This interview is part of our FRESHMakers series, a collaboration with Arizona-born, Brooklyn-based photographer Guerin Blask. For this project, Blask took portraits of New Yorkers he finds inspiring: ”I wanted to capture the faces behind the work I so admire. Each of these entrepreneurs has had a major impact on my daily life over the past decade, and I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to photograph each of them in his or her element.” Ariele Alasko is one of them.
Furniture wizard Ariele Alasko grew up in the trees of coastal California. No, actually in them. “My bedroom was a treehouse for most of my life, built by my dad in our big beautiful backyard full of oak trees,” Alasko told Brooklyn Magazine. And that proximity to trees at a young age explains why Alasko has such a knack for molding and crafting wood into wall panels and furniture that as much objets d’art as they are functional furnishings.
Alask moved to Brooklyn to go to school at Pratt, where she studied sculpture, dabbling in woodworking and welding on the side. After she graduated in 2009, Alasko began building furniture for her own apartment, and what started as a hobby quickly became a full-time job.
“I realized I didn’t want to pursue a career in the ‘art world,’ and after a few random jobs working for other artists, I quit and decided I’d only be happy branching out on my own,” Alasko said. “My dad decided to open a restaurant in California, so I spent seven months building and designing the entire space from scratch. It was there that I really taught myself how to build tables, frame and sheetrock walls to code, build booths, construct a bar, etc. When I got back to New York, I just kept going from there. Pretty much everything I know in the woodworking field is something I taught myself, from butterfly joints to spoon carving.”
That’s what particularly striking about Alasko’s work: The scale that she operates means that each piece, from a handcrafted wooden chain to a full wall panel to a dining room table have incredible attention to detail, each slat forming a geometric pattern.