Seven Questions: Canvas Society

You may have noticed a new advertiser in the upper right corner of the homepage. They’re called Canvas Society and they have a very specific goal: to change the way you think about hemp. Personally speaking, I’ve never been a fan of hemp (in any form, thank you very much). I’ve always thought of it as the least desirable of the sustainable fibers (not to mention the hippiest). However, after perusing the Canvas Society e-store, I’ve started to realize there’s a lot more that can be done with the plant than I previously thought.

Canvas Society’s product range includes cards, notepads, small personal accessories, and a handful of other items. The collection shows that with a little taste, and some decent construction (every thing CS sells is made in NYC), hemp products can be both handsome and functional. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a real revelation. Co-founder Todd Mintz recently took some time out to discuss his brand, the origins of hemp’s bad rep, and the pros of being analog in a digital world. Here’s what he had to say.

Well Spent: Tell us about how Canvas Society got started.
Mintz: It has been in the works for quite some time. After our team had spent years developing other companies’ brands, products, and marketing initiatives we decided it was time to put our passion behind our own brand – something with substance. As the process began, the more we tested hemp and learned about it, the more motivated we became to reintroduce it in an elevated way. The goal from the very beginning was to produce everything in the USA, keep it simple, well made, and timeless.

Tell us about your products; what are they and who designs them?
The Canvas Society product line is currently broken down into paper goods, carrying accessories, and limited edition products. Paper products are of particular interest to us right now because of the huge shift in recent years to digital media. Everything from music to books are all just zeros and ones nowadays. I personally still listen to music on vinyl and part of the reason I do is the tactile experience of it: taking out the record, putting it on the turntable and dropping that needle. For me, it’s a more satisfying experience than pressing a virtual button on a computer screen with a mouse. It’s this same aesthetic that has driven our paper product line. The feeling of getting an actual card in the mail; something that you can hold in your hands, open up, read, and see an actual person’s handwriting – it’s just a completely more intimate, personal experience, and something we’re trying to preserve in the digital age. When it comes to product design it’s all in house. A small group of us develop and design the everything – staying focused on simple, clean, and durable products using Hemp and other materials.

What materials do you use in addition to hemp? Are they also sustainable?
We definitely put a strong emphasis on sustainability when it comes to material selection but we sometimes have to make exceptions to achieve the vision we have for our product line. In addition to Hemp and Hemp blended materials we use other natural fabrics, recycled / re-purposed materials and leather.

All of your goods are manufactured in NYC. Why did you decide to make them there? How has the experience been?
With most of American corporate manufacturing consistently migrating overseas, giving what could have been American jobs to foreign workers, we made a conscious decision to manufacture here in the U.S., not only to support the American economy as a whole but our local city economy as well. It’s obviously more expensive to manufacture in the states but the upside to doing it here in the city is quality control. Being based in NYC, we’re able to physically oversee certain process’ we’d never have access to if we were manufacturing in China. And, on a number of occasions we were able to correct manufacturing mistakes early on in the process, which could have potentially been disasters both from an economic standpoint, and a huge waste of materials. That alone has made manufacturing in the city crucial for us at this point.

On the Canvas Society site, you talk about wanting to change the perception of hemp. What is it currently? What do you want it to be?
For the last 40+ years hemp has been categorized as the industrial product for the hippie world, something you make sandals out of, or purses that look like burlap sacks. Or, people think it is something you can smoke which usually puts a restriction on how people use it or anticipate it’s use. Our government has played a significant role in manipulating how hemp and cannabis is perceived by the public. They’ve painted a negative picture of the crop which is complete and total fiction and the reasons why are way too lengthy to get into right now, but it is really important that the value of crops like hemp be made clear. Hemp should be in the same sentence as solar power when we consider our future. In respect to consumer products at the very least it should be viewed as what is – a reliable, sustainable alternative to synthetic man made materials.

Canvas Society has a number of collaborations coming out in the near future. Tell us about those.
We have a few things in works. The first on our list has taken some time due to the R & D involved. Crisloid is one of the oldest U.S. manufacturers of backgammon boards and we worked with them for almost a year to develop the first hemp backgammon board. They recently began restructuring the company so we are just working out our timing to bring it to market (fingers crossed). Aside from that we are working on a few different collaboration / limited editions that involve a couple new gaming boards, laser etched greeting cards, and some vintage inspired cases.

What would you say to someone who’s still on the fence about buying from Canvas Society?
The quality speaks for itself. You will not be disappointed.

For price and purchase info, visit Canvas Society.