Meet The Maker
After an incredible response to her homeware objects at the prestigious West Coast Craft fair, Oakland resident Melanie Abrantes left her day job as a graphic designer to pursue a woodworking business. For the past six years, the maker has been sculpting and shaping blocks of material using a woodturning lathe and transforming them into beautiful one-of-a-kind vases, bowls and hanging planters. Her first book, Carve: A Simple Guide to Whittling, hit shelves last summer, and she’s been busy sharing her craft with others ever since. A recent sourcing trip to the Philippines has inspired the artist, who is half-Portuguese and half-Filipino, to merge her two cultures together into new designs, including a line of furniture she plans to launch soon.
How do you get in the creative zone?
Travel helps get my creative juices flowing. It could be a hike to the local redwoods or going to a different country. I find inspiration in the textures, colors and shapes of new places and different surroundings. On a more practical level, I start by solving a problem that I have in my own home and designing a solution. A lot of my pieces are inspired by living in small spaces and objects that tie me back to nature.
What made you want to work with wood and cork?
I was drawn to cork because of its connection to my Portuguese heritage–I grew up visiting my grandfather and seeing the different cork products made there. I also wanted to use components that were eco-friendly and biodegradable. I think it’s important to create quality products that can be passed down from generation to generation rather than make items that could easily fall apart.
Why is it important to you to share your craft with others?
I started teaching classes so I could show people how to work with their hands. I think it’s so necessary to take a break from technology. Carving in my class will give your eyes a break, plus teach you a new skill that you can perfect and continue after. Wood is such a solid material, and it’s fascinating to me how we can manipulate it into beautiful objects for the home.
PHOTO: MELANIE RICCARDI
Meet More Makers