Woodworkers Like This Don't Grow On Trees

By Kathryn Wahl

DIY goes waaay back to the days of old-fashioned craftsmanship, when a person practiced a specific skill, like carpentry, glass blowing and welding, usually by hand. Today’s artisans, like Melanie Abrantes of Melanie Abrantes Designs, are keeping those crafts alive and well. As a talented woodworker, Melanie makes high-quality, locally sourced products to accessorize your home. We’re talking gorgeous cake stands, bowls, vases and planters. We chatted with Melanie about her design education and she filled us in on her inspiration, her love for Instagram and more!

First things first: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am a wood turner and designer living in the San Francisco Bay area. I grew up in Houston, Texas and came out to California to attend Otis College of Art and Design for Product Design. Otis is where I was introduced to what amazing design is and the joy of being a maker. I became addicted to woodworking and wanted to know as much as possible!

What’s your favorite material to work with?

At the moment, I love cork. Cork is such an interesting material with so many natural qualities. It also has a cultural connection with me because I grew up visiting my grandfather in Portugal, where cork oak tree in abundant. I always saw all of the cool designs that Portuguese designers would make using cork, and I knew it would one day be a material I would want to work with.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I find a lot of my inspiration through the people around me. Also amazing designers such as Jaime Hayon or Scholten & Baijings. They are both whimsical and modern. All of their objects and products seem to have their own character, which is what I strive for.

In one sentence, tell us why you love to make.

Because I love saying, “Yes, I made this.”

Why is a low-carbon footprint important to you?

I think that it is important to use domestic woods or materials that are considered sustainable because it helps with our environment. I already feel like I shouldn’t be adding anything more in the world at times, but at least if I have guidelines to a better-sustainable life, it helps in the end.

What does the making process look like for you?

I start with a sketch of the product I have in mind and from there, I mock up the dimensions in full scale. I choose the material and start wood turning. The best part about the lathe is that I am able to carve, sand and finish the product all on the lathe (the machine in the photo below)!

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?

Owning my own business might be one of the hardest things I have done. It takes discipline, organization and a non-stop drive. That being said, I couldn’t be happier with my choice because I can make the choices. Remember to always hustle and to be true to your work!

What other creative hobbies do you have?

I really, really enjoy arranging flowers. If you know me, you know I will always have fresh flowers in my home. Either picked up at a flower shop, grocery market or just from outside my house. I love being able to rearrange them to make adorable bouquets. Also, can Instagram be a hobby? If so, then I am terribly addicted.

Tell us how technology has changed and supported what you do.

Technology has been a very exciting thing in my life. I just moved in with my studio mate, Gabriel Schama, who owns a laser cutter and makes beautiful designs with wood. I am hoping I will be able to use this amazing device to take my products to the next level. Especially having one so near to me, it will be a lot easier to do different kinds of experimenting that I wouldn’t normally be able to have access to!

 What’s up next for you?

I love what I have been doing and the feedback that I receive from my work. I am hoping to branch out a little bit more into lighting and furniture… big things are happening in 2015!

Do you love Melanie’s designs as much we we do? Visit the Brit + Co Shop and get decorating! 

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