Art, Design, and Manufacturing Intersect in Our Backyard

New York City is often seen as one of the epicenters for the arts, but Our Backyard is quickly becoming a place where artists and entrepreneurs can find success in the intersection of art, design, and manufacturing.

Loren Barham and her husband, Aaron, moved to Rhode Island from North Carolina a year ago. A big fan of history, Loren immediately identified the 750-square-foot workshop in a historic Pawtucket mill to be the home for Loren Hope Designs. What she didn’t know was how fast her business would grow here. After a few short months in Our Backyard, they needed to double the size of their office space to keep up with orders coming in from across the country.

Loren Hope Designs, an evolving line of upscale, handcrafted jewelry, is a favorite on the fashion blog scene and has been featured in fashion magazines like Vogue, In Style, and Redbook – just to name a few.

In just the past year, their wholesale orders have jumped from 5 or 6 orders a week to a weekly average of 100 orders. Soaring demand enabled them to grow from two full-time employees to eight. Loren credits the incredible success in such a short time since the move to Rhode Island to the accessibility of materials and rich history of the jewelry industry that exists here.

“There is no place in the country to manufacture jewelry like Rhode Island,” she explains. “The accessibility to vendors and historic craftsmanship that exists here is unmatched and gives us a huge edge on competitors that are located elsewhere.”

Just ask Otto D’Ambrosio. He began carving wood at the ripe-old age of eight when his parents presented him with a block of wood for Christmas and a knife from the kitchen drawer. From that point on he was hooked. By the time he was 13, Otto was working at Mandolin Brothers and learning the craft of “turning wood into music.” In 1998, he left New York for Rhode Island to work at Guild Guitars in Westerly and expanded his knowledge in repairing, rebuilding, and crafting guitars. Three years later, Otto opened D’Ambrosio Guitars and started making fine guitars by hand.

In an old Pawtucket mill built in 1919, Otto handcrafts hollow archtop guitars and repairs priceless vintage instruments for clients across the globe. His most widely distributed instrument is an electric archtop guitar with a patented technology that provides superior feedback rejection (in other words, it prevents the ear piercing screech that occurs when an electric guitar is faced to the amplifier). The El Rey Guitar, designed for Eastman Guitars by Otto, is sold nationwide and endorsed by local performers such as Mark Cutler and Jim Robitaille.

Sketches for custom concept guitars line the old mill walls of D’Ambrosio’s finishing room. People across the country send Otto requests to bring their creative concept to life in a handmade, one-of-a-kind instrument. He is currently working on several projects, including a guitar for actor Jeff Bridges that is inspired by his charitable work with No Kid Hungry.

Custom pieces often require collaboration with other designers and artists. Fortunately for Otto he doesn’t have to look far for talent noting “that access to the craftsmanship and design expertise found in Rhode Island is a huge benefit of operating a business here.”

There is certainly a unique chemistry that exists between art, manufacturing, and design in Our Backyard. To see more success stories or to share your own story, visit www.ourbackyardri.com.

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