediate. The website launched in November of 2009, and we hired our first employee three months later.”
Using the online space to showcase items with roots in the past seemed just right for Rifle Paper Company. Bond laughs when she thinks about those early, chaotic years. “We saw Rifle’s potential, but we had no idea what we were doing, so we just rolled along and figured it out on the way.”
The appeal of Rifle’s fun and flirty designs are cross-generational. Bond receives feedback from moms and daughters who love the brand, and grandmothers who love the more whimsical looks for their grandchildren. “My own grandmother is an inspiration,” she says. “She had great style and a spicy flair, and was always having travel adventures. Her house was full of antiques and finds from her trips.” Stylized maps of glamorous cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, and Cairo adorn a wallpaper line called City Maps, a nod to her grandmother’s wanderlust.
The line’s greeting cards are a glimpse into how Bond’s process takes hold. One of her birthday cards features an ostrich wearing a party hat, speeding ahead with a present balanced on his extended foot. Another has a colorful winged dragon holding a birthday cake, breathing fire onto the candles.
“Before Rifle took off, I had thought about illustrating children’s books, so I want the animals in my designs to resemble characters that might have a backstory,” she muses. “Sometimes the inspiration is simple, like I imagine it would be fun to draw a unicorn, and the design starts there.” An octopus, a mermaid, a birthday cake-chomping shark, and a sweet sloth all find a home in her designs.
Now, Rifle offers desk planners, pens, drinkware, serving trays, gift wrap, tote bags, umbrellas, and more in lush and colorful patterns that suggest a lightness of spirit.
Rifle Paper Company is expanding to a sustainable line of furniture. Bond partnered with Chicago-based Cloth & Company, which employs in-line digital printing with traditional handcrafting techniques to produce made-to-order furniture. Founder Meganne Wecker thought Bond’s designs worked with classic silhouettes of appropriate size, so first-time homebuyers and renters could enjoy her settees, dining chairs, and easy chairs in more compact spaces.
In the new work-at-home environment, Bond’s desk chair is currently the best-selling item. “Anna’s unique artistic creations can be translated so beautifully into print and pattern,” says Wecker. “Her designs have a broad reach in the market, which is exactly what we look for in our collaborations.”
Cloth & Company fulfilled Bond’s wish list for a successful collaboration. “As we talked internally about furniture, we wanted to make our pieces easily accessible to our customers,” says Bond. “Many tend to shop online, and we didn’t want them to wait months for it.” She wanted to celebrate her playful prints and patterns on furniture that could be customized. “We found a linen blend that is durable,” she adds. Pieces are made individually and delivered within six weeks.
Inspiration for Bond’s designs comes from her two favorite places in Florida: Winter Park, where her flagship studio resides, and Vero Beach. “I grew up in New Jersey, so Florida took a minute to grow on me, but now I love it,” she declares. “Winter Park was one of the places I really connected with. The lakes, the brick streets, and a bit of old Florida. Vero Beach has a lot of that Florida charm, too.”
Color influences are everywhere, and Bond keeps her eye out for anything that could inspire a new design. “It’s always summer here, and there are flowers all year. There is happiness and joy to that.” She and Nathan are renovating a home in Windsor, where some of her favorite prints will make their mark. “When I mention Vero Beach to anyone, people have a great reaction.”
To achieve her signature look, Bond uses gouache paint, an opaque watercolor. “I was browsing at an art supply store and was drawn to its rich, nostalgic quality,” she recalls. “It changed the way I paint. I can get very fine detail. Some of the greeting cards are painted in actual size.”
Once the painted design is complete, her product creative team starts work on a computer, experimenting with the design on different products, changing the scale and background color. “When I know a design is clicking, I can feel it. That’s my ‘aha’ moment.”
Bond finds inspiration in everyday beauty and special places. “Whether it is a piece of folk art I like or a painting in a museum, I will take photos of just a corner—one detail, like a flower, and then come back to that later,” she explains.
She runs new ideas by Nathan, who comes from a creative background. “He knows the brand so well,” she says. “Nathan knows whether something is Rifle or not, probably from being around it so much. If I show him a new design, he can see if it works or if something is a little off with it.”
New concepts to showcase Bond’s talents are always percolating. While florals, animals, and travel themes are the staples, the brand launches new designs twice a year. “We have some new peel-and-stick wallpaper designs, and a new fabric collection,” she says. “If a print is working, it can live on different things, like a recipe box.”
The catalyst for Rifle Paper Company began with Bond’s appreciation of the written word. Digital communications, convenient as they are, cannot replace a handwritten note. “We get so much junk mail now that when a personal letter or card arrives, we react positively,” she says. “It is even more special now. Texting someone is easy, but cards have an elevated sense of thoughtfulness—a means for self-expression.”
The art of communication is at hand.