Brooke Wade was once a professional ballet dancer, but after the economy collapsed in 2008, she was forced to dance for free. Amidst a dance hiatus, she came across Brooklyn Farm Table, a Red Hook collective that used reclaimed wood from all five boroughs to fashion tables from scratch. She read an article about them and daydreamed, “If I wasn't so busy, I would just go there and learn how to make tables.” A few years later, she gave them a call. Now, she’s a woodworker with her own company, her own style, and her own line of delicate, masterfully-made products.
Dance dictated Brooke’s entire life. What she ate, where she lived, what she could and couldn't do. After her breakup with ballet, Brooke studied creative writing and explored New York City, but felt as though she didn’t have a real track. For some inexplicable reason, woodworking lingered in the back of her mind like some distant fantasy. Brooklyn Farm Table, specifically. After her post-graduation job hunt totally flatlined, she stopped fantasizing.
“I was like ‘fuck it.’ I am going to work for Brooklyn Farm Table.”
She sought out the owner of Brooklyn Farm Table, Ralph Gorham, and found he also owned the Red Hook Lobster Pound, a restaurant (not a pound for abandoned lobsters, as we maybe, definitely thought). Within an hour of calling the restaurant, she was connected with Ralph. Although Brooklyn Farm Table was no more, (sadly, they lost all of their wood and equipment during Hurricane Sandy) Ralph put her in touch with other women woodworkers for advice and support.
“When I was applying for more corporate jobs in the city, it had been so impossible to get anyone’s attention. This guy was so friendly and willing to talk and help me out. It was eye opening, and made me feel like I was doing the right thing.”
She started her woodworking making cabinets in Greenpoint. She was an apprentice of sorts - a total newbie - but immediately felt at ease despite her lack of experience.
“It came really naturally to me. Working with wood was so satisfying. I realized that mind and body work is what I’m really suited to do. In my college years I loved what I was doing, reading and writing, but in the long term what I really needed was to make something with my body or with my hands.”
She quickly grew the confidence to dabble with her own creations: small little gifts, cutting boards. This was in 2009 and 2010, when the reclaimed wood movement just started to explode.
“Brooklyn Farm Table really believed in this lack of waste and that everything you make should have a story. I wanted that to be a part of what I was doing, too. And the thought that somebody would buy my cutting board, which has such a story because of the wood, and want that story embedded in their life every single day - that’s really special.”
Brooke’s pieces feel different, and in a way, the beauty of Brooklyn lives in each spoon or cutting board or napkin holder. When looking at her work in person, each item almost glistens. You can tell that the wood is pure, perfectly finished, and the best she could possibly find.
“My dad was an architect. I remember looking at the houses he would build and thinking ‘now a family lives there, they inhabit it. That’s where their lives happen.’ I realize lives are happening in Brooklyn and beyond, with my wood and with my pieces, and I think that’s beautiful.”