After graduating with a Fine Arts degree from Moore in 2006, Rae Vittorelli had no idea that her future would be in chocolate.
But her whimsical creativity led her to explore the world of sugar arts and launch her own business in northern California.
In 2011, Cocoagraph - Chocolate Photograph Co. was born.
Cocoagraphs are artisan chocolate bars printed with edible Polaroid-style photographs. The chocolates are completely custom, printed with any photograph, graphic, logo – even Instagram image – of your choosing. It’s easy to create gifts or souvenirs for any occasion, from weddings to holidays to corporate events. You just need to follow an order form to upload your high-quality images into edible art.
“I love what I’m doing,” Vittorelli said. “I’m having so much fun. All the skills that I learned at Moore I’m using in this business.”
After studying photography and printmaking at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Vittorelli transferred to Moore to complete her degree in 3D Fine Arts, with an emphasis in sculpture and metalsmithing.
“That first year after graduation I injured myself and had a hard time doing sculptural work,” she said. “I started an office job and began making sculptural cakes on the side. I learned a lot about sugar. It was a new material to work with. It’s a lot like working with clay and other tools in school. I eventually found chocolate, and then I found a way to combine art and food to make edible art. It was a lot of trial and error. My friends ate a lot of weird flat cakes and a lot of untempered chocolate.”
In 2010, Vittorelli came up with the concept for her business. She invested some of her own money and secured loans from family to get started. She rented kitchen space from a local bakery and partnered with a Philadelphia marketing firm to get the word out. After some initial press hits in 2011, she went from having 100 hits on her website to 30,000 in one day.
“The concept went viral, especially the Instagram part of it,” she said. “That’s what put us on the map.”
Since that time, Cocoagraph has been featured in InStyle magazine, The Huffington Post, on VH1’s Morning Buzz, and ABC’s “The View” for a segment on “Valentine’s Day gifts with a twist.” She even provided chocolate bars for a recent Oprah Winfrey movie.
“We’ve had great feedback about how our product is a really unique, cool gift idea,” she said. “There are companies that print on chocolate but it’s not as artistic as ours. We also use really high quality chocolate and artisanal ingredients. The original size of the bar is the exact size of a 1980s style Polaroid. It looks like you’re holding a Polaroid in your hand, but it’s chocolate.”
The company grossed over $50,000 in its first year and the orders keep coming in, Vittorelli said. She’s looking to expand her business and open her first retail space in the near future.
She credits Moore with providing her with a diverse art education that really helped her launch her business.
“At Moore, you really got to explore different mediums,” she said. “The fact that I have so many different skills – from painting to sculpture to metalsmithing to ceramics – is because of Moore. I work with molds, all the things I did with sculpture. And I use Photoshop and Illustrator every day.”
Her advice to Moore students? “Explore all the things you’re interested in. As an artist, all those skills will come in handy one day, no matter what your major is.”
1/15 Update: Cocoagraph Confections & Local Pantry Announce New Store Opening. Read more here