Artist Interview: Fiona Richards of Cartolina

Artist Interview: Fiona Richards of Cartolina


How would you describe your artistic style?

I love vintage imagery. I love collecting it, designing product with it and, most of all, sharing it with other people. Collecting vintage ephemera is an interesting adventure but I really love to play with it digitally and turn it into something other than what it started as! I occasionally use a piece of vintage ephemera as is - but I’m not interested in my art looking twee or Victorian or too precious and antiquey. So I try to find a balance of vintage and quirky. It’s often hard to tell whether a piece of my art is original or not (it usually isn’t!) - and that’s the challenge!


Have you always been an artist? (Some of our artists started their careers in completely different fields before they found themselves as full time artists, what’s your story?)

I’ve always been a ‘commercial’ artist, as in I’ve always enjoyed creating art or product and selling it. Starting when I was a kid, I was constantly working on projects that I could sell at a holiday market, or to my friends. I have drawn and painted all my life - I spent most of the early 90s selling paintings. I bought an Apple computer in 1995 and started manipulating my paintings in Photoshop. A few years later, I moved away from painting and spent most of my time working for graphic design clients. I loved graphic design work but I still had a need to design and produce actual product for sale. I started using samples from my huge collection of vintage ephemera collection to design greeting cards. Cartolina Cards was launched in 2007 and quickly became a well known indie stationery brand in Canada, the US and around the world. It was exciting to be shipping product to stores like Anthropologie, Harrods, Barnes & Noble, Selfridges etc. The line has changed very little over 10 years - we carved out a niche for ourselves right from the beginning and have stuck with it. Trends come and go, but our curiously unique style has remained popular with our buyers. These days, we are in a much larger facility, continuing to sell vintage inspired cards and giftware to iconic retailers and stylish boutiques. I also continue to design product and license imagery to other companies.


Your work merges a vintage look and feel with a modern tone. Tell us a bit about how these images come to you and how you make them yours.

Curating and editing is key. There’s a limited pool of vintage imagery out there - no one’s making any more authentic pre-1930’s advertising art! So for me, I would say that 50% of what I do is searching for the most beautiful and unique imagery - curating and editing. I have a number of channels for sourcing vintage images. I buy originals and I license hard to find pieces from archives, collectors, and dealers. I alter the imagery a lot. I combine 4 or 5 pieces together to create a finished piece.


What does a creative day look like for you? Is it a handful of quiet hours, or a day spent raging listening to music as loud as possible?

I wear many hats - designer, retailer, wholeseller and hotelier. Our new facility is located in an 1890s miner’s hotel. Our wholesale card business is located in part of the building. We have a busy retail store on the main floor and tourist accommodation in the rest of the old hotel. It’s a wonderful world to work in. Original brick walls, wood floors and pressed tin ceilings. We live on the edge of Kootenay Lake. I drive down the lake to Nelson every morning around 8:30. Pick up a coffee and head to the hotel. I grab the wholesale orders out of the fax machine and set up the tasks for the day. We ship wholesale orders 2 or 3 times a week. On those days I supervise the fulfillment, invoicing and shipping of the orders. I usually spend part of the day ordering product for the store and talking to suppliers. If guests arrive for the hotel we greet them and show them to their suite. The store is open 7 days a week, so I’m surrounded by the constant hustle and bustle of a busy and fun retail environment. On Saturdays I really enjoy working in the store with my shop staff! (Alternately, when I’m designing new product I work quietly in my studio at home, surrounded by the forest, bears, birds and big views of the lake!). 


What’s next for you? (this is where most artists share upcoming shows, etc etc)

We just rebuilt and relaunched our iPhone app which was a huge job. It’s been a big success for us over the years and this most recent update is something I’m particularly proud of. I’m hanging up my design hat for the rest of the year and I’m looking forward to focusing on the retail store for the next few weeks - the holidays are great fun at the Cartolina store! 2018 looks like it will bring another expansion phase at the hotel. We are incorporating a couple of cool design studios in the building - so we can spend more creative time in the inspiring, historical space at Cartolina HQ!

You can find Carolina’s GelaSkins Collection HERE and learn more about her via her site HERE.

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