River & Finn

What is the story behind 'River and Finn'? My husband and I wanted to replicate a mirror set in an old window frame that we saw in Akaroa. We picked a few frames up from Musgroves, and shortly after had set up a little stall at the Riccarton Market full of chalkboards and mirrors. That first market was a bit of a let down, you think things are going to be really successful because you worked so hard. I can still remember how many men told their wives not to buy because it was so simple and they would make them one when they got home!

How did the brand come to be? Two of my favourite names are River and Finn. They sound a little bit country and old fashioned, like two old friends on the porch with a cold drink. I love the simplicity of that image and going forward would like to get back to that with our business. Finding the beauty in simplicity. 

The brand is synonymous with reclaimed materials. What do you enjoy most about working with reclaimed materials? Of course there is the character and story behind things that is romantic and mysterious in a way but for us it's the endless possibilities that one piece has. We have become fond of pallets for that reason. Every single piece on just one pallet has potential. Some need to be painted and shown some love, some are so weathered and gorgeous that you have to keep them simple. We love that, just working with what you have and making it into something cool. 

Do you have any interesting stories about where you've discovered pieces that you then turned into your art? We love to find old pieces of wood and are always on the look out, we have made things from old weatherboards from the Governors Bay Hotel, pieces of wood found on the beach or the side of the road, old drawers from work shop in our garage... the list goes on! 

Where do you sell your work? We sell primarily on Facebook, Trademe, Felt, the Riccarton Market and the odd local market. We have had to scale down a bit on some earlier aspirations to be in shops and other online markets as we are quite busy with custom orders and trying to keep the market stall full each week. It's also been challenging getting prices consistent in each outlet so we've decided to stick to the basics, for now.

Where do you find the inspiration for your pieces from? Initially it was seeing something in a gift shop that we knew we could make, and for less. We would really inspect some of those mock pallet signs and were surprised to see that the image was peeling off in the corners of most of them and yet they were so expensive! 

Aside from that, there are a few blogs that my husband found with tutorials on how to make things -- we find inspiration from them every time. And of course Pinterest is brilliant!

Your photos are always so well styled, how did you learn to do this? Wow thank you for saying that! I think it's just something I love and that translates over into the photos. I am still learning though. My motivation is to reach out and grab someone's attention, to stand out from the sea of images and information vying for our attention every day. 

What do you enjoy about this process? Just that the hard work is done and I'm free to be creative in a different way. And again it's the possibilities... I love how easy it is to change the feel of a piece depending on the colours or elements around it. Nature is the best prop really so you will usually see a bit of that in our photos.

Why do you find selling on Facebook or at the markets to be so successful for you? We are very busy with both, but are still measuring what success means to us in the literal sense. Personally I am so passionate about what we do that any recognition, custom orders or great days at the market are enough to keep me going. But for my husband, he sees me working eight hours a day on things that are never going to make a lot of money and definitely scratches his head a little. Of course he is supportive and is the one sawing, sanding and building every single thing, but long term we both know it's going to take some innovation to really 'succeed'.

What do you think the advantage of each is? People are surprised to hear that Facebook is more successful for us than Trademe and other online markets. I would say it's because we are able to show some personality on our page, it's not just about the products. We find common ground with people we don't really know and create a sort of community through humour, beauty or insight. Trust starts to build somewhere along the way and sales are built from that.  

If Facebook is the modern commercial, the market is the store. Those local customers put a face to the name and obviously can see what your stuff is all about up close and personal. I've really enjoyed glamming up our little market stall! We've had so many people comment on it... my favourite was overhearing someone say how happy it made them just being in there! Again, to me... that's success.

Your brand is still relatively new, did you expect to have the following that you do in such a short period of time? It appears that our brand is new but really we started almost three years ago under a different name. I am more inspired by that period of growth because we had just moved here and knew absolutely no one, it truly was from the ground up. Once we changed over to River & Finn we had a bit of a following and it was easier to keep the momentum going. 

Why do you think that you have been able to create this following so quickly? Aside from fans coming over from our previous brand (Kiss the Sky), I find that we talk about it much more. We've had custom orders for restaurants, pubs, ice cream parlours and weddings and all of those were just from us talking about our business. Of course the market helps too and just being in the mix with other crafters seems to help spread the word.

You've recently started working with other designers and selling their wares at the markets. Why did you start doing this? Initially it was because it's very hard to keep the market stall full each week. We approached people that we knew made good quality handcrafted items and asked if could (please!) sell on behalf of them at our market. As that proved successful it just made sense to expand and bring in even more variety. 

What do you enjoy most about having the opportunity to work with other designers? Working from home is amazing, of course. But it's hard to develop relationships when you aren't out and about everyday and so that has been fun, getting to know other people around New Zealand. It's also inspiring to see what others are doing and making. These is so much talent here, as you know -- I just want everyone to be seen and appreciated for all the hard work. 

What is the best piece of creative advice you have ever been given? Be wild and free with your passion. But be humble, don't think that you're inventing the wheel.

What does the term 'Indie Design' mean to you? Young, fresh and not 'Made in China'. Have you seen the documentaries on how much of the stuff in our homes is imported? Sure, there is a need for some of it. But not your art. Not your furniture or your cushions, jewellery, blankets, kids' clothes and toys. Be original! Buy local! 

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