The ear-jarring purr of a chop saw… the unmistakable scent of freshly cut wood and sawdust… Oh, yeah. Bring it on.
There are special properties to wood that remain hidden unless one physically works with it, gets one’s hands dirty, breathes that dust, learns that grain, that temperament, that joy…
Ariele Alasko, of Brooklyn to West, understands. This New York City-based artist – furniture maker, photographer, sculptress, blogger, cook – takes salvaged wood & reclaimed “junk” into her Brooklyn home and out of those castaways makes this delightful stuff. Her work is a living example of why home furnishings should be hand made.
The lady herself is an example of how life and art cannot and should not be separate.
A native of Monterey, CA, Ariele moved to New York six years ago when she was accepted into art school at Pratt, “instantly fell in love with the grungy part of Brooklyn”, and made the latter her home. She studied as a sculptor. Yet there was always a propensity for making sculptures that fit into houses, and in time this passion translated into building reclaimed furniture.
Pretty much everything in her apartment is either thrift, reclaimed, or rebuilt. Ariele’s personal space clearly sings of her creativity and adroitness: from a street-gleaned lamp with a shade made of vintage sewing patterns, to delectable-looking strawberry cupcakes, to the staircase which she de-carpeted, sanded, and repainted herself.
Ariele regularly scavenges from demolition sites & dumpsters around Brooklyn and out in the countryside sources wood from abandoned barns, demolished homes, and the like. Her lamps are made of such diverse materials as bundt cake pans, vintage donut molds, old barbel parts & pipe fittings, industrial whisks, old gears, and used toilet pipes. A veritable hardware store!
But the artist’s own words best describe her work. The Brooklyn To West blog allows us to see Ariele’s world through her eyes – a world of resourcefulness, imagination, and unexpected beauty.
Like taking three ugly boards, an old soda crate, and an off-cut 1×1 and with them creating this nifty hanging drawer/stove-side counterspace thingy. (Yes, I said “thingy”.) Or like taking a runty green castaway table and fitting it with a gorgeous mixed-wood chevron topper to create this.
And while crafting furniture and housewares from salvaged goods is an increasingly widespread idea, it’s the aura of Ariele’s work that sets it apart.
For example, consider the leaf wall of her studio. Less of a wall and more of an foliage undulation, the project took her about a month to complete and is composed entirely of eucalyptus leaves.
Part of the charm of her work is its cheerful, chaotic geometry, and the way she integrates pattern & texture into her work using just the raw materials. The wood is left barely finished or entirely raw, depending on the needs of each piece, allowing not only the grain but the whole personality of the salvaged wood to shine. Doing so is important to the nature of her creations.
“I remember building the chevron wall of lath at my restaurant,” she said. “And at least seven people walked in over a period of days… and they asked what color are you going to paint that? As a silent retaliation, I didn’t even sand it. I left it raw, natural and rough, pure and colorful.”
Ariele creates headboards, cheeseboards, tables, lighting and window seats, among other curiosities, but her greatest project resides over 2,000 miles away, in Pacific Grove, CA – the six-month labor of love that became the restaurant il vecchio.
“Taking a sixteen foot truck across the country,” she recalled, “my dearest friend Amelie and I drove for nine days, stopping at abandoned diners, farms, junk stores, and anywhere else our love of the old and decrepit told us to stop. We arrived in California with a truck full of barn wood and old chairs, and that’s where I began my six month journey of building and designing an entire restaurant from scratch – building the bar and thirty tables myself!”
There’s quiet courage in that accomplishment. And wonder, and joy. And all that translates into her art.
I find Ariele admirable. While reading her blog I delight in her salvaged creations, her writer’s “voice”, the lovely photography… and, yes, can’t get enough of the shop cat, which features in many of said photographs. Her blog is a pleasure to see and addictive to read. And did I mention the lovely photography?
Go check it out and get inspired.
Images courtesy of Ariele Alasko.