The promotion of cork as an “incredible material” and “very sustainable” is one of the motivations of the susceptible designer Melanie Abrantes, who designs unique pieces in California with the raw material imported from Portugal.
The artist, who founded the Melanie Abrantes Designs brand in Oakland, produces home-made cork products sold at speciality stores such as Williams-Sonoma’s West Elm chain.
“I am trying to show people that cork has many shapes, utilities and visuals compared to other materials,” told the designer, who is now trying to create a line “using the insulation capabilities” of the raw material.
The Portuguese descendent was included in the list of 2018 of the 100 Greater Creations of the United States by the magazine Country Living, that considered a cork whisperer and emphasized its virtuosity in the art of working the cork.
“My products are aesthetic-oriented and have a very specific look, but I only do useful things,” he said. “Nothing is purely decorative.” The specific characteristics of cork, such as its porosity, help the functional elements of the design pieces.
Among the cork products that Melanie Abrantes has created are jewellery boxes, ceiling lamps, ashtrays for cannabis, candlesticks and pots for plants. Several creations mix cork and wood, the other material in which the artist specialized and published the book “Carve” in 2017.
The products are made with more than one type of cork, including a “cork-marble” type, which “has a higher price” but leads people “to respond well to the pieces“.
The cost of the articles is one of the challenges of the creator, with labels that go up to hundreds of dollars.
“People do not realize that cork is a very expensive material that is still removed by hand,” he argued, justifying that American consumers are accustomed to using cork in simple objects such as corks and prices are low. “I try to educate people about the value of cork.”
The artist will showcase her work in May 2019 at New York Design Week as part of the group of independent designers JOIN Design and is in talks to participate in the NBC television show “Making It,” which puts doers to craft.
Granddaughter of Portuguese, Melanie Abrantes visits Portugal once a year, dividing between Lisbon, where grandmother resides, and producers of cork in the north. “The reason I work with cork is due to my genetic inheritance,” said the 28-year-old.
“Every time I went to Portugal when I was younger I saw different products made with cork and found it fascinating because I did not even know that something could be done with the material,” he recalls.
A native of Sugar Land, near Houston, Texas, the artist studied at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles before opening her studio in Oakland. In addition to doing two workshops per month on techniques for working wood and cork, he also holds company sessions.
Its products are on sale in about 40 stores in the United States and in some international boutiques including Japan, France and England.