Friday Feature: Abby Saunders October 23, 2010 07:34

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you've all been having an awesome week! This week I'd like to introduce you to Providence artist Abby Saunders. Keep on reading to find out why this future librarian thinks Providence is the "wild west of artistic communities." Thanks, Abby! Have a great weekend everyone! 

When did you start your handmade business?
I started my business in early 2009. I sold some designs while working at a jewelry boutique during college, and the owners were always pushing me to sell more, but I wasn't quite ready to make the leap. Then, I worked as a studio assistant to Barbara Seidenath for over two years, and she was always encouraging me to take that next step with my own work. I had my own studio, but I was working on gallery pieces and only doing special order jewelry.  Then, finally in 2009, while I was working a full-time office job, I realized the demand was there and if I expended my "work" energy on my craft, I could make a living. I worked both a full-time job and ran my studio for just over a year before taking the plunge. In June 2010, I quit my day job and spent the summer in the studio. It was the happiest summer yet! Now, I'm in grad school full time and in the studio part time. It's an amazing balance that I think will translate well with my professional career in the future as a librarian. 

Describe your studio for us.
My studio is in a cathedral-ceilinged space on the second floor of a house I rent in the Fox Point neighborhood in Providence. The owner had his ceramics studio there at one point, so there's a functioning sink. He also renovated the Monahasset Mills, so there are beams from the mills in the house and salvaged pieces like the stone detail above the sink. My bench looks out onto our neighbor's amazing yard, complete with grapevines and a pear tree.  I have a vintage typewriter collection on display that I use to make small sculpture and art jewelry pieces. And, There is a surfboard in the rafters just to remind me to go play outside every once in a while.
Before I had my home studio, I shared a studio with fellow jeweler Ashley Vick at AS220's Dreyfus space downtown for two years, and then I had a community studio called "The Nest" in Pawtucket that I shared with a whole crew of artists. I missed working with other people, so just this week, my boyfriend moved his music studio upstairs to join me. Now, the whole second floor is a creative workspace for us. It's divided down the middle:  metals studio on one side / synthesizer mania on the other. I love it! 

What is it about bingo balls that inspired you to use them in your work?
Actually, the bingo balls were a dumpster-diving destiny find. When I had my studio in Pawtucket, another artist in the building Rebecca Seimering and I literally climbed into a dumpster FILLED with bingo treasures. A bingo supply company that had operated out of our studio building went out of business and were getting rid of all there leftover stock.  There were boxes of bingo papers, blotters, bingo balls, a huge light-up "BINGO" board, and any kind of bingo related paraphernalia you can think of. It was like Christmas, and we grabbed what we could carry in our bags. I had so much fun seeing what I could whip up from my find that I found a bingo supplier to buy from and started selling some bingo-ball pieces. I've always enjoyed working with fun, plastic found objects. When I was younger, I used to make bracelets out of lego people and earrings out of finger skateboards. 

Do you think your new path as librarian will inspire your artwork?
Yes, definitely. My concentration in library school is Preservation, and I am learning a lot about paper arts.  I always come back to working with my hands.  I was an English major in college, which is a fact many people don't know about me because I spent all my time in the metals studio. I would get inspired in my literary theory class and engrave a space bar on the typewriter sculpture I was working on with a sentiment from french philosopher Derrida and photo etch inspirations for short stories I had written onto metals pieces. If anything, it's making me want to develop a killer collection of books on art jewelers. 

What do you like about living in Providence and being a part of the creative community here?
You can do anything here. Seriously, if you think, "I'd like to start a Buddy Holly cover band," you can do it in Providence because there are ten other people who will be there to sing back up, play drums, guitar, book your shows, design and print limited edition posters.  A friend of mine moved to Brooklyn, as many of them do, and she found she missed the small, creative community of Providence. The support you get from a tight community is hard to find in a big city. Providence is very DIY. It has to be, I think, because a lot of times whatever you want isn't here, so you have to make it yourself. It's affordable, and there are a lot of beautiful warehouse spaces to make into studios.  I fell in love with Providence's creative spirit, and I felt like it was the wild west of artistic communities. It didn't feel stuck up or stuffy. If you ask someone what they "do" in Providence, you're likely to receive a lengthy explanation that they have a day job, run a cupcake truck, have a small screen-printing studio in their basement, and spin old records on the weekends. I love that. 

What advice would you offer someone hoping to take their art or craft from hobby to business?
Make friends with technology. It helps to know what your affordable technology options are. Without etsy, tumblr, flickr,, blogs (like this one!), and twitter, my creative business would not exist. I think it's a major component of why I was able to afford to start my business. There are options out there that make having your own creative business way more possible than it was ten years ago. 

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I had the lovely fortune of working with Deb Dormody of Craftland and If'n Books+Marks. She gave me the friendly shove I needed to inspire me to apply for the holiday show in 2009, and since then, it's been one of the best experiences I've had selling my work. I was asked to stay on as a year-round seller, and I've been accepted again for the 2010 show. I was a customer of Craftland since the beginning, and I always thought "one day, I'll be cool enough."  

Guilty Pleasure?
I love the show "Glee," and until recently, I watched it secretly in my living room. But, it turns out I have some library school friends who love it, too. And, I've been invited to watch the "Rocky Horror" Halloween episode at one of their houses. I am super excited to come out of my glee closet.  I went to a performing arts high school, and it was a lot like Glee. The singing, spangly outfits, teen angst, spontaneous choreographed dancing in the hallways. Aaaaand, now you all know what a performance geek I am, there is definitely spontaneous dancing happening in my studio. I always leave a little floor space for just that occasion. Everyone loves a good dance party, right?!