Charm School Vintage Blog
Charm School Crush: Amber Abramson
My favorite part of running Charm School– besides the admittedly awesome, steady flow of amazing clothes– is the flood of fabulous ladies that I’ve met as customers, collaborators, and mentors. After so many inspiring conversations at the register, over coffee, or late at night with a glass of wine, I wanted to ask these ladies to share their insights on being a small business owners and artists, finding their voice, following their dreams, and what keeps them inspired. We’re calling this series Charm School Crush, and every Wednesday we’ll profile a different magical lady. If you like the interview or have a question for our Crush, feel free to comment at the end and get a conversation started.
I met this week’s crush, Amber Abramson, a few years ago when her boutique Busy-Being occupied a small room in the back of my favorite art book shop Domy. I remember the first time I came in and how blown away I was by her curation; every single object in that tiny space was beautiful and exciting and so refreshing, and I felt like I’d made the luckiest discovery. She quickly became my favorite neighboring shop and as we became friends I found that getting to know Amber was an even luckier discovery. She’s the kind of lady that constantly revealing unexpected and hilarious facets of herself (i.e. she’s obsessed with Sade, has a son in high school, and bought a car when she was 14 for $200 and would drive it around LA with her friends), things you wouldn’t expect from a soft spoken, indigo shawl-wearing, former gallerist from LA. Flash forward a few years and Amber has moved Busy-Being into a larger, sunnier space along with the boutique Solid Gold and continues to delight me with her exquisitely chosen jewelry, clothing, housewares, and art, and hilarious stories. I asked Amber a few questions about how she came to open the store, how her work in the art world influences Busy-Being, and what’s next on the horizon.
Amber, Pidgeon, and a painting by Phil Frost
Name: Amber Abramson
Location: Austin, TX
Occupation: Shop owner and student
Sign: Pisces through and through.
How did you come to start Busy-Being?
Well, it’s kind of a long story…I’d worked in art for the past 12 years or so directing two Los Angeles galleries and curating privately as well as commercially, and in 2004 I was looking for something to do that would keep me connected to art but allow me to work from home more. My son was about five at the time and we were always at the gallery. Busy-Being was the project I started to try to fulfill that; it was an e-commerce site that carried products made by a lot of the artists I was working with. It never ended up taking me out of the gallery because things started to really skyrocket at work and we were busier than ever so BB kind of hung back for several years as this side-project that had a little life of it’s own. But when we decided to move to Austin in the summer of 2011 it all changed. I came to Austin because I wanted my son to go high school here and have a different experience than what I experienced growing up in LA. I agreed to do long-distance work with my LA gallery (New Image Art) and also took a full-time job in Austin which ended up not working out after three months in. At that point I was wrestling with returning to LA and doing what I already knew how to do or try to figure something out in Austin (fast! as I had hardly any money now) and try to make it work. So during a phone call with my friend Jamie (owner of Lost & Found in Los Angeles) she was like “Busy-Being…that’s what you need to be doing” and so that’s what I did.
It was October, I knew about five people in Austin at that point and one of them was Dan Fergus, the owner of the former Domy Books, and so I said to him, “I need to pull something together ASAP, could I do I holiday pop-up in the back room of the store?” He replied, “Sure.” I called all my talented Los Angeles friends and makers and whipped the shop together in about three days. The rest is history.
How does your previous career in art affect your store?
I’d say it’s the entire foundation of the store. Everything is pretty much a piece of art, all of it is made from someone’s hands. I feel like I use the same part of me to merchandise the shop as I do to install a show. I’m always looking for texture, medium, color (or lack of), and distinctiveness.
RETNA art opening
Do you see any trends on the horizon, either in retail or the art world?
I try not to look actually. In art, I feel like we’re in a bit of a lull, at least in the specific area I was involved in, which was contemporary as it evolved from street art and it’s associated sub-genres. For me, it felt like things reached a final climax by the time Jeffrey Deitch‘s “Art in the Streets” show happened at the MOCA and now we’re just waiting around for the next big thing. I still feel very much a part of that movement, I was so immersed and so directly connected to the artists and those shows, the collectors, and even some of the actual artwork that was produced that I might just be a part of that generation forever, like a hippie from the 60′s that watches the next generation get swept up in their thing, their movement. I don’t know if I’m cool enough to be that engaged another time around. I’m getting older and feeling more domestic than I ever have. I definitely see what’s going on right now, but what’s to come – I couldn’t say. Hopefully it has everything to do with peace and selflessness.
Amber with artist Deanna Templeton
What’s the most interesting thing you read or learned recently?
There is [currently] no cure for Ebola!
How do you get inspired?
I love taking walks in charming residential areas; looking at houses, people’s gardens, catching glimpses of their interiors, imagining what life in that home might be like. This really gets my wheels turning about all kinds of things. I can get totally absorbed by an art book or go down an Instagram rabbit-hole too but that turns into admiration or adoration, whereas I have to get to a mentally quiet place to allow my own imagination to take over.
Can you tell us something people might be surprised to know about you?
I was seven months pregnant with my son at my high-school graduation, I’m also currently in school working my way into natural medicine.
Amber and her son Angelo.
Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self?
Anything about financial planning, and to my 13-year old self: DO NOT QUIT DANCING.
What do you think you were in a previous life? Most importantly, what do you think you were wearing?
A grizzly bear – nekkid and wild.
Three pieces of art you wish you owned?
Three is REALLY HARD but I’ll get close. Something by:
- Niki de Saint Phalle (drawing or painting)
What are three pieces you’ll never sell?
A large canvas Phil Frost made for me, a painted door RETNA gave to me when I moved to Austin, and a big concrete block with an illustration on it by Ryan Rhodes and Caleb Owen Everitt that I purchased in Austin. Those three are the pieces that I want to see all the time.
Me and Marquis Lewis (aka Retna) with his image behind.
What are your three life goals?
To finish this school program and provide something great for the world with what I’ve learned, to see my son (who is a senior in high-school right now) be out in the world with love/happiness in his heart and finding fulfillment in whatever he’s doing, to still be as in love as I am right now when I draw my very last breath.
Lastly, what are your mantras?
“Don’t borrow pain from the future” is one of my favorites.