Melanie Abrantes is a Bay Area based producer and designer of handcrafted, heirloom objects. She believes that in order to create something beautiful, you have to get your hands dirty.
Her design studio and company was founded in 2013, where she creates handmade goods for the home made from thoughtful materials like cork, which is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, porous, and 100% renewable.
Through the technique of lathing, she turns simple pieces of solid wood and cork into one - of - a - kind bowls, plates, cups and stands.
How did you start your business?
I started my business back in 2013 a few years after graduating from college. I had studied product design in college, and it was a hands-on program. We learned how to create all the pieces we designed and I gravitated toward woodworking. After I graduated I was working in graphic design, but the job wasn’t fulfilling and so I decided to change paths and join a local woodshop.
From there, I started making pieces to decorate my home and give as gifts to my friends. After encouragement from my friends, I decided to sign up for a craft market in San Francisco to see if people would buy what I was making. I didn't know if anyone would be interested but was pleasantly surprised to see my pieces were selling! My business soon began after that - I was able to start developing a line of products and hone in on making sustainable objects for the home.
What material do you use and how does sustainability play out in a real way in the way your products are made and the company is run?
I love working with everything natural! I think there's still so much to learn and I am an inherently curious person, who is constantly trying new things. Right now I’ve found a niche in working with cork because not only is it a sustainable material, it also connects me to my Portuguese heritage. I grew up visiting Portugal and seeing it in so many different forms and was inspired to try using it myself! Once I learned how amazing it really was I couldn’t get enough. It’s durable and also anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, porous, and 100% renewable.
What inspired the spoon carving kits?
People were incredibly excited and interested in my carving classes and I wasn't able to travel to teach everyone! A woman in another state contacted me asking how she could learn, so I sent her what I brought with me to my classes and wrote up some instructions. She was so grateful and was able to still learn remotely! It made me realize there was an opportunity to expand and teach people through my carving kits!
What is your own journey with sustainability?
I was super aware of the industry I was going into and how wasteful it was. I made a conscious decision to make things that would last and would be biodegradable even if they were to end up in the landfill. At my studio we even make a conscious effort to not use plastic in our packaging and shipping materials whenever possible. The smallest things matter the most.
What are three resources that helped you on your sustainability learning journey (books, podcasts, movies, articles)?
So many resources, a favorite is a book I read in college called Cradle to Cradle. It really broke down how to approach costs and impacts involved when designing, manufacturing and packaging products. I follow several Instagram accounts that give everyday suggestions on how to be more sustainable, including @sustainthemag, @ecowarriorprincess and @ecology.center. I am also inspired by businesses like Aplat who make it their mission to bring more awareness to reusable materials!
What's your relationship with the Earth?
Mother Earth is beautiful. I am so lucky to live in California where nature is abundant. I am always taking inspiration from hikes and being in nature.
What is your creative process?
I normally sit and stew on an idea for a while before I start actually designing the pieces. I see something, a shape in nature, a curve of a handle, and I start getting ideas on how I want to recreate that shape. From there I am able to create a collection that is based on both my inspiration and something functional, such as a new line of candle holders.
What is the most impactful thing you have learned over the last few years as a business owner?
The most impactful thing I can do as a business owner is be authentic in my vision and values. That means making informed decisions to always be sustainable in our products and packaging, promoting other BIPOC small businesses and building a community around people that have similar values and an interest in supporting makers.