Ethan Abramson of Long Island, N.Y. has a work ethic and outgoing persona that are as impressive as his craftsmanship. The 37-year-old started woodworking in his mid-20s and opened his first shop in 2008. He has since developed an extensive portfolio of custom pieces, a furniture line, and a high profile as an educator, presenter and content creator.
“I give 110 percent to every one of those things, whether it be the custom furniture, or the line of furniture, the social media or the event hosting, or even the podcast that I’m doing, plus any other thing that comes my way on a daily basis,” says Abramson. “They all could be full-time jobs. So, I respect each one of them as that because you can’t be successful in something if you don’t respect its time.”
Abramson grew up on Long Island and New York City and considers himself a lifetime New Yorker, though he’s traveled throughout the world. He’s worked in advertising, interior design and the music industry at Macy’s, Calvin Klein and Sony, for example. Through some sole searching, woodworking emerged as his passion.
“I did a tremendous amount of stuff and none of it made me happy,” he says. “These were impressive, big companies that I worked with, but I just wasn’t happy and one day I decided to find what I could do from the beginning of the day to the end, building with my own hands, that I don’t have to send overseas or up a corporate ladder.”
Making the connection
Abramson began his woodworking career with an unpaid apprenticeship at a cabinet shop, where he worked his way up to shop foreman. He worked for another shop until he decided to go out on his own. This was during the Great Recession, but that didn’t stop him.
“In retrospect, it was a hard time to start a business. But at the same time, it’s always hard to start a business and it’s even harder to start a furniture business. I was lucky enough to be in an area in New York City and the surrounding areas where people were still interested in having furniture built, and I went from there,” he says.
“I continuously offered the type of customer service that I saw was sometimes lacking in the custom furniture world. And I just really wanted to be that personable furniture maker people would go to because yes, they respected the work and respected that final outcome, but they also wanted to have that good experience with somebody and connect with somebody on a level that might be a little bit beyond furniture.”
He eventually moved to a larger shop in Brooklyn, then to Westchester County. His furniture was getting a lot of attention and he had as many as five employees filling orders.
“Early on I got a lot of quality press which led to interest in my work. I also put my energy into showing at design events like the Architectural Digest Design Show and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which really pushed me into the limelight. I was young and had a lot of energy and had a lot of passion, and all of those elements combined to get me started down a solid path.”
The Covid outbreak brought another move and the downsizing to his current one-man shop.
“When Covid began we shut down pretty quickly and gave the shop over to the local government to stockpile medical needs or whatever they needed, and now I’ve moved four-plus hours away and it’s hard to hire on new employees when no one was allowed to interact with anyone. I’m looking into building the shop back up now.”
Abramson is inspired by the things he sees on a daily basis, whether it be nature or a cityscape, he says.
“I would definitely say modern with a nod to the past, whether it’s a joinery technique or a look that invokes an older-style piece but is morphed into a newer, more modern design.
“You could describe my earlier pieces as having very natural curves or slightly delicate features that blended together to make a solid piece. But as I progressed, the style also progressed where pieces got a little bit too delicate. I had to move into another medium, like steel, so I could still evoke that delicateness.”
Out and about
Abramson moonlights as a writer and presenter. He has a podcast, Building a Furniture Brand with Ethan Abramson, and hosted the IWF in 2016 and 2018, and AWFS in 2019 and 2021.
“I am a very outgoing person and I enjoy meeting people and making connections because through any job that I’ve ever had, the connections you build are the most important part,” he says. “They’re the part that gets you to where you want to be. So, I started writing for some publications, started getting my name out there and started getting invited to some events.”
He’s also a proud promotor of the profession. “I don’t want the trade of woodworking and furniture making to vanish under the shiny veneer of the media, or the internet or digital technology. I believe there will always be a place for something that’s handmade in people’s lives and want to make sure that’s continued in generations to come.”
This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue.