There is no question that handmade goods are sought after pieces to invest in and enjoy. There is a story behind these pieces, they didn’t come from a mold or assembled hundreds at a time, they were crafted on an artisan’s work bench, where dirt and sweat are welcome additions. The beautifully simple work of Melanie Abrantes is no stranger to the latter type of work. Her home objects combine wood and cork that are then turned and polished until their natural colors, grooves, and knots shine through. Small bud vases, simple cake stands, trivets, and candlesticks only begin to describe the range of offerings in her lifestyle design studio. Melanie was kind enough to share with us her Oakland studio, talk about the ups and downs of following a dream, and future growth.
My name is Melanie Abrantes and I am a designer and maker living in Oakland, CA. I specialize in making artisanal home goods out of cork and wood. Originally from Sugar Land, TX, I ventured to California to attend school at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. There, I studied product design, which is where I learned how to work with my hands and came to understand that it takes a lot of hard work to create something beautiful. Following Otis, I worked as a Graphic Designer for Karen Kimmel Studios, which was a great learning experience for me, but over time it became apparent that I wasn’t following my passion.
In 2014, I moved up to the Bay Area to launch Melanie Abrantes Designs and begin a new chapter in Oakland. It has been a roller coaster, filled with ups and downs, but is a decision I will never regret! Owning your own business is hard work and will always involve wearing multiple hats. I think a lot of people see the end result on social media and are quick to think that everything is always so polished and effortless, but I can assure you that behind that square frame is a mess not being photographed! There are many late nights and lots of high impact, stressful decisions and headaches. But at the end of the day, there is a lot of pride in owning a business and transferring your passion to others.
I love being able to make my own decisions and create products I know my customers will love. I always have to be thinking about the next season and how to grow to achieve my long term goals. This past year has been such a great year for growth and learning. For example, in the near term, I am hoping to expand my line to furniture and lighting. I need to now know when the seasons are for certain types of furniture and make sure to have a set amount of product to debut during each season. It’s important to me that my new products are in sync with my existing product line, so I am designing them using mostly cork and wood. I’ve also begun outsourcing certain tasks to different artisans in order to make these larger objects, which is new territory for me.
An exciting moment for me took place at this year’s West Coast Craft in San Francisco. It was the 2nd year that I partook in the event and was really touched when prior customers actually came back to purchase my new line! It made me realize why I love doing what I do and validated all the hard work I put in to make it possible. I am truly honored to that people want to put my work on display in their homes. Hopefully one day it’ll be possible to have a whole house full of my home goods and furniture. Stay tuned for Melanie Abrantes Designs as a lifestyle brand!