Leaving your day job to move back home, rediscover your roots, and work from a garage is a self-starter’s fantasy, a romantic notion that seems torn from the pages of a novel. For woodworker Blake Sloane and social worker/photographer Jonaki Sanyal, it’s a reality. The two grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, but lived in Chicago for a 10-year stint. Upon returning home to the DC area, this time with a newborn in tow, the couple set to work renovating their 1930s home and documenting it fastidiously along the way. The project solidified Blake and Jonaki’s passion for woodworking and design and soon morphed into a full-fledged business. Today, Forty Third Place is a multi-pronged affair, taking on freelance design and photography work and selling art crafted from reclaimed wood. DC-based photographer Adrien Radford recently stopped by the Maryland studio of Forty Third Place to get a closer look. Take a peek below!
Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Forty Third Place is the umbrella for all of the creative endeavors for me and my wife Jonaki Sanyal. What started as a project to document the rehab project of our 1930’s home in Hyattsville, Md has morphed into our business that focuses primarily on custom woodwork and carpentry. We also make artwork, serving trays, and other wood products from the reclaimed materials left over from our bigger projects.
Tell us about your studio space.
Our workshop is in the basement of our home in a quiet neighborhood just minutes outside of DC. Its quite cozy at 350 square feet, but we often spill into our driveway and garage. Working from home is a dream, and me and my wife get to spend a lot of time with our little kids aged 1 and 3.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
After breakfast with my wife and kids, I head down to the basement and answer emails and make a to do list for the day. On the best days I get to work in the shop actually building things all day. Other days I am out delivering and installing work or meeting clients or hunting for materials. Most nights after out children go to bed, Jonaki (who is also a part time social worker by day) and I do design work or layout and glue up our artwork while listening to music or watching movies or shows.
Tell us about your design and manufacturing process.
We like to let materials influence the design and our serving trays are a great example of that. We had an abundance of old pine lath left over from ripping down walls while rehabbing our home a few years ago. We started experimenting with shapes and it was really addictive.
The manufacturing process starts with de-nailing a huge pile of locally reclaimed wood and processing it–with the help of a table saw–into thousands of uniform geometric shapes. We are particularly fond of the rhombus. These shapes get glued in a thoughtful way to a plywood substrate. Add some sides with handles and you have a tray. Lastly we coat the tray with a very eco-friendly whey based finish.
What (or who) inspires you the most?
We are inspired by old things: architecture, furniture, and objects well crafted a long time ago but still beautiful and functional today. These days we get endless inspiration from our children and their magical perspective on everything.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
Its a great time to be a maker right now with how easy social media has made it to find your audience and market yourself. There is simultaneously a great movement of people who appreciate well designed, handmade, one of a kind items and are willing to invest in them.
Why do you love DC?
We grew up in the suburbs of DC and never gave it its due. After spending over a decade in Chicago it been nice to come back and gain a new appreciation for how charming DC is. And also the weather!
What’s next for you?
We are very busy with custom work and very excited that most of whats on the horizon are the whimsical and artistic projects that we’ve been hoping to become known for.