DAMDAM

Conversations with

Allison Samuels

BY GISELLE GO

Photographs by Allison Samuels

Through minimalist design and strong craftsmanship, Two Tree Studios’ wooden goods allow its users to derive meaning from everyday products found in homes. Every board, utensil, and furniture is handmade – from start to finish – by founder Allison Samuels whose vision for her pieces is a lifetime of good use.

While cabinetry may sound like a rare vocation today, a childhood surrounded by lush forests and rock-filled rivers has informed Allison’s eye (and hands) for simple, nature-based design and a strong interest in preserving natural resources. Here, a chat with the Brooklynite on her consciously made products, morning rituals, and the best antidote after a full day working with dust and wood!

Hi, Allison! Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m from a tiny town about fifty miles north along the Hudson River from where I currently live, in Brooklyn New York. These days, I run a small studio in East Williamsburg, and am the sole producer and designer of a line of wooden home goods, as well as custom furniture and cabinetry.

Inside Allison’s atelier.

“I daydream a lot about green building and design as well– thinking through how to build homes and communities that are consciously low-impact on the environment. In fact, one of my lifetime goals is to go beyond ‘low-impact’ towards restorative environmental design. To me this also necessitates a more holistic, self-sustaining lifestyle.”

How did the idea for Two Tree Studios come about and how did you bring it to reality? 

After a number of years spent in Baltimore and Philadelphia, I moved back to New York and began an informal apprenticeship with a high-end cabinetry shop. It is through this introduction to the trades world that I fell in love with woodworking. Two Tree Studios was born out of an intense desire to create special objects for myself and those I care about, as opposed to working within the strict parameters of traditional cabinetry.

After my first year in business, I was able to transition to my own studio space, which has allowed me both mental and physical flexibility to develop my thoughts and creative practices – on my own time. I keep returning to the idea that at its core, Two Tree Studios is about developing a unique visual / kinesthetic language, and through that better understanding how I and others relate to the spaces and objects closest to us.

What inspires your work?

Looking at detailed, complex joinery gets my brain spinning about what fun new things I could make with old techniques. Touching or seeing abstract sculpture, usually stone or ceramic, helps me conceive of new possibilities within my own medium. Handling raw lumber makes me want to get started.

What does sustainability mean to you? 

I think about sustainability in a few ways. In terms of my lifestyle, I try to be conscious of balancing work, play and restful rejuvenation, and my tendency to burn out through overworking. I do my best to align my values with my actions – such as where I spend my money, being mindful of my consumption and waste. I also consider communication and relationships within a “sustainability” framework; how can I contribute to a cycle of empathetic, positive relationships that have a ripple effect in my extended communities?

I daydream a lot about green building and design as well– thinking through how to build homes / structures / communities that are consciously low-impact on the environment. In fact, one of my lifetime goals is to go beyond “low-impact” towards restorative environmental design. To me this also necessitates a more holistic, self-sustaining lifestyle.

Lust-worthy hand-crafted wooden objects from the studio.

“After long and dusty days in the shop, I love to shower and scrub the dirt away, usually while burning one of my many tobacco or fir-scented candles. I’ll then tone and moisturize my face and neck, and mostly remember to lotion my whole body while the pores are all open and happy.”

Do you have a morning ritual? 

My morning inevitably begins with coffee and cream, and a quick check of the morning’s emails. On days I don’t need to head straight to the studio, I love to get through a couple sections of the paper (New York Times forever and always), and possibly jot down some design or future-research ideas that pop up along the way. I find that allowing my mind the space to focus on things other than “work”  inevitably allows for passive generation of new ideas that I would not have been able to see straight-on.

Do you have a beauty ritual? 

I’m getting better about taking care of my skin, which is something I saw my mom do every morning and night from a very young age. Particularly after long and dusty days in the shop, I love to shower and scrub the dirt away (cold water in the summer is my favorite!), usually while burning one of my many tobacco or fir-scented candles. I’ll then tone and moisturize my face and neck, and mostly remember to lotion my whole body while the pores are all open and happy.

What do you do on days when you need to unwind and unplug?

A combination of art viewing and being within nature helps me feel refreshed and relaxed. It’s a perfect day if I get in some yoga in the morning, and whiskey in the evening.

At home surrounded by things made and loved.

“A combination of art viewing and being within nature helps me feel refreshed and relaxed. It’s a perfect day if I get in some yoga in the morning, and whiskey in the evening.”

Can you share some of your favorite places in Brooklyn?

Colina Cuervo for coffee; McCarren Park farmers market to drop off the compost and pick up some freshly baked bread from She Wolf Bakery; Noguchi museum to get inspired; bike to the Red Hook waterfront for mini key lime pies; Blueprint for cocktails.

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