Toronto Artisans: Carte Blanche Creations

I remember the first time I came across coasters by Carte Blanche Creations. I was at the Drake Hotel's Spring Market with J, perusing through crafts, baked goods and antiques. I was instantly drawn to Alessandra Cardarelli's creative spin on such a simple and sometimes mundane item. I was also drawn to her personality and boundless energy. Alessandra exudes passion. She genuinely likes to speak to customers, explain the stories behind the images she uses, and understand why people gravitate to the ones they do. That's why I was so excited when Alessandra invited the ladies of On Crawford St. to her studio at N/A Collective to talk about Carte Blanche Creations.

How did Carte Blanche Creations get started?
Carte Blanche started in 2009. My boyfriend at the time and I had just come back from a motorcycle trip through Europe. As part of a birthday gift for him, I made a set of coasters that mapped the route we took. After that my friends started ordering sets as gifts, which lead to more orders from people who heard about my coasters through word of mouth.

What did you study in University?
I attended McMaster during undergrad and majored in Art History and Cultural Studies. I then enrolled at Queens for my Masters, which focused on the intersection between historical images and contemporary ads. After completing my Masters I moved to Toronto and interned at Sothebys. I tried to find a job with an art gallery, but it was difficult. I think that not being able to find a job in my desired field is what really drove me to develop Carte Blanche Creations into a small business.

What was the tipping point for your business?
I wouldn't say that there's been a tipping point, since Carte Blanche Creations is still growing and developing. But there have been a series of smaller accomplishments along the way that have helped me grow my business.

Through my participation in markets around Toronto, I've met artisans like Kurve Jewellery, who have presented me with opportunities to be involved with their businesses.

I've also worked with companies like Harry Rosen, McGill University and McMaster University. Most recently, Carte Blanche Creations was featured in the Spring 2013 edition of Design Lines Magazine.

What is a typical day like for you?
My days are flexible. Creating my coasters is a 3 day process, which means I have to work strategically to be able to maximize my time. It also leaves me time to run errands like popping out to stock up on supplies, answer customer inquiries and deal with administrative work.

What do you love most about what you do?
I love the actual process of producing coasters and being able to work with my hands. It took me a long time to perfect my process, which includes hand-picking every piece of Bottecino marble I use. I love choosing images for my coasters, whether on my own or working with a client on a custom order. My hope is to start using my own photographs as the images for my coasters (Side Note: Alessandra encourages customers to look to their Instagram photos for images for custom orders - these photos are original, already edited and the perfect shape!). When it comes to participating in markets and shows, I love merchandising my booth and meeting customers.

My least favourite thing to do is definitely anything administrative, like email, which is unfortunately a huge part of running a small business.

What's next for Carte Blanche Creations?
I'd really like to expand Carte Blanche beyond coasters. I'm currently working on developing other products like magnets, which won't be photo based, shelving units, refinished furniture in indoor and outdoor styles and wall hangings for marble tiles.

I'm also working with retail partners to organize my own markets and pop-up shops. I've actually be asked by the Dundas West B.I.A. to curate an artisan market during Dundas West Fest on June 8th.

Interested in placing an order with Carte Blanche Creations? You can find Alessandra's contact information here.

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