January 2024 – With no formal training and a day job at a residential cabinet shop, Allison Samuels (she/they) came to CFC for a two-week Casework and Tambour Door workshop in 2017, to increase their skills and confidence as a designer, maker, and teacher. “While there are similarities between solid casework and residential cabinetry, there are enormous design and construction differences. The workshop was the beginning of my love affair with furniture and the design world and ushered me into the next phase in my business and career.”
Since 2018, Allison has been running her business, Two Tree Studios, which mainly focuses on furniture commissions through local architects and interior designers. Additionally, a substantial part of their studio practice is materials research and exploration. “One of my big questions as a designer and craftsperson is to look beyond wood for more regenerative and local materials, in particular those which would otherwise be deemed waste.” They recently launched a collection of sculptural furniture, featuring traditional wood joinery techniques and some experimental surface treatments such as raw pigments and natural resins. Allison continues to explore a variety of unique building materials, including sorghum bagasse fiber waste, which they are prototyping into lighting and furniture.
In 2020, Allison started The Level Up Project (TLUP) as an equity-driven platform and educational initiative, which aims to increase accessibility within the fields of craft and design. “It was born out of a personal desire to not be one of ‘the only ones’ in any wood shop I entered. I wanted my life as a woodworker and designer to better reflect my life outside of the shop – that is, with majority-queer, female, trans*, gender non-conforming, and creatives of color.” In addition to the nearly two dozen multi-disciplinary virtual workshops hosted since 2020, TLUP has been working with a NYC Title One transfer high school and an art college to develop and implement year-round, collaborative, hands-on programming with students from both schools and TLUP professionals. Allison currently divides her time between Two Tree Studios and TLUP as a designer, maker, teacher, and administrator.