My Other Life with Tommaso Lesnick

PM360 recently spoke to Tommaso Lesnick, Associate Creative Director, Art at AbelsonTaylor, about the joys of woodworking.

PM360: How did you get started making furniture and home accessories from hardwoods?

Tommaso Lesnick: One year for the holidays, I decided to give everyone in my family something handmade. I thought some funky cutting boards might be just the thing. I had a few basic tools—an old jigsaw, a second-hand sander, and a drill. So I found a local hardwood specialty shop and bought a bunch of off-cuts (the leftovers). I thought it would be a great chance for me to learn a new skill and make one-of-a-kind gifts. Everyone got a different shaped board made of a different species of wood.

A cutting board and utensils that Tommaso made from maple.

When did you decide to create tommasomade to sell items?

I shared pictures of those boards with friends, who all said, “You should sell these—I’d buy one!” I thought it would be cool if I could sell enough to upgrade my tools. Working on the next batch of boards, I fell in love with the idea of taking rough pieces and working them as sculpture, making them smooth and inviting to touch. That year I made about 20 boards and sold most of them around the holidays. The next year I made and sold about 40 boards, and by the third year I made close to 70. I set up tommasomade as a place to direct word-of-mouth traffic. And that’s how it’s been for the last six years.

Can you share a little about your process for crafting a new piece?

Any tommasomade piece needs to have at least one thing about it that stands out as interesting to me. It can be the overall shape, the incorporation of a funky live edge (that’s where the exterior of the tree was—the bark side), or some interesting figure/grain pattern in the wood. Sometimes the natural contour of the tree section I’m using suggests a shape, sometimes the grain wants to split a particular way, and sometimes I have a form in mind that I think would work well with what the piece of wood offers. Once I’ve rough cut the basic shape, the piece continues to be refined at almost every step, getting just the right curve or transition from one surface to another, in a way that makes it feel like it’s always been there, just waiting to come out.

Tommaso transformed a piece of cherry wood into this vase.

Besides the furniture, cutting boards, utensils, and vases that you currently focus on making, is there anything else you would love to make in the future?

There are two new things I’m excited about: I’m starting to work on a few abstract, sculptural pieces that are intended to be just quiet, meditative objects. And with the utensils, I’ve stumbled across a whole tradition and community of green woodworking (made from freshly cut wood, not kiln-dried) which I’m just beginning to explore. I’m excited to see where both of these journeys lead.

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