Illustrator Vinnie Arnone, creator of the successful Cabo Cado company, and his wife, Claudia del Castillo, find inspiration right at their doorstep along the banks of the Cape Cod Canal.By Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Down a quiet street in Bourne, along the banks of the Cape Cod Canal, illustrator Vinnie Arnone and his wife, Claudia del Castillo, a graphic designer, are constantly creating works of art. They can be found sketching, designing logos for companies, working on projects to support local causes or tackling home renovation projects. Arnone works in one little corner of their sunroom decorated with treasures and gems from Puerto Rico and the Cape, while graphic designer Del Castillo works in her back office. Their dog, Lupe, is involved in almost everything they do, from daily Instagram posts to walks along the canal.
For the creative couple, inspiration can be found right at their doorstep in the form of birds, wildlife, flowers and beautiful views of the canal and the Bourne Bridge. Once upon a time, they commuted an hour each way to their jobs at Reebok’s headquarters in Canton. Today, their farthest commute is to each other’s office in their roughly 1,200-square-foot bungalow. On a recent spring day, the founder of Cabo Cado and his wife discussed life along the canal, working in the corporate world, their latest book, “The ABC’s of Cape Cod,” and projects here and in Puerto Rico that have brought meaning to their lives.
More than six years ago, when Arnone’s graphic design job at Reebok was phased out, he did some soul searching. It was at this time he launched Cabo Cado, which means Cape Cod in Spanglish. If you’re not familiar with the name, you’ve likely seen the whimsical and colorful drawings of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket on ethically made tote bags, decorative throw pillows, bandanas and koozies. Arnone’s artwork can also be seen on electrical boxes near the Hyannis Inn and Aselton Park on Main Street in Hyannis. If you dine at The Lobster Trap in Bourne, you’ll enjoy the view of his colorful nautical flags on a bridge behind the restaurant.
Although Arnone continues to create his pillows, postcards and pouches, he says his work is constantly changing and evolving. He recently aligned himself with “feel-good” organizations, such as the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay. Arnone cares deeply about the environment and canal conservation, and maintains his own lobster traps in the canal, so it’s not surprising that “The ABC’s of Cape Cod,” focuses on subject matter near and dear to his heart. The project began as a series of daily sketches representing life on the banks of the canal. The book is a fun field guide to local flora and fauna and features colorful Sharpie sketches of plants, animals and sea life. The last page, dedicated to the National Marine Life Center, features drawings of a seal and sea turtle. Fifteen percent of every book sale is donated to the center.
Arnone worked on the field guide with his good friend Jon Dumais, a U.S Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger, to brainstorm flora and fauna that would correspond to each letter of the alphabet. A is for Aster, B is for Blue Crab, C is for Cod and so on. Arnone’s wife, Del Castillo, a graphic designer and branding expert for local companies like The Local Juice, Pizza Barbone and The West End, helped Arnone produce the book of his sketches, printed by Sunderland Printing in Hyannis. “We’ll be walking along the canal and Vinnie will say, ‘Oh that’s a Rosa Rugosa,’” says Del Castillo. When did he become little Vinnie-pedia?” she asks, with a laugh.
Throughout the guide, a fun fact and the word’s Latin name appear next to each Sharpie drawing. For instance, cod is Gadus Morhua in Latin and Cape “Cod” was named in 1602 for all of the cod found here. “I wanted to bring a story element into it,” says Arnone, “so at the end of the day, it’s not just a pretty picture.” Currently, the book is in its second printing of 500 copies. “My hope is that a parent will go through this with their child and will be learning something also.”
If you follow Cabo Cado on Instagram, it’s instantly apparent they have a deep love for Puerto Rico. The couple has strong ties to the area since Del Castillo grew up there and her entire family still lives in San Juan. They adopted their dog, Lupita (a celebrity Instagram dog with her own hashtag #LoveLaLupe), through the Sato Project—Sato means mutt in Spanish—which rescues abandoned and abused dogs. Arnone donates a portion of his merchandise’s profits, including Lupe’s signature red bandana that he designed, to the Sato Project. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, Arnone created T-shirts for a group called United for Puerto Rico and donates 100 percent of the proceeds to this organization.
His fundraising efforts in Puerto Rico inspired him to support local causes, including drawing sketches for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Instagram page. “Getting behind organizations like this opened my eyes to the feel-good nature of trying to lend help to projects that are important to you.”
Ironically, Arnone says one of his biggest influences during his career was working as a graphic designer for Old Navy in New York City, “which turned out to be the best job ever. It’s where I honed my skillset,” he says. “The leader of the company at the time was always asking, ‘What’s the story?’ ‘What’s the emotional connection with the consumer?’” Fun and accessible, the main narrative at Old Navy, carries through to Arnone’s work today.
Arnone says The Lobster Trap restaurant was the first place to carry his merchandise. He credits community advocate/entrepreneur Jen Villa for opening even more doors for him through her Little Beach Gallery and Love Live Local events. Arnone created the logo for Love Live Local, which launched around the same time as Cabo Cado. “The Love Live Local fest comes about and we meet all of these like-minded individuals, people that are makers and creators,” says Del Castillo.
“When I started doing Cabo Cado, I met people like Jen and realized there was this whole community on the Cape that was super exciting,” says Arnone. “In New York City, you could be a small fish in a big pond. I felt like on the Cape, the pond was much smaller. I feel like I have a voice and an impact.”