Read All Over

Artist Turns Glossy Magazines Into Bowls, Jewelry and Frames

By Gina Gallucci-White | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 10.02.15 – In the Studio, Lifestyles

Sure, many people read the articles, enjoy the pictures and peruse the advertisements in Frederick Magazine. It’s also been known to accessorize family room coffee tables and doctors’ office waiting rooms. But could the pages of the magazine also be turned into beautiful works of art? No, seriously?

Inside the Frederick home of Patsy Abbamonte, a visitor walks into a studio. A picture frame on a desk is made entirely out of rolled up Frederick Magazine covers from the past few months. A pair of earrings and a necklace are an icy shade of blue—courtesy of this year’s “Best of Frederick” edition. Several bowls, both small and large in size, were created using cut-up strips of interior pages.

Abbamonte enjoys working with glossy magazines like Boston Proper and various travel and coastal digests because of the vivid colors, but she also has made artwork out of Victoria’s Secret catalogs, pizza fliers and college posters. “I think of myself as more of a craft person than I do an artist, but a lot of people call me an artist,” she says, surrounded by her creations. “I guess it’s a form of art, if you want to call it that, but it’s just something I really enjoy doing.”

‘BEST NON-MEDICAL THERAPY’

Growing up, Abbamonte loved doing arts and crafts and even made her own clothes while in high school. Working and raising a family left little time for art, but crafting with her grandchildren reignited the spark. One day, she showed her granddaughter how to roll the paper to create the unique pieces of art. “She loved it so much that I started [thinking],” Abbamonte says. “I said, ‘Well, I can do that and take them something every time I go.’” She would bring her grandchildren homemade jewelry, hair barrettes, bowls and other creations. “I’d have a little something every time I went over there and that got me really enthused about it.”

Creating the pieces has become a welcome distraction for Abbamonte, who was diagnosed in November 2012 with pancreatic cancer. “This is something I can do sitting or in bed,” she says. “After chemo, sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything else. It’s hard for me to play on the computer for very long because it gives me a headache. [Making the handcrafted pieces is] really good therapy. It’s the best non-medical therapy, next to my family visiting.”

The 58-year-old has a form of pancreatic cancer that advances slower than the aggressive kind that typically comes to mind. “I’m Stage 4, no matter what,” she says. “It’s not curable but it’s treatable. The chemo that I am on now, it makes me a little tired but it’s been working great. I’ve had great results. I’m very surprised. When I was first diagnosed, they didn’t think I had six months. I went through a lot of different kinds of treatments.” Her most recent chemotherapy treatments were not even available two years ago. “November will be three years. I think I feel better now than I did three years ago.”

She will be on chemotherapy the rest of her life. Doctors estimate she will live between three to seven years with cancer. “I told [the doctors] I’m going to make double digits,” Abbamonte says.

CREATING A BUSINESS

Abbamonte’s creations are mainly inspired by clothing. Whenever she sees a dress, shirt or outfit, she often says to herself, “I can make something to go with that.” She makes the jewelry by cutting the magazine into long strips and using a small dowel rod to roll the paper. Tension and hand placement matter when it comes to forming the bead size. “It’s like molding clay, but not nearly as complex,” she says. The new paper bead is sealed and a glaze is put over it to make it water resistant. Matching up earrings can be quite tricky. “A lot of [the jewelry pieces] are one-of-a-kind because I can’t make a bunch of them, so the ones I have online [are made of] paper that I have a bunch of.”

Abbamonte made so many pieces that family members encouraged her to sell her work. “My husband [Bob] said, ‘You’ve got to [start a business]. You’ve got to share this,’” she says. “And I thought anybody can do this. It’s nothing that is extremely hard or anything. Everything I do is very simple as you can tell.”

The couple launched Abbocreations on the retail website Etsy in February. Business has been steady and pieces have been shipped all over the country, including New Mexico, Florida, California, Texas and New York. “When I’m feeling really good I do it and if I get an order that I can’t [complete, due to her health], my brother, my son and my husband will help me.” Her store also includes crosses, wreathes, purses, fabric flowers and pillows.

Nancy Cooper has known Abbamonte for several years. Their husbands were college roommates. She has bought necklaces and earrings. “Often when I wear [jewelry], I feel like I can’t wait to get it off but at the end of the day, I even forget I have [Abbamonte’s] earrings on,” Cooper says. “I just find them very comfortable. … Everything she does, she does a beautiful job. Everything she touches is beautiful.”

Friend Caitlin Watts has several of Abbamonte’s pieces, including jewelry, bowls and picture frames. “Every piece is customized and unique,” she says. “It’s not only lightweight, but it’s of quality craftsmanship. … The recycled jewelry is really embracing the beauty in showing a responsibility to the environment. That’s one of the things I really love about it. You are taking everyday objects and transforming them into really masterpieces and pieces that are always conversation [starters].”

Neighbor Shelly Combs has bought every style of earrings Abbamonte has made, plus pillows, a picture frame and a wreath. “This is not a business for her,” she says. “It’s more about a passion. She puts so much love, time and effort into everything she makes. With me being her neighbor, I’ve been one of the lucky ones to sit down and actually watch her make things and I just cannot tell you how much passion she puts into it.”

Combs goes on a cruise every year. She needed jewelry to match every outfit she planned to wear, so she asked Abbamonte to come up with some suggestions. A day later, the artist knocked on her door with finished products. “She had created the most beautiful pair of earrings, necklace and bracelet in this white-and-gold pattern that I could wear with anything,” Combs says. “She has taken my packing from going through my jewelry box for about an hour to now it takes me five minutes to pack.”

Neck pain restricts Combs from wearing jewelry that weighs too heavily. “I have searched everywhere for earrings that weren’t just stud earrings that would kind of hang down and give me a new look, and when I found [Abbamonte’s jewelry] I was amazed,” she says. “She has changed my whole wardrobe.”