Diane Hanson and Holly Tunkel love textiles. That much is clear within seconds of entering the new studio where the duo operates Santa Fe homegrown business Mabel’s Table.
Antique Japanese material, shimmering with embroidered metal. Soft and one-of-a-kind French linens. Silks. Lace. Flax. Colors and textiles fill the space. Some will be incorporated into table runners, art coasters and additional table linen collections. Others are intended to remain one-of-a-kind fabrics—vintage, antique, global—art.
“This is my favorite part of what we do,” Tunkel says, as she brings over and exhibits recently acquired fabrics. “Sitting around with people and showing them the fabrics.”
“Is it?” Hanson asks. “I didn’t know that.”
Hanson and Tunkel are business partners, as well as mother and daughter. Hanson designs, sews, sells “and picks up all the loose threads,” Tunkel, who oversees production, says. The pair finish each other’s sentences and have been building a business together for the last year that combines a shared love of fabric that grows out of their family history: Mabel Crowley—the businesses’ namesake—Hanson’s grandmother and Tunkel’s great grandmother, was a seamstress and entrepreneur.
Mabel’s Table graduated from the 2018 bizMIX accelerator and has been on a swift trajectory in the past year. They’ve moved three times in need of larger spaces to accommodate their growing inventory, landing in their current studio a few months ago. Most significantly, they launched their website, which features stunning photography of their growing collections, as well as online sales. Focusing on retail versus wholesale represents a shift in thinking for the entrepreneurs.
“We went into bizMIX with a very old structure in mind,” Hanson, a former longtime gallery owner, says, noting that the two entered bizMIX thinking the bulk of sales would happen in brick and mortar spaces. Instead, the two decided to focus more on retail versus wholesale, to allow them—in part—more control over pricing and keeping some of their products within reach for customers.
Nonetheless, their wares are available in numerous shops as well as online. They are carried by Array, Detours at La Fonda, Shelby House: Spirited Goods, Taos Blue, El Rancho de Las Golondrinas museum, La Mesa of Santa Fe, and are in use at the Inn of The Five Graces.
Another major milestone happened when they decided to purchase antique and vintage textiles from designer Ann Lawrence’s estate. In talking with Lawrence and one another about this investment, Hanson and Tunkel realized it would help codify their passion and mission. The beauty and depth of the materials align with Hanson’s work as an artist and Tunkel’s training and vision as an archaeologist. They plan to offer some of the intact materials for sale as is, while incorporating other pieces into their contemporary lines. In this way, Tunkel says, the company is injecting beauty into “the every day,” and ensuring these important pieces endure in the world.
They also have been pursuing multiple avenues for their business. This included staffing a table at the recent International Association of Culinary Professionals conference held in Santa Fe. As a result of their conversations there, Hanson and Tunkel are now pursuing various leads with food professionals, including cookbooks and styling restaurant tables. Mabel’s Table’s indigo collection was recently used and featured at a dinner hosted by Maytag Dairy Farms in Iowa for celebrity Chef Carla Hall. Pick boxes and virtual appointments are also on their radar for their business.
And while their time in bizMIX officially ended last fall, they remain in touch with their mentors: brand architect Norm Zwail and City of Santa Fe Economic Development specialist Rich Brown. Both mentors continue to push and challenge them, Hanson and Tunkel say. “Rich Brown gives us assignments still,” Hanson says. “I can’t say enough about them.”
Overall, the bizMIX experience was crucial to Mabel’s Table.
“We think bizMIX saved us years of learning,” Tunkel says. “Not because it taught us everything, but it let us know the things we needed to know. It was challenging and we took it for real.”
Mabel’s Table is open for business. Visit the studio by appointment.