I first learned about Studio Carta through Instagram, and later through the Brookline based brands collaboration with calligrapher Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls. Angela Liguori co-founded the business along with her husband Mohamed Alaeddin in 2004 while living in Michigan, and by 2010 she opened her brick and mortar location in Brookline, Massachusetts (part of Greater Boston).
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Angela over the phone, and it was inspiring to hear about how her love of creating beautiful stationery and ribbons first began, how far the brand has come since those early days and her dedication to always working to create new things for her customers to enjoy.
When were you first inspired to create Studio Carta?
It all began in Italy. I’m from Rome and moved to Bologna to study art history at the university there. I was making my own marble paper at that time, which has a long tradition in Italy. While I was studying art history and I took a course in book binding and that’s when I started making things with paper.
Carta means paper in Italian.
While I sell mostly ribbon now, when I started I was making paper by hand and books by hand and desk accessories with my own paper. My background in craftsmanship came from my mother. I saw her working with her hands (as a seamstress) and that’s where my love of creating began.
When I first started making ribbon (made from cotton) I would use it to make a bundle of stationery or on a spine of a book. Since it’s sourced from Italy I feel like it’s connected to my mother. Everything I have created feels like a connection to her and was inspired by her.
I design the ribbon from my workshop here (in Brookline) and we’ve become an international brand through both our online shop and our showroom. We also use our ribbons in many of our workshops that we have in the showroom. Even our bookbinding workshops use our ribbons.
I cofounded Studio Carta with my husband, Mohamad Alaeddin in 2004 in Michigan. We later moved to Brookline (just outside of Boston) where we opened our first brick and mortar location in 2010. In addition to co-founding Studio Carta, my husband also works at Harvard University.
How did growing up in Rome help shape your love of stationary and other beautifully crafted items from your native country?
Traditions and art in Italy go hand in hand and I developed by sense of color and style early on. Some places inspire you through nature, but in Rome you get your inspiration from art. Studying art history at university also helped shape my business from the beginning.
You work directly with manufactures of the 100% Italian cotton ribbons and desk accessories that you sell in your shop. What is the most important part of maintaining a good relationship with your manufacturers?
I have been working with them for so long, but I feel that giving the manufacturers you’re working with something that challenges them, something fresh and new helps in maintaining a healthy relationships. Also being Italian we understand each other.
We mostly create ribbons with them now and we work together to decide the colors, and about adding accents like metallic with gold to create something truly unique. When I first started the shop I couldn’t find the kind of ribbon I was looking for in the US, so I would buy them in Italy. Since we’re the only importer of Italian ribbon in the US our shop offers truly unique ribbons to use for all occasions.
What do you enjoy the most about owning and operating Studio Carta?
I love the creativity of my studio and how I can work with just myself or with my three assistants and my husband. I never feel alone, and I enjoy seeing how people use our products in floral arrangements. That keeps me going, and helps me think of new and fresh things. I enjoy seeing something new. I take all the photos for our shops website and Instagram, but I like seeing how our customers use our ribbons as props. That’s what I enjoy the most.
The brick and mortar location of Studio Carta is located in Brookline, Massachusetts. What was it about the town of Brookline that made you decide to open up a shop there?
We live there with my three children, which are teenagers now. We moved here from Michigan. The schools are good here and that’s why we moved. It’s also a very nice area and I was looking for a place close to home. I worked out of our home at first and now having a shop that’s close to home is very convenient.
What is the most popular item you sell in your shop?
The metallic ribbon. It’s been used to create floral arrangements and on wedding invitations. The ribbon is made from 100% cotton and we also have one combined with metallic. The blush ribbon with thin line of rose gold, is very popular at the moment.
You collaborated with calligrapher Maybelle Imasa Stukuls. Tell me about what first sparked the idea for this collaboration and what it was like work with Maybelle?
We kind of met each other through Instagram and then she taught a workshop here. She’s creative and sweet and we worked well together, so we decided to create a ribbon and it’s been very popular. It’s printed in Italy on the cotton ribbon that we already sell which is a collaboration of both Maybelle’s beautiful calligraphy and our ribbon.
We also made the spools after that and it also sells really well. It’s a good product for the shop.
You hold workshops at Studio Carta including a past workshop with Maybelle Imasa Stukuls and an upcoming bookbinding workshops with Bari Zaki this coming April giving your customers a chance to learn more about a craft that you enjoy. What are some of the workshops you’ve looked forward to the most?
Calligraphy. We have a calligraphy artist coming back this summer to the shop. I love calligraphy a lot and I used to do calligraphy on my own. I like to bring in good teachers who have a good process/teaching style and I’m inspired by others who use ribbon and create something new.
We’ve known Bari Zaki (who is teaching the bookbinding workshop and comes to us from Chicago) since we began creating our marble paper and she would use that to create her books. So I enjoy working with her. We became friends and exchanged letters with each other before email was popular. We eventually met after I moved back to the US from Italy and we had a line of cards and books. We would sell them through both our shops. Now we continue our collaborations through the workshops that we have here at Studio Carta.
Studio Carta’s ribbons have been featured in magazines such as Martha Stewart Living and Elle Decor. What was it like seeing items from your shop in print for the first time?
It was some of our limited edition books that were featured for the first time in design magazines and then later we were featured in magazines such as Martha Stewart Living. Seeing well known people using our ribbons and finding them just as unique as I do made everything feel more real. It not only gives you credit for your vision it also makes you realize that others believe in using special products too.
You recently participated in NY Now. What is it like being in a show of that size?
We’ve been doing that (NY Now) for 10 years along with the National Stationery Show. It’s very exciting. You sell these products and the same customers continue to come back and it’s interesting to see what people think about your work. I also enjoy seeing my customers and hearing about how much they love a new line and it makes you want to creating new exciting things.
Since our Brookline shop is only open by appointment, going to events like NY Now gives me the chance to meet more of our customers.
Follow along with Angela and Studio Carta through the following social links…
All images included in this post were provided by Angela Liguori