Abby Blair Woerner’s creative abilities were first sparked when she took pottery classes with Michael Hough, Associate Professor of Art at Bridgewater College. Though Woerner ‘15 was an English major, she embraced the opportunity to make pottery and develop a new skill that she’d always wanted to learn. All of Hough’s pottery students have the opportunity to sell their work at the end of the semester in the semi-annual pottery sale, and, after making more than $500, Woerner realized it was possible to indulge her creative side and earn money from it in the process. After graduating in 2015, Woerner worked in the College’s Admissions Office for a year and a half before devoting herself to her growing business full-time.
Woerner comments about that first pottery sale, “After the sale, I thought, ‘OK, I can do something I love and make money doing it.’ If that hadn’t happened, I would have never had the confidence to go out and sell something I made for a living.”
The business—Blair Made—emerged from her desire to do something with her husband, Steven Woerner, a 2016 graduate of BC, and make a little extra money. Her husband wanted to do woodworking, while she wanted to be the designer for whatever they made together. They launched a business out of their home making wooden signs that they sold on Etsy. In the first month they sold 40 signs, and business has snowballed from there.
When they ran out of room in their Staunton, Va., home, they rented a studio workspace and hired their first employee. As sales continued to increase—and as they grew tired of carrying materials up to the third floor—Woerner noticed an empty storefront on Beverley Street in Staunton, a prime downtown location. Though she never would have expected it when they first started the business, they opened a storefront location in November 2020.
The inside of the Blair Made store is filled with modern farmhouse-style signs featuring quotes and spring-inspired floral themes. They continue to make customized orders as well.
“We want the art we put into people’s homes to be meaningful, something that’s going to last,” she says.
In addition to signs, the storefront now offers candles, T-shirts, jewelry and decorative pillows, while the back and upper level serve as the workspace and shipping headquarters.
Woerner finds joy in the freedom and flexibility of owning her own business: “Making my own schedule, bringing my dog to work with me [Hiro, a border collie mix, is the store mascot and greeter], designing the store, coming up with our next things.” “I’d love to have a five-year plan, but the last five years have taught me that I couldn’t begin to plan the next five!” she says. “All we can do is keep doing the next right thing, and things will fall into place.”