Words and Photos by Olivia Bauso
Though there are many theories related to the psychology of horror, there is no single explanation for why we seek to be scared. Abigail Miller, owner of unSpooky Laughter, however, sums it up as a universal feeling: “It’s the appeal of getting that tingly feeling where you want to fold it into you, to make it a part of yourself.”
Abigail has reserved a special place in her heart for all things spooky. She keeps Halloween decorations in her house year-round to remind her of the wonder, the shiver and the magic of the holiday. She says, “I can’t do the jump scares or the gory everyday, but I can go for something fun or whimsical.” Her quirky appearance makes this interest unsurprising.
Abigail has matched her love of Halloween with a passion for painting. Her business itself is a nod to the shiver she loves so much. Through pen and ink, watercolor and wash, Abigail creates whimsical contemplative studies pulled from her life experiences. Her experiences, though not always spooky, are typically represented in a dark or wondrous fashion. As she describes, her pieces often have a “a loose splash of color with tighter details pulled in” and an element of spook! Her art can be found at local craft shows or online.
As a native Rochesterian Abigail grew up locally, but attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts before returning to back to her roots. There she studied the philosophy of education, which has informed her position as a paraprofessional in a local middle school. Her compassionate nature comes to light in her daily tasks: assisting students, giving them confidence in their work and acting as a safe person in the classroom.
About five years ago, Abigail was in an art store where she found a beginner watercolor kit. A voice in her head told her, “That’s it. That’s what you need to pick up.” For Abigail, art had always been in her life, but was just living in the background. She’s always drawn, painted, crafted, knitted, crocheted and woodturned--the works, but after suffering from chronic pain in her wrist was forced to brush some of her more active hobbies to the wayside. This was when she found a gentleness in watercolor. As she explains, “You just kiss the paper with the brush. Even on my worst days, watercolor was still something I could do.” In fact, when she had surgery, she began painting with her left hand because she was driven “bonkers” without her paints.
Aside from making art, Abigail indulges in several hobbies including baking, spinning yarn, and great love of growing unusual corn. She also creates time lapse videos of herself painting, and posts them on YouTube. “Though that’s a related hobby, I suppose,” she laughs. Another related hobby Abigail has taken on is diving into serious research about building her business and herself as a business woman. She explains, “In some ways, it’s sort of like my therapy. It still forces me to address a lot of the things that are very human for me to work on.” By this she means pinpointing her strengths and weaknesses, learning how to approach customers and the hardest of all, learning to always speak positively of herself and her work. “Its therapeutic and beneficial; something warm in my life-- and I’m very thankful for the warmth in my life,” she adds.
Through it all, Abigail believes it’s been a gift to paint everyday. She says, “I know and appreciate that I’m the one painting, but I don’t think it ever would have turned into this beautiful, amazing thing without all these supportive people in my life. The gift has always been having people there with me.” She continues to say that while selling her work keeps the business alive, it’s the “side effects” that keeps her going. Her favorite part of all is simply connecting with her customers-- learning what they see in her work and how they connect with a piece of art. “It’s a great way to meet people, they just show up,” Abigail laughs. “I get to say ‘hello’ and learn about them and what their plans are. That’s my favorite part of selling at Rochester Brainery-- the customers love craft, art and supporting local business, so they’re pretty cool people to connect with.”
Come connect with Abigail Miller of unSpooky Laughter and over 20 more vendors on February 11th from 11am to 5pm at our February Brainery Bazaar. As always, the first 25 guests will receive a free Rochester Brainery tote bag filled with goodies from us and our vendors.
Words and Photos by Olivia Bauso