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Giving New Meaning To Old Mediums

Alumna Melanie Abrantes on Launching a Handcrafted Business

Owning a business is a goal for many artists and designers, though the hardships of running a successful studio or product line are often glossed over in today's glorification of the entrepreneur. 

When Melanie Abrantes (’12 Product Design) launched Melanie Abrantes Designs in 2013 she had a strong support system, the market for handmade goods was growing, and she was working 12-hour days to make it work. 

Abrantes discovered a love of product design during her first year at Otis College. She got her hands on all sorts of materials, experimenting with everything from glass to ceramic to wood. “Otis opened my eyes to a broader swatch of creative opportunities,” said Abrantes.

Eventually, the maker turned to cork, a major export from her home country of Portugal that is naturally eco-friendly and malleable. The Portuguese use cork to create many things, but Americans tend to limit cork’s potential to walls and wine bottles. Seeing promise in this unsung hero, Abrantes began using cork to hand-craft bowls and planters. Her challenge was to shape this traditional material from her childhood to appeal to a modern sensibility.

When she reinterpreted cork for the design world, it was completely transformed. Rough, gritty lines gave way to refined, modern curves. Her designs have been featured in Dwell, Better Homes and Gardens, and Design*Sponge among others. Sleek vases, pendant lights, and even a spoon carving workshop in the artist's studio are all available on her website, just in time for holidays.