Life is a series of occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, and the deaths of our beloved pets…And for every occasion there is a card to help you express your feelings. We’re lucky in San Diego to have Alison Giese in our midst. Alison is an experienced photographer who is also a bunny person and a longtime San Diego HRS volunteer. Alison started a company a few years ago creating greeting cards using photographs of her own bunnies (although often her dogs make appearances, too). Alison’s cards are sweet and funny and totally one of a kind. We sat down with her to learn about how she got into the greeting card business.
SDHRS: First take us back to your first bunny.
Alison: My family had companion rabbits before I was even born, and as I was growing up I’d hear fun stories about my older siblings’ bunnies, and always wanted one of my own. When I was a teenager I finally got my own first bunny, Apollonia. That was back in the 80’s before HRS existed! She passed away around the time I graduated from college. Then I moved out of my parents’ house and into my first apartment and got my first dog. I didn’t think I could have both a dog and a bunny, so I didn’t have any bunnies for quite awhile after that. Fast-forward many years… I learned of HRS, and that dogs and rabbits CAN live peacefully together, so I adopted my second bunny, and then my third… and that was the start of my rabbit habit! This time, thanks to HRS, I had the resources to give my new companion rabbits the best care, and I’m very happy to have bunnies in my life again. And I found my bunnies and my dog did indeed co-exist very happily together.
SDHRS: You’ve been involved with SDHRS for a long time. What sorts of activities are you involved in?
Alison: My first volunteer job through HRS was to update the San Diego shelter pages on the Cats and Rabbits and More website. I also served on the SDHRS Board of Directors for several years, and I regularly foster rabbits. But most of my volunteer work involves graphics and photography. I design and layout our newsletter, The Rabbit Reader, and I put together our information books, ads, flyers, signage, postcards, etc. I photograph events (http://sdhrs.shutterfly.com/) and foster bunnies for the HRS website and promotional materials, and provide photos and graphics for articles, t-shirts, etc. I also assist at education and fundraising events, and last summer I did a presentation for one of SDHRS’s Speaker Series called, “Playing Games with Your Bunny,” where I demonstrated clicker training with one of my talented bunnies, Domino.
SDHRS: So how did your develop your photography skills?
Alison: I took many photography classes in college and I even had my own darkroom. (Of course, this was back in the days of film cameras!) Over the years I have continued to take photography and Photoshop classes, always seeking to improve my skills.
SDHRS: What inspired the idea of making your own cards? When was that?
Alison: When I adopted my first bunnies, B.B. and Buddy, I found them to be so adorable that I was often taking photos of them. I’d share my photos with friends and fellow volunteers, and several people said that my photos were so cute that I could sell them. So, I thought, “Why not?” I was having fun learning Photoshop at the time, so I created a line of greeting cards featuring photos of B.B. and Buddy. And of course, over the years, I adopted many more “stars,”, including Scooter, whom many have deemed “the World’s Cutest Bunny.” (He is extremely photogenic and a total ham!)
SDHRS: How do people get a hold of your cards?
Alison: I have a website (http://www.alisongiese.com) where people can order my cards, and they are available at the SDHRS Bunny Store. I also opened an online shop on Cafe Press (http://www.cafepress.com/alisongiese). I have calendars, t-shirts, mugs and other printed products featuring my photos, as well as my cards. Cards are typically $4 each, or less if ordered in quantity.
SDHRS: What makes your cards unique or better than other similar products?
Alison: My photos are all of rescued animals (my own and fosters). And for the most part, the photos depict rabbits doing what they do naturally, although I confess I do occasionally pose them with holiday props. I also have a variety of styles… some cards are basically untouched photos, and others are highly Photoshopped, with “talk bubbles” and other digital modifications.
SDHRS: How many rabbits/pets do you have now?
Alison: Over the years of volunteering for SDHRS, I have faced a lot of temptation! I now have 10 rabbits and two dogs (both of them are really great with the bunnies) and three foster bunnies. And if that wasn’t enough, I also have a bunny-sitting business (which is my primary income), so there are always lots of bunnies in my home. I am home all day, so they all get lots of attention. And I’m a bit of a neat freak, so I’m very fortunate that my wonderfully supportive husband, George, helps me with the daily cleaning. He loves the bunnies, too.
SDHRS: There are so many card options out there. Why should people shop locally or from you?
Alison: Because indirectly, they are helping rabbit rescue efforts. A little more than five years ago I resigned from my job of nine years which enabled me to spend a lot more time volunteering for SDHRS and taking in more homeless rabbits (in the form of both adoptions and fostering). I started bunny-sitting and designing greeting cards to earn enough money to cover my expenses. If I didn’t have this income, I’d have to go back to back to working full-time for someone else, which would force me to cut back significantly on the volunteer work I do for SDHRS. So that’s how people are also helping SDHRS by buying my products and boarding their bunnies with me. Oh, and also, they get the cutest bunny greeting cards around. ;-)