Meet The Bay State’s Premier Boutique Joint Artist

“Shotgun shells, cross joints, infused prerolls, cannagars, sherlocks … anything I find inspiration with. And anything I can roll oversized.”

In writing a roundup of five things we saw on a recent trip to California that people in the Mass cannabis industry may want to check out, there was something we Ieft off the list—designer hand-rolled joints, the kind that you might ogle on Instagram but rarely see in the wild.

I met Kara Bertrand at a cannabis industry party last month and was immediately wrapped by her wraps. She was clutching one of her trademark tulips, which was neatly tucked into a gift box, almost too much of a work of art to smoke. It all came into focus right away—this, I thought, is going to be huge in Mass. And Bertrand is already at the forefront.

I asked about her background, artistry, materials, and the market potential for extreme cannabis creativity.

First please tell us a little about yourself. Are you an artist by trade beyond your rolling? Do you work in the industry?

I love creating smokeable art. I was always that kid folding paper, the “origami nerd” and arts and crafts is something I grew up on. Crafty more so than artistic, I guess. When I started smoking cannabis, the love for rolling grew and it definitely became the passion it is today.

I studied art history in my first two years of college and then switched to counseling psychology. I have always had a deep appreciation for fine art.

I started my career in cannabis in 2019 in production. I trimmed for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. I became a different type of “florist” during covid and made cannabis wedding bouquets with cannabis leaves and fresh flowers. I worked for two micro grows and one [larger] grow. Throughout my time at these companies, I learned so much about the plant from cultivation, to production, to packaging, and now sales. My background in the cultivation facilities made me have an eye for quality control. If I wouldn’t be psyched to get the product, I wouldn’t put it in the package.

I work in the Massachusetts cannabis industry as a wholesale account manager buying and selling cannabis. My dream career is to roll boutique prerolls and release them into the industry in small batches. I’ve been working with an artist to make prototypes of my molds, we are in the stages of perfecting the process. You need to think about the artistry and time in production of making them commercially. What is going to help speed it up, what is going to be the most efficient, and what is going to produce the highest quality smoking experience? Before releasing this product to the market, I want to make sure everything is done right, including the partner I pick to release this with.

Is this a case of your hobby and passion growing into something that has commercial potential?

To be honest, I’m an extroverted-introvert. I have social anxiety that I treat with cannabis. You will always find me at the cannabis events rolling something. I find the entire rolling process relaxing and soothing—and then I get to smoke my roll after that too.

I take pride in what I create and I have been told I have a “focus face” when I roll and light my prerolls. I can confirm it is accurate with the many pictures I’ve seen during my rolling process.

You mentioned that you have a background in origami. How perfectly applicable is that skill set to rolling designer joints?

My skills are very much influenced by origami. Some of the folds I make are directly from simple paper origami skills. Some of my new rolls coming out soon are a product of gimp and rope arts and crafts. One in particular has a braid.

How did you start off doing these?

I made my first tulip Oct. 22 of 2021. It was honestly just for shits and giggles and was smoked with friends. It was the standard dutch tulip attachment with the hemp rope, on a hollow king palm stem. 

Since that day, my tulip has gone through five stages and prototypes, made significant improvements, and has gained some recognition amongst some celebrities. So far, Kevin Harrington of Shark Tank smoked a shotgun shell. B Real of Cypress Hill smoked a tulip on stage at the Royale NECANN afterparty, and this past week, boxing legend Mike Tyson took a few rips of a tulip.

It kind of seems like Olympic high diving, as in there is a big leap between doing a cannonball into your backyard pool or rolling a simple spliff and plunging off the platform or twisting the kind of missiles you spin up.

I absolutely love this question. All I can really say is that it’s all trial and error. You win some, you lose some. I have broken more papers than the average person rolls in a lifetime; 99% of the time, I have no idea what I’m rolling until halfway through.

Are you completely self taught? Is there anyone you’ve gotten ideas or inspiration from?

I find inspiration in many professional rollers. Josh Kesselman of Raw has been a major influence in my work, especially with the idea of making molds. I began using everyday objects to make a mold for my roll. Cardboard cutouts, makeup containers, pencils, lighters, everything. I am also inspired by the many rollers on IG. 

A classic roll in Europe is called the dutch tulip joint, a standard preroll with a tulip attached via gum strips. The cannagar is a classic roll that has been done for thousands of years. The merging of the two is taking the best of both worlds. A stronger stem and a longer burn time.

What are some of the designs you have done so far? We’ve seen the tulip, it’s amazing. Do you see that as your flagship design at this point?

The tulip will always be my OG roll and signature design. I love shotgun shells, cross joints, infused prerolls, cannagars, sherlocks (as I call them), anything I find inspiration with. And anything I can roll oversized.

What brand or brands of rolling paper do you find work best for intricate design? How about sizes? Are different papers better for different shapes?

All papers, but I lean towards hemp based. Blazy Susan’s I find have a thick gum strip, Raw’s are sturdy, OCB, Vibes, Randy’s—anything flavorless. I like to taste my weed. I use both king size and 1 1/4 size. A variety of different papers in every roll. I just got the roll-out three-meter gum strip from Raw and I have been waiting for someone to do this for years! It helps to patch and seal my joints. Gluegar is my secret weapon, I don’t smoke spit anymore. And always, always, always, a glass tip on the tulips. 

How about the actual cannabis? How much do you grind? Into dust? Or do you break it up by hand? Any tips? Strains you personally love to roll?

For the actual cannabis, high quality only. I want a beautiful cure and strong terpene profiles. Test results don’t matter to me. I’ve had 14%’s treat me like 30%’s. I love a fruity profile—anything with Tangie crossed genetics.

I find a fresh grind the best to work with and in a coarse consistency. I do use a grinder and I don’t break it up by hand, unless I’m rolling a Backwoods or Fronto leaf blunt.

Asking how much I grind is a loaded question. It depends on my mood and the number of people around me. Recently, I rolled a half-ounce tulip on a cannagar.

People must be requesting pieces at this point. What are they saying they want to see?

I get requests all the time for commissioned work. Tulips being the most popular, followed by shotgun shells, infused cannagars, and double barrel joints. It depends on the time you have and the amount of weed and/or concentrate you’re willing to contribute. Time tables range from five to 14 minutes per roll, but ideally I like them to cure before smoking.

And finally, what are your plans for getting these out into the world?

I want to partner with the best of the best and I want to only produce in small batches. Finding the right company with a like mindset on cannabis ethics is key. Flower quality is going to make or break the boutique prerolls.

Follow Kara on Instagram at @thecannabismanicurist