Who is ‘Studio Note?’: Catching Up With Founders and Creators, Elina Takahashi and Mandy Chang

Western Front’s Toque Craft Fair returns as a vibrant online marketplace from December 1-5. The annual craft fair and fundraiser features a tightly curated selection of 30 B.C.-based artists, designers, and makers.

Taking place in some form or another since the 1970s, the craft fair has been organized by different artists, curators and creatives over the years, always with a distinct artist focus.

Previewing this year’s lineup on the website, it’s no wonder Toque has upheld its reputation as the most artful craft fair. There’s variety with no two vendors alike. You’ll find everything from ceramics, leather accessories, and jewellery, to florals, home decor, and things for kids. Especially popular artists, whose goods nearly sold out last year, make a return, like Woolf Glass with their minimalist stained glass pieces, Julia Chirka and her wonderfully quirky mugs and tumblers, and WarmAndDrift with their needle felted wool animals and ornaments. In addition to their usual soft toys, tuk + milo introduces sensory play and open-ended play products this year. And Littlecrane Beadworks by Jeska Slater is back after a year’s absence, combining traditional beadwork with contemporary design.

Toque also has a knack for introducing new artists each year, artists you won’t find at other holiday markets, and certainly not in any shops, at least not yet. One such vendor is Studio Note. Abstractly described as “a Vancouver-based design collective pursuing unique experiences through a mix of objects and mediums”, Studio Note is the passion project of designers Elina Takahashi and Mandy Chang. While the duo have been collaborating on projects for a while, Studio Note officially launches at Toque.

We asked them to reveal a bit more about Studio Note’s debut collection, candles and wick dippers. These aren’t just another locally made, hand-poured candle company. Read on to find out why…
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your relevant backgrounds.

Mandy: I’m a Vancouver-based creative with a passion for human experience and food. Born in Taiwan, I left my home country at a young age and have since been living in places including Vancouver and Paris. I have a background in industrial design. After a few years of working, I decided to take a break and traveled to Paris to study French pastry. This journey reminded me of how much I love making and creating with my hands.

Elina: I studied Communication Design at Emily Carr. After graduation, I worked as a Graphic Designer for the first few years of my design career, and later I shifted to working as a UX/UI Designer, which is the discipline I specialize in now. With my job being primarily digital, I crave creative projects with tangible outcomes. I’ve always crafted — knitting, baking, sewing—so making candles was bound to happen sooner or later!

What is Studio Note and how did it come to be?

We initially met through mutual friends, and then we wound up working together at a design company for two years. At that time, Elina was experimenting with candles and Mandy was looking for a creative outlet. We were friends, and we knew we worked well together, so we started talking about the possibility of doing “something” — Studio Note was born.

We are the sole operators and creatives behind Studio Note. We are both designers with diverse backgrounds in Industrial Design, Communication Design, and User Experience. With Studio Note, we’re in the pursuit of developing new experiences through traditional ones — making the common object uncommon.

Studio Note’s inaugural project officially launches at Toque and you’ll be offering candles. What’s the inspiration behind them and what sets Studio Note’s apart from other locally-made candles?

Yes! It’s taken a lot of experimentation but we’re really excited that our concept has finally come together. Our No.1 Rose and No.2 Patchouli candles provide a unique aromatic experience by gradually changing in scent and colour — we achieve this by having a second scented wax insert placed in our candles. This subtle evolution is intended to elevate the overall experience and enjoyment, not to mention our candles are also locally handmade.

Mandy, I’m a little more familiar with your other edible projects —The Little Things, which will also be at Toque, and Edible Projects with designer Amanda Huynh. I vividly recall the joy and taste of biting into a crunchy, candy-coated cherry tomato at the Summer Creative Chinatown Fair a couple years ago, you called it ‘Vol. 07 Tomato Bon Bon’. It immediately reminded me of the skewers of candied hawthorn berries I tried for the first time at street stalls in Beijing. And before that, ‘Vol. 06 Fourteen 14’ was a custom designed petit four for Bocci—it was a morsel of genius delight! You have a background in industrial design, what led you to food design? And what will The Little Things have on offer this year at Toque?

After my study and internships in Paris, I came back and worked as a chocolatier. Although I was learning and working with food during the time, I still feel something is missing. This is when I realized what I really want to do is to design with food as a medium. Shortly after this Amanda and I started Edible Projects.

Unfortunately, there won’t be anything new from The Little Things this year. The Little Things will be offering the Damn Good Cookie recipe book. This is a collaboration with Vancouver-based illustrator, Debbie I-Ching Sun.

I’m interested in creating meaningful experiences/connections using food as my medium. An important part of this is to be able to connect and create a conversation with the user. Covid makes this a bit difficult, but I would love to create something new in the near future.

What can we expect from Studio Note next? And where will we be able to find your next product? Hopefully we don’t have to wait until next year’s Toque!

Even though our first product release at Toque is candles and accessories, we want to remain versatile with the things we make — so you can count on our next project to hit a completely different “note”. We are still in the process of brainstorming, but since we both have dogs and just adore them in general, there might be something there…

Toque is all about community and supporting local artists and makers and artist-run culture. Is there another artist, designer, or maker you are most interested in checking out, either at Toque or around town?

Our friend, Debbie, is releasing her first kidswear (The Planet Sun) at Toque this year, so we are really thrilled to check that out. But we’ve been attending the fair for many years and we are always left inspired by all of the amazing products being made locally — we can’t wait!

  • No.1 Rose
  • No.3 wick dipper
  • No.2 Patchouli

Studio Note’s candles ($45 each) come in two scents, No.1 features Rose, Black Pepper, Cedar and No.2 features Patchouli, Himalayan Salt, Neem, Lily of the Valley, Cedar. Their sleek and elegant wick dippers ($55) allow you to easily dip the flame in the melted candle wax to extinguish it cleanly, without smoke.

Visit toquecraftfair.com to browse all participating vendors. Shop online between Dec 1-5, and pick up your goods at the Western Front December 11th and 12th. Did we mention that participating vendors generously donate 30% of sales in support of Western Front’s artistic programs across music, media art, performance, and literature? Artists supporting artists. Now that’s something we can get behind!

Product images by Vancouver-based photographer Vishal Marapon. | Portraits of Elina and Mandy, drawn by Debbie I-Ching Sun, founder of The Planet Sun Studio (also at Toque).

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