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Erin Austen Abbott on craft, design and planting roots

Stennett Smith

Special to the Eagle

Sitting at 187 square feet tucked next to the Lyric on Van Buren Avenue, Amelia offers handmade goods where craft meets design. Owner Erin Austen Abbott has always had a love for the small town, and opening a shop gave her the chance to plant her roots in the Deep South once more.

Abbott grew up in Oxford, but she moved around quite a bit after graduating college, where she studied early childhood education. Post graduation, she spent eight years touring with different bands and selling all of their merchandise.

“On tour I would unload all of my merchandise, set up the merch booth and then go find the store that had the stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else — the cool little vintage shop or the cool record store, and I was always on the hunt for stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else,” she said.

Opening a store was something she knew she wanted to do, and having an artistic background led to the concept for Amelia. It allowed the freedom for her creative side of the job, plus flexible hours to balance her freelance work.

Freelance photography and fine art photography, as well as interior design, are all among talents Abbott manages on the side.

“I knew the kind of store I loved looking for on tour, and I knew Oxford did not have it. It was really important to me just to have stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else, and to open up awareness to the world of handmade with a real sense of design,” Abbott said.

When it came to filling her store, she utilized relationships she made while on tour to connect with artists. Collecting business cards along the way came in handy just a few years later when Amelia opened in 2009.

Shelby Kyser has been working with Abbott at Amelia for almost three years. “She’s such an incredible person, and she works so hard. I’ve been able to see the dips in business, and seeing how gracefully she handles those moments is really cool,” Kyser said.

Along with her love for art and design, family inspiration is something that Abbott has experienced since the very beginning of her life.

“Erin’s creativity is displayed throughout our house. From the books on the shelf, the art on the wall to the chairs we sit on. I can’t help but be inspired by her thoughtful design. It helps me be more thoughtful in my own creative efforts,” her husband, Sean Abbott said.

Her grandfather was a homebuilder who built mid-century modern homes in Memphis. She was really drawn to that side of design, and her mother was another influence. She is a writer with an artistic side as well.

“It was always understood that you can do this if you want. If you can figure out a way to make a career out of it, you can absolutely do that,” Abbott said.

Along with opening her own store, Abbott started her own travel blog called fieldtrip. She is a contributing writer for Design Sponge, a blog out of New York with over one million daily readers. Her first book is coming out in March, and she is opening a gallery in Water Valley that will have a full classroom component, along with a fine art gallery.

“All my friends would draw horses and rainbows and I drew floor plans; I would just imagine houses all day long,” she said.

Now, she has shipped goods to 47 states and 15 countries. The awareness of her store, skills and what they have to offer have evolved to the international level.

“I do take on too much all the time, but I try to pace myself.”