Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with the founder and creative director of Citizen Atelier, Alessandra Salituri. This beautifully curated online art gallery will have you swooning over images from artists all over the world.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I am a born and bred Canadian from Montreal. I am the founder and creative director of Citizen Atelier, online art gallery as well as a public relations consultant and brand manager. I wear many hats and keep busy to say the least! I grew up in the art world attending art fairs and gallery openings with my mother. It was a natural progression that I became an art dealer and communications manager for visual artists at a young age. This eventually evolved into starting my own gallery about 7 months ago.
Along with this project, I continue to work as a consultant that specializes in media relations, marketing and branding development for innovative individuals and businesses. I am passionate about all things creative including interior design and fashion and love helping other brands cultivate the business side of their projects.
2. What prompted you to start Citizen Atelier?
The online landscape has allowed interior designer lovers to have so many more beautiful products at their fingertips than previously possible. Nonetheless, I always felt that finding art that I loved for my own space took so much searching! I could not find a one-stop shop online that had art and photography that spoke to my style; namely images with dreamy or surrealist elements where the artist really travels into their imagination. In the atelier you will find these types of pieces ranging from a rendition of the fairytale the Princess and the Pea, to seals ‘dancing’ under a disco ball in the ocean, to intimate portraits of a ballerina seamlessly dancing in the air.
I also felt there was a gap in the art market between high-end galleries and mass-produced images at big-box stores. I therefore built Citizen Atelier around the idea of curating a collection of unique and inspiring pieces from international artists, offered at a variety of price points. The unifying vision is that each piece is selected because it is truly a ‘forever’ piece of art; they are all are made with beautiful, high-end materials like archival canvases and photo-rag papers.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
Since I started conceptualizing the site about a year and a half ago, my life has become very busy, but I can’t complain! I feel very fortunate to be able to pursue my different passions. To make all the moving pieces work, I try to maintain a structured routine. I’m not a morning person, though a few days a week I try to hit the gym at 7am. It’s always super hard to motivate myself though afterwards I feel that it boosts my energy and starts my day on the right foot.
I then often pick up a café latte and croissant and start my work day which usually includes meetings with PR and Citizen Atelier clients, the development of communications strategies, pitching stories to the media and social media marketing. In the evenings, I focus on client relations, art consulting, meeting with suppliers and new artists, and brainstorming potential collaborations. I’m usually answering the 100-200 emails I get a day into the wee hours of the night.
I also always save one hour a day of quiet downtime, whether it be yoga, watching my favorite TV show or reading, when I completely unwind and rejuvenate myself for the next day.
4. What are your most successful forms of marketing (in terms of obtaining new customers, getting the word out about CA etc.)?
I feel so appreciative that the blogging community, especially interior designers who love art and share a similar aesthetic to mine, have embraced the site. They have really helped spread the word about Citizen Atelier.
On the visual marketing end, social media has been a great tool; it has allowed me to showcase the art within real homes, so that my clients can better conceptualize a piece in a space if they are unable to see it in person. I’ve worked with interior designer/stylist Christine Dovey and interior photographer Ashley Capp to produce two beautiful lookbooks. It’s been amazing to see the reaction to these photos and how they have really spread internationally with the help of Pinterest and Instagram.
Features in publications and sites like Style at Home, Domaine and the Globe and Mail have also been wonderful and exciting vehicles for sharing the word about the site.
5. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Definitely travel. I put my all into everything I do, so when I take the time to get away, I really try to let go and embrace life in a different culture as well as try new things while taking the time to relax and reflect. In April right before the launch of Citizen Atelier, I traveled to Peru and visited Machu Picchu. The trip both inspired me and provided a unique opportunity to pause and appreciate all the work I had done over the last months.
I’m also inspired by other creative women in the industry who’ve charted their own paths and both work hard and lead full lives, much like those featured on this very blog! I love learning about their creative processes and how they’ve developed their businesses.
6. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
This is a great question! More and more young women aspire to become entrepreneurs and start their own brands. I’ve always been a big dreamer and I knew from a young age that was something I aspired towards as well. I learned so much along the way (and continue to learn every day!), I could seriously write a book about my experiences. A few lessons I’ve learned are:
1) Cultivate an enormous amount of certainty in yourself and your vision. This is what will make your dream a reality, as there will always be challenges that will attempt to throw you off your path. These experiences are par for the course and not a sign that your vision is unattainable, so be open and flexible to making changes and persevere.
2) Use other entrepreneurs as inspirations- but only to a degree. I think that the growth of social media and Instagram can give the impression that people have achieved enormous success overnight which can be discouraging. Everything started from scratch at one moment in time.
3) The creative part of the job is usually the most fun though at the end of the day it’s only a piece of puzzle; marketing, accounting and general paperwork are such a big part of it. Read as much as you can about these aspects and create procedures for staying organized.
All in all: keep your eye on your goals, be patient and cultivate your project over time. I’ve learned that achieving your dreams and becoming an entrepreneur is not a vertical rise to success; it’s small actions that add up over an extended time period. Hard work truly does pay off in strides! Anything is possible.
JUST FOR FUN
1. What items do you always carry in your handbag?
My bag is like my best friend! I never leave home without my eyeliner, blush, car keys (I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m totally reliant on my car!), a good luck charm my mother gave me, nail polish for touch-ups, a scarf as I’m always cold, gum and my iPhone, otherwise known as my lifeline. And you’ll usually find at least one gossip magazine stashed in there!
2. Who is your all-time favorite artist?
It might sound cliché but all my favorites artists are currently on Citizen Atelier! I’ll say however that I’m currently obsessed with the work of UK artist Amy Judd; she creates these beautiful surrealist oil figure paintings of women surrounded by natural objects-whether it be wings, flowers or conch shells- that are at once glamorous and ethereal. I’d love to hang an oversized painting of hers in my living room.
3. Describe your ultimate date night.
My ultimate date night would be a relaxed evening in a tropical beach location (we can all dream right?), though if I’m being more realistic a sushi dinner followed by a walk in the old port of Montreal.