This Woodworker Makes Home Accessories You’ll Swoon Over
DIY goes waaay back to the days of old-fashioned craftsmanship, when a person practiced a specific skill, like carpentry, glass blowing and welding, usually by hand. Today’s artisans, like Melanie Abrantes of Melanie Abrantes Designs, are keeping those crafts alive and well. As a talented woodworker, Melanie makes high-quality, locally sourced products to accessorize your home. We’re talking gorgeous cake stands, bowls, vases and planters. We chatted with Melanie about her design education and she filled us in on her inspiration, her love for Instagram and more!
First things first: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a wood turner and designer living in the San Francisco Bay area. I grew up in Houston, Texas and came out to California to attend Otis College of Art and Design for Product Design. Otis is where I was introduced to what amazing design is and the joy of being a maker. I became addicted to woodworking and wanted to know as much as possible!
What’s your favorite material to work with?
At the moment, I love cork. Cork is such an interesting material with so many natural qualities. It also has a cultural connection with me because I grew up visiting my grandfather in Portugal, where cork oak tree in abundant. I always saw all of the cool designs that Portuguese designers would make using cork, and I knew it would one day be a material I would want to work with.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I find a lot of my inspiration through the people around me. Also amazing designers such as Jaime Hayon or Scholten & Baijings. They are both whimsical and modern. All of their objects and products seem to have their own character, which is what I strive for.
In one sentence, tell us why you love to make.
Because I love saying, “Yes, I made this.”
Why is a low-carbon footprint important to you?
I think that it is important to use domestic woods or materials that are considered sustainable because it helps with our environment. I already feel like I shouldn’t be adding anything more in the world at times, but at least if I have guidelines to a better-sustainable life, it helps in the end.
What does the making process look like for you?
I start with a sketch of the product I have in mind and from there, I mock up the dimensions in full scale. I choose the material and start wood turning. The best part about the lathe is that I am able to carve, sand and finish the product all on the lathe (the machine in the photo below)!
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
Owning my own business might be one of the hardest things I have done. It takes discipline, organization and a non-stop drive. That being said, I couldn’t be happier with my choice because I can make the choices. Remember to always hustle and to be true to your work!
What other creative hobbies do you have?
I really, really enjoy arranging flowers. If you know me, you know I will always have fresh flowers in my home. Either picked up at a flower shop, grocery market or just from outside my house. I love being able to rearrange them to make adorable bouquets. Also, can Instagram be a hobby? If so, then I am terribly addicted.
Tell us how technology has changed and supported what you do.
Technology has been a very exciting thing in my life. I just moved in with my studio mate, Gabriel Schama, who owns a laser cutter and makes beautiful designs with wood. I am hoping I will be able to use this amazing device to take my products to the next level. Especially having one so near to me, it will be a lot easier to do different kinds of experimenting that I wouldn’t normally be able to have access to!
What’s up next for you?
I love what I have been doing and the feedback that I receive from my work. I am hoping to branch out a little bit more into lighting and furniture… big things are happening in 2015!
Do you love Melanie’s designs as much we we do? Visit the Brit + Co Shop and get decorating!
Welcome to Selfmade Finance School, our new money series with Block Advisors to help small business owners with their tax, bookkeeping, and payroll needs year-round. This week, we explore the tax implications of bringing family members into your business.
The question for today is this: Does hiring your family members make sense for your business? Let me be clear. This is not a piece about whether hiring your family members makes sense for your relationships with those family members. As someone who is part of a family business, I could fill up a lot more than 600 words on my opinions about that. For today's purposes, we focus on whether it makes sense from an overall "good business and tax implication" perspective. As it turns out, there is a decent amount of tax nuance when it comes to employing your family. Let's break it down based on relationship to the employee:
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Spouses Who Are In Business Together
Personally, if I had to be in business with my husband, it would not go well. However, many couples build viable, strong businesses together and I say, good for them! Depending on how you have your business entity structured, it will make a big difference on the tax treatment of you and your spouse working as partners. Because a business jointly owned and operated by a married couple is generally treated as a partnership for Federal tax purposes, the spouses must comply with filing and record keeping requirements imposed on partnerships and their partners. The election to file two Schedule C (Form 1040) forms, (one for each spouse) permits certain married co-owners to avoid filing partnership returns, provided that each spouse separately reports a share of all the businesses' items of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit. Under the election, both spouses will be subject to self-employment tax and on net earnings from self-employment and receive credit for Social Security earnings.
One Spouse Employs Another
If you have a dynamic where your spouse is an employee of your business, then your spouse's wages are subject to income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you are self-employed (not a corporation or a partnership), your spouse's pay does not have to be included in your federal unemployment tax account (FUTA) contributions and payments. However, if your business is a corporation or a partnership you must include that spouse's pay in your unemployment tax contribution calculation.
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You Employ Your Child
First, let's be clear. I work in my family business, but I am an adult, so I am treated just like a normal employee. However, if you, for example, run a family restaurant and want to hire your children under 18 to work for you, there are some tax benefits. But first, you should check with your state for rules on how many hours minors can work (in non-agricultural jobs) and reference the Fair Labor Standards Act for information on limitations on the kinds of work children can perform.
"This is an often overlooked or under-utilized strategy. Paying your children for true services they provide in your business can be a powerful tax-saving tool," says Cathi Reed, Block Advisors Regional Director. "If you are a sole-proprietorship or single member LLC, and the child is less than 18 years of age, the business is not required to withhold FICA or payroll taxes. The child can use his or her standard deduction against income you pay."
You Hire Your Parent
Oh dear. If you are brave enough to do this, know that you will need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on your parent's wages and make the appropriate withholdings, but you don't have to pay unemployment taxes. Now all you have to do is convince your parent that you are the boss. Have fun with that!
Is Hiring Family Members Worth It For The Tax Benefits?
"There are some positive tax advantages to hiring family members. It's important to treat a family member like any other employee. Hiring your children can result in substantial savings for businesses. Make sure your child has real, age-appropriate work to do and a reasonable pay rate, comparable to other employees. Consult with a Block Advisors small business certified tax pro to ensure that you are complying with all requirements," advises Reed. "Block Advisors, a team within H&R Block, is dedicated to meeting the tax, bookkeeping and payroll needs of small business owners year-round. To start working with the tax experts at Block Advisors, visit blockadvisors.com."
In my opinion, you should not hire a family member solely because of the tax benefits. You should always hire based on whether that person is right for the job and keep in mind how this hire could materially impact your relationship with that person and others in your family. Finally, as I mentioned, make sure you have a tax professional on your team when making these determinations. As you can see, things can get a little tricky!
*All details were sourced from IRS.gov and blockadvisors.com