Meet Carrie Rinehart. The Forestville resident is the director of fund development and communication for CASA of Chautauqua, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children in foster care. But Rinehart is also the proprietor of Rusterior Design, a successful screen-printing apparel and décor shop. She grew up in a family of Makers and was always surrounded by creativity.
“I was always singing and dancing and doodling as a child,” recalls Rinehart. “But I never considered myself an artist because I couldn’t draw or paint.”
She never had any sort of official, professional training but she dabbled in a lot of creative pursuits in her youth – sewing, photography and printing. But it wasn’t until she was an adult that she considered herself an artist.
“I started sewing scarves and accessories as gifts,” says Rinehart, and her friends and family “went nuts.” So she listed some for sale on Etsy.com and sales were promising.
“Then one day I sewed a silhouette of a buffalo on a tank top and began vending at farmers’ markets and my business really took off from there,” she says of one of Rusterior Designs’ most popular products. Other hot Rusterior Design items include T-shirts and onesies for kids that say “Wild Roamer” in the outline of a buffalo, and a sweater that says “Stay Cool Buffalo.” Besides adult and children’s apparel, the company also offers shopping totes, coasters and décor.
The resurgence of pride in and love for Buffalo was on Rinehart’s side as Western New York is seeing an uptick in homebuyers and population. People are prouder than ever of their Buffalo connections and are eager to don apparel proclaiming their hometown affection.
So Rinehart, who has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from The State University of New York at Fredonia, began focusing on building her brand.
“So I took a very down-and-dirty screen-printing basics class in Buffalo and I fell in love with screen-printing,” says Rinehart, who has been screen-printing for about three years and is more enamored with it every day. “I love how simple-yet-complex it is and how you have the ability to create something so detailed and unique since every print will always have a slight variation.”
Rinehart built her simple screen-printing set-up out of an old door.
“I didn’t want to invest a whole lot of money and I still use that same press today,” she says. “Sure, now I can afford a fancy press, but I love my rustic press.”
Rinehart’s creativity extends to all aspects of her life. Less than a year ago she and her wife founded a small hobby farm at their residence called Off the Rine. She purchased and is in the process of renovating a 1973 Air Stream Ambassador named “Carole” to become a mobile retail/farm store which they plan to open in Spring 2017.
Rinehart is happily married to the love of her life. “Amber is my anchor every day,” says Rinehart. “I really couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Amber teaches film and communications at Erie County Community College. She has a master’s degree in documentary film-making. The couple also recently adopted three children from foster care and couldn’t be happier.
“Our kids are my inspiration to be better every single day,” Rinehart says. “I hope they will look back and see me as a hardworking role model and hopefully one of them takes over the family business.”
Carrie Rinehart, far right, with her wife Amber Rinehart, left, and their three adorable children live at Off the Rine, a farm in Forestville.
Rinehart is excited to be a featured Maker at the first Fredonia Mini Maker Faire and hopes it becomes an annual event. Attendees can meet Rinehart at the Fredonia Mini Maker Faire on Oct. 22, admire her screen-printing process and even try their hand at it. She made a special #makersgonnamake print especially for the faire. Those interested are encouraged to bring a T-shirt, tote or other item they’d like to screen-print.
“I have high hopes for the Maker Movement in Chautauqua,” says Rinehart. “The encouragement to be creative, to get your hands dirty and produce something yourself is so important in this day and age. Imagination is a beautiful thing and it’s great to make something yourself, hold it in your hands, show it off and say ‘I made it.’ ”