Ayda Ghaffari, 26, is an artist, entrepreneur and paper lover. A painter, photographer, and master craftswomen, Ayda is the founder and creator of a beautiful line of custom greeting cards, Black Beak Designs.
This young pro has a vision and a mission to make the world a little more magical. She and I talked about it.
R: Tell me about your professional journey.
A: I went to school for theatre production because I wanted to make things. Initially I wanted to specialize in set and prop design and eventually become a prop master. However that didn’t work out the way I had planned because that specific line of work is very difficult to get into. So instead I worked in children’s theatre for two years but soon learned that wasn’t for me and took a break from it. I went back to work at Starbucks for a while to make some money. Later on I quit my job and went on a one month-long trip. While I was away I decided that when I came back, I had to know what I wanted to do. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do and then just go for it. I love making cards and decided to focus on paper goods and stationery. When I came back I started the line of cards and launched Black Beak Designs.
R: What made you decide on cards?
A: I just love stationery. I love paper. I love the act of writing letters, taking the time to find something that’s delicate, that’s pretty, writing your message on it and giving it to someone. I think that’s so much more personal than an email. An email might accidentally get deleted, archived or forgotten. Letters you keep. A letter you can open and re-fold later, each crease holding a memory.
R: How did you come up with the name and logo for Black Beak Designs?
A: I don’t remember why, but I always wanted the name to be related to birds. I’ve always liked birds. To me, they represent freedom. The ability to open your wings and change your settings.
R: How do you attract customers?
A: It started with my friend-base, and then expanded to their friends and families. Right now I’m also selling my cards at the coffee shop where I work. I’m going to be opening an Etsy shop shortly as well.
The hard thing about making a huge amount of cards with my style is that it takes a lot of material and no two cards are a like. So I’ve had to change my approach from collage-style to printing. I will soon be buying a typewriter and eventually a letter-press machine.
R: How did you get the idea to shift to printing?
A: I think it’s because I’ve become more involved in the stationery world through social media, particularly Instagram. I also learned that many of the stores in Toronto that sell cards from local artists only accept prints.
My first line of cards was collage-style; pieces of Japanese paper, stamps, little things that fit together. Then I made my cousin’s wedding invitations which made me realize that if I wanted to mass-produce cards there needed to be a more efficient way to make them, rather than one at a time by hand. I’ve always loved print, so I attended a few letter-press workshops. I learned about etch printing, letter-press printing, and wood block images. There’s something about lifting the paper with the image inked upon it that always makes me feel giddy. Each type of printing gives me the same feeling of excitement. I thought that if I could focus my ideas and my images enough, then I could take them down the printing route and that would be better for the business.
Also, all of the well-known stationery designers are using letter-press right now, or graphic design. Everything you see is printed. I still would love to have the touch of textured cards with buttons, stickers and fabric, but I’m not sure to what extent. It’s exciting to imagine all of the different things that I’ll be able to do with the printing medium brought in.
R: How did you build your brand?
A: When I first started the line, the tagline was “Bring a little bit of magic into your life.” I wanted to take something ordinary and then make it a little bit more fun. I apply that to my photography, my painting and my cards. There’s a little part of me being put into my art whether it’s the water-colours that I paint, the flowers that I draw or the cards that I make.
R: What other types of art do you do?
A: I took a course in water-colour because I’d always wanted to experiment with it. It has a reputation for being really difficult, it’s a medium that’s hard to control. That’s what I love about it. I love the free flow of the colours and that you can’t really control it. I will be painting a series of full-size water-colour birds on large canvasses in the near future. I would also like to eventually get into political photography. I don’t want to make art that’s pointless. I want to leave something behind that has meaning and makes an impact.
R: What’s next for Black Beak Designs?
A: I’m about to buy a typewriter and I will be releasing a new line of cards with water-colour backgrounds and typed messages. They will be available for custom order. I plan to heavily promote my work through connections, craft shows, Etsy and Instagram. In the future I would love to participate in the National Stationery Show in New York.
R: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
A: Be realistic about it. It’s hard. If you don’t have the financial security to take time off from making money, then it’s going to take longer. So you’ll most likely have to take working into consideration. Will you be able to spend the time that you’re not at work on your art? It’s hard to balance family, relationships and tiredness. If you’re going to go into art, then factor that in.