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 A few weeks ago we had the pleasure to visit New York Heartwoods in their beautiful studio in Accord, NY. The crew graciously let us dress them up for a day of work and honored us by actually getting dirty. We're proud to know them and to introduce you to Megan, the intrepid soul behind New York Heartwoods.

Meet Megan Offner.

Mae of 4 to Megan of NYH: We have been friends for over 20 years now, I can't believe it.  It has been an amazing journey and a real privilege to watch you follow the path of your inspired dreams with grace, humor and curiosity. I'm so happy for your success and in awe of the impact, importance and lasting beauty of the things you do.

Please, tell us how New York Heartwoods came to be.


NYH was ultimately born out of a deep desire for a creative livelihood that could be healing for myself and the natural world around me. I grew up in Montana and witnessed a lot of clear cuts, so the destructive tendencies of the commercial timber industry had an immense impact on me. Then, in the 2000s, I was living in Brooklyn where you're constantly confronted with an incredible amount of waste. I was working in fashion and advertising set design for print media where most things quickly ended up in a dumpster. I kept thinking about the trees that were getting cut just to be thrown away. Concurrently, I was renovating a house and was sick from the toxicity in the standard building materials. Determined to figure out a way to work that was truly aligned with my values and personal health, I enrolled in permaculture, sustainable design, and silviculture programs. The last course I took, in 2010, focused on regenerative forest management practices, identifying and felling dying/diseased trees to improve forest health, and milling lumber to create sustainable wood products. It lit me up and I KNEW this is what I was going to do, even though I was still living in Williamsburg and had zero idea how. Two weeks later, things started falling into place. I was introduced to a sawyer who was close to retirement and trained me to use his portable bandsaw mill. Nine months later, we worked out a barter to set up NYH on his land so I moved up to start milling full-time.
The weekend I moved was that of Hurricane Irene so my mission became about keeping trees out of chippers and landfills and getting that wood into people's homes and businesses. Then came Hurricane Sandy...
Furniture requests soon started rolling in so I subbed out projects until I could build up a wood shop. Eileen Fisher contacted us in 2013 and was our first big client. The fabrication side grew to the point where it was too difficult to also keep cutting and drying our own wood so I closed down the mill site in 2016. 
In 2017 our first furniture collection was released. Having a team of talented furniture makers allowed me to refocus on why I started the business and less than a year later we started helping people design & make furniture from their own trees.
In late 2019 the space I was renting fell apart on multiple levels and my team took on other work while I figured out how to move the business. I secured a better spot, but had no employees when the pandemic started and the exodus from the city to the Hudson Valley began. We were slammed. A brilliant Brooklyn-based furniture maker, Ashira Israel, that I used to sell wood and sub projects out to, came on to run our production and has become a partner. A few months later we hired an incredible assistant, Lindsay Black. We've had other auxiliary people help us out as needed, and for the last couple years Steve Spinellla has been working with us as well, he's a gem. 
With them spearheading fabrication, I'm able to focus on more "full-circle" site-based projects, and almost 2/3 of our orders this year have been upcycling our clients' own trees/wood. As part of creating localized solutions to climate challenges, and efforts to conserve healthy forests - which we need now more than ever, it's an incredibly fulfilling way to work.

4: How important is it that NYH is a woman-owned and operated business? Did it come about by happenstance or was it always the intention as you grew to have women partners?  

For the first couple years, NYH operated with the help of my male mentor, his brother, and my boyfriend at the time who had a finance degree and knew the nuts and bolts of starting and running a business. Over the years NYH has hired accross the full gender spectrum. Since 2020, having a core team of all women has helped us create a foundation that reflects how we work best, versus the historically male industry baseline. We allow for flexible schedules, work collaboratively, and are committed to humane work-life balance. Linsday posted this about the inner workings: 
"My actual favorite thing we make…are decisions based on the health and well-being of the people that make this work happen. To conduct ourselves in such a way that lends itself to a reimagining of what working dynamics can look like. There is a people forward perspective that exists here, that leads with the credence that when people are acknowledged and supported, where it’s understood that their lives are dimensional, the business will follow."
 That we're mostly women is happenstance, though I do love that we create an environment that helps those underrepresented in our industry to thrive.

4. What is your favorite aspect of the business and why? 

That more and more I get to be outside, in the woods with trees, collaborating with really wonderful people on creative solutions to design needs that everyone feels really really good about. Co-creation, resourcefulness and problem solving are my happy places. And we get to bring all of our dogs to work (we have up to 5 a the shop on any given day)

4. What is next for NYH? 

We're expanding! With the consulting and furniture sides both continuing to grow, Ashira is fully taking over fabrication and will be adding designs to our product line and seeking more aligned interior designers and corporate clients (we currently work with Etsy and Google). I'll focus on the consulting side to help more architects, interior designers, artists, and homeowners to work with their onsite forest resources, and be able to work on projects across the country. There are a couple new institutional, hospitality and art projects coming up that I can't wait to get involved with. 
The two branches of NYH will continue to dovetail, though the freedom to focus on the things we do best will make the whole stronger and allow us to have more impact. With so many trees sucuuming to storms, insects and fire, the need to conserve forests is more urgent than ever. Our contribution is by helping others integrate more fallen and removed trees into the built environment, designing elegant solutions that increase local resiliency and connect people with the natural world.

4. Yes, please and more of that! 

As part of this interview NYH is offering 20% off their Collection or a site visit to work with wood from your own trees. Email them through their Contact page with your request.

All product images are copyright @newyorkheartwoods
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