The rabbits of RabbitRabbit Cards look as if they were drawn by a child; they have large, circular heads, comically undersized ears and uneven eyes. But their messages, if not exactly adult, are distinctly unchildlike: “F*** the economy,” reads a popular one – “Let’s f***!” (Spelled out, of course.) The cards are cute, but raggedly so, like a stuffed animal you find beside the railroad tracks.
RabbitRabbit’s creator, manager and salesperson is Audra Ricketts. She is dark-featured and slim, and her eyes have a feral glint. An Emily Carr painting dropout, Ricketts went on to a bit role on The L Word, the Vancouver-produced Sapphic drama. The idea of greeting cards came about four years ago, when she was 32. “In those early days,” she says, “I sat around my apartment drinking wine and writing one-liners.” The drew breath when Ricketts first put that caustic prose beside her doodlings of goofy rabbits. “One of the first to catch fire was ‘I’m absolutely fine with us just being friends,’” remembers Ricketts. And the inside of the card? She smirks: “‘Who needs blowjobs?’”
This spirit of RabbitRabbit – equal parts risqué and romantic – is well captured in the company motto: “Sex, sap and sarcasm.” The great challenge of the card market, says Ricketts, is men’s near-total absence from it. “Women account for, like, 95 per cent of sales,” she says. Appropriate, then, than she writes her zingers with women in mind. (There’s a “You’re So Much Better Than My Last Boyfriend” card, for example, but no “Girlfriend” one.)
As befits a painter, Ricketts’s production methods are low-tech. She draws and letters her cards by hand, scans them and does final colour corrections in Photoshop. She estimates that each card costs 70 cents to make, with retailers paying her $2.50 (the cards sell for $5). While the cards haven’t yet made Ricketts rich – in 2009 she expects to clear about $10,000 – they sell briskly at a few boutiques around town and on Vancouver Island. Most importantly, for an artist getting her legs as an entrepreneur, she’s able to subsist on the income they provide.
As she grows her business, Ricketts faces difficult questions. How to maintain the raw, handmade character of the cards while ramping up production, for one. And whether to finally introduce a line of “occasion” cards. Ricketts squints as she ponders her future. “I mean, I could write ‘What a Beautiful Baby’ cards all day long,” she says. “Trouble is, lots of babies are ugly.”