Sometimes you meet someone who stops you in your tracks. Their vision resonates with you and – in an instant – they shift from total stranger to super-interesting person. This is what happened when I met Adrian of Amabile Designs.
I grew up on the pristine water’s edge of the Caribbean Sea. When I’m at “home” I can’t keep away from it, and when I’m back in the US I long for it. Seeing garbage (as we call it in Antigua) strewn across our beaches and lurking around our reefs is heartbreaking. I want to do something. Something to wake people up.
Adrian and his wife, Katie, want the same thing. The work they’re doing is important for our local environment, right here in South Carolina’s Upstate and the North Carolina Piedmont.
I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did –
In 2018, a few days after Hurricane Florence, Adrian, Katie and their children were vacationing on the Outer Banks with his family. During their first night there, Adrian’s parents came back from a moonlit beach walk loaded down with hand-picked trash. Astounded by the quantity they’d retrieved – and told that there was a great deal more on shore – Adrian and Katie set off to see for themselves.
They were awestruck. As far as the eye could see: plastic.
Their vacation turned into a mission. Every day they collected more. On the drive home, they discussed ideas about how their little family could continue to make an impact. They aggregated their strengths and, before pulling into their driveway, the seeds of Amabile Designs were sown.
The product was a no-brainer. Adrian attended Winthrop where he earned a degree in Fine Arts with a focus on Jewelry and Metalworking. He’d trained as a bench jeweler and, later, worked as a custom designer. They would make jewelry from found, recycled and upcycled materials.
The Amabiles wanted to build their designs around some sort of environmentally-responsible cordage. After a great deal of research they found ECONYL®, a virgin-quality yarn made from recovered nylon like fishing nets, scrap fabric and carpet remnants.
Next came the character-rich closures and beads that Adrian designed, casted in molds and hand-poured. Each uses 100% recycled, sustainably-sourced sterling silver.
Then, they went in search of some mission-aligned embellishments. They found what they were looking for in a village in Ghana – beautiful glass beads made from bottles and jars destined for the landfill, crafted by locals paid a fair wage.
Finally, the packaging. Their boxes are made from chlorine-free, recycled cardboard and their tags are made with eco friendly ink printed on seed paper. Just add dirt and water, and feed the Earth.
The name for their company was also a gimme. Their last name, Amabile — a-MOB-ee-lay — means tender or gentle.
The challenge was with whom they would do the work. They needed meaningful partnerships in order to make the sum of the business more than its parts.
Adrian grew up spending his summers on Lake Wylie and the Catawba Riverways. He went fishing and swimming with his family and friends, creating a deep connection with the water. It was an integral part of his childhood and the center of important experiences for him. If all waterways end up in the ocean in some way, caring after a local source helps on a global scale.
Having pinpointed their headwater, they established their first partnership with the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. From here they added numerous other Cleaning Crews, including: Broad Riverkeeper, Cape Fear River Watch, Charleston Waterkeeper, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, Congaree Riverkeeper, Dan Riverkeeper, Savannah Riverkeeper, Sound Rivers and Winyah Rivers Alliance.
These partnerships empower Amabile’s customers to choose which specific river system will benefit from a portion of their purchase proceeds.
Long-term, they aspire to expand their nonprofit network to such an extent that, no matter where you’re from, you can support your local waterways with an Amabile Designs purchase.
When they launched earlier this year, the Amabilies – like the rest of us – were totally blindsided by the life-changing events of 2020.
Adrian’s full-time job was put on pause due to social-distancing protocols, and he and Katie were thrust into full-time entrepreneurship. Fortunately, the Amabile Designs studio is at their Clover, SC home, which means they’re able to grow their brand and up their inventory in the background of family life.
Having their three children witness their commitment has led to countless opportunities for rich conversation and priceless teachable moments. And they’re hitting home. Their oldest child, whose five, finished a family hike with loaded down pockets of this and that, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be litter she’d found along the trail.
They’re doing something. All of them. And that’s something to write home about.