Ariele Alasko is a dumpster diver. She seeks out discarded wood in Bed-Stuy, where she also lives, and turns it into one-of-a-kind headboards, coffee tables, dining tables and wall panels. She showcases the construction process for her pieces on her blog Brooklyn to West, a website devoted to both her work and her love of woodworking.
“Wood sort of found its way into my life slowly,” says Alasko who moved to Brooklyn from California to attend Pratt Institute. “I certainly wasn’t particularly drawn to it even my first year of college, but somewhere around my second year, I began using it as a medium for various sculptures. I slowly began to appreciate it more–its beauty. After I graduated was when I really began to love it. Suddenly I found myself wanting to reply to the question of ‘What is your favorite color?’ with the answer of ‘wood grain’ in place of ‘turquoise.’”
With a hand saw, wood glue, sandpaper, hand planer and some chisels, Alasko carves and builds incredible, and functional, works of art.
“With those simple tools, it’s amazing what you can make,” she says. “”My business definitely was not planned for. I spontaneously quit my day job, and with some great timing, my father decided to open up his own restaurant in California. I spent seven months building and designing tables, the bar, walls, bathrooms, host stations, water stations–everything–and it was shortly after that that I realized furniture was my future. From that point it was a slow start of building things in my home and growing slowly, until I had a large enough following that I felt I could afford moving into a larger studio space.”
Alasko finished her dad’s restaurant in 2011, rented a 16-foot truck and drove across the country with her friend Amelie Mancini, the French-born, Brooklyn-based painter and printmaker who founded Left Field Cards, collecting wood and chairs along the way back to Brooklyn.
Custom orders range from $225 for small panels to $1,200 for king-size headboards; table prices are available upon request. Turnaround is slow–a headboard can take four to six weeks, a coffee or dining table up to five months, depending on how much wood and what type she finds in her dives. She mainly scores plaster lath and small beams, and the only thing she buys is plywood for the bases of headboards and tables. “Since everything is salvaged from demolition sites, it’s not always plentiful,” she says. “Also it depends on how many people are in front of you on the wait list.”
“Right now, I’m content with where my business is,” Alasko says. “It takes a long time to build all my work, so my productivity is relatively low, but that’s part of what makes it so special.”