MELANIE ABRANTES PAIRS WOODWORK WITH CORK By Sophia Markoulakis
Oakland woodworker Melanie Abrantes is determined to disrupt the notion that wood is rough, linear and unforgiving.
“When I studied product design at Otis, we were exposed to several different mediums, and I fell in love with wood,” Abrantes says, referring to Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. “It is a natural source and is so malleable even though it’s so hard. I love the grain, the color and the fact that I have no choice with what nature gives me.”
Her Wood & Cork Collection ($48-$300) debuted earlier this month at New York Now, the city’s twice-a-year trade-only home and lifestyle exhibition, where she hopes to capture the attention of retailers looking for handmade products.
Launched in 2014, Abrantes’ design business (www.melanieabrantes.com) started with a curvaceous cake stand that caught the eye of bloggers and fellow designers. Since then she has expanded her collection to include her other love — cork — and hopes to elevate its status beyond wine stoppers and pinning boards.
“Growing up I spent summers in Portugal visiting my grandparents, and cork is used there the same way we use wood here,” she says. “There are so many amazing qualities about cork that many don’t know about. It’s strong, porous and antibacterial.”
Included in the new collection are candlesticks, bowls and planters. “The planters are a great alternative to ceramic. I’ve been testing them and noticed that the cork absorbs the water and slowly nurtures the plants.” The canisters in the collection were inspired by commissioned pieces for San Francisco restaurant Seed + Salt. “Once I completed those pieces, I realized I wanted to create my own series of them.”
Abrantes achieves her trademark rounded designs by manually and mechanically “turning” hand-picked domestic wood and imported Portuguese cork from raw blocks into smooth and voluptuous pieces. “Maybe because I’m a woman, I’m drawn to these more feminine forms, which is also a contrast to what people think of when they think of woodworkers.”
Available at Pippa & Co., 2544 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda; Crimson, 470 49th St., Oakland; Aggregate Supply, 806 Valencia St., San Francisco; and at www.melanie abrantes.com.
— Sophia Markoulakis; email@example.com