The CNCed Dreams of Shaina Tabak

February 16th, 2022

In Review is a recurring feature in the Pink Essay newsletter where we explore the work of a particular designer or artist, from their perspective. 

For this iteration, we’re hearing from the New York-based Shaina Tabak, who crafts abstract furniture that twirls in upon itself to form contortions frozen in time. 

Photos: Tiffany Ng & Sean Davidson (Selections from Superhouse exhibition)

What do you wish people knew about your work?

I spend as much time thinking about it as I do making it. I value the time I spend daydreaming and working things out sporadically throughout the weeks leading up to fabrication as I do the hours spent fabricating. Maybe even more, because I like the idea to be as fleshed out as possible before I begin making.

The hardest part about making furniture is...

Precision? Or knowing when a piece is fleshed out enough. Those things are dependent on your personal standards and vision. I’m always working on incorporating more patience and slowness, something I think I could use more of and feel like people in any discipline learn for themselves in their earlier years. I had a conversation with somebody who told me that they will continue making the same piece (from start to finish) until they’re happy with where it lands. In my world of one-offs, hearing that inspired me to revisit some of my older pieces and begin to flesh out the parts that could use more time.

The weirdest part of making furniture is...

I’ve definitely spent many hours on different CNC CAM forums when troubleshooting programming issues. It leads to funny interactions at times, arguments at times (per the nature of online forums—everyone’s an expert).

How long it takes to make/average amount of time it takes to make:

I usually have a bunch of projects in and out of studio work that I do all at once, which causes any given thing I make to take 1-2 months of fabrication. If I worked regular business hours in studio, a piece would probably take 2-3 weeks to make.

Machine or handmade?

Both. In recent years I’ve chosen to focus on the machine because I find the possibilities endless and fascinating and worth taking my time to explore, but I also dream of one day apprenticing under a master woodworker or something. I think the machine also lends itself well to my current style.

Large or small?

Medium, sometimes small but I prefer medium. Large is a goal for the future but my scale reference is human-sized, usually for one person.

Natural or synthetic?

Both, together. I like placing natural and synthetic materials together in pieces, for conceptual and aesthetic reasons. If I had to choose one—natural. I feel a bit closer to nature when I work with wood, it’s humbling and beautiful.

Soft or rough?

Both, together. If I had to choose one it would probably be rough, I don’t like work that is too soft or friendly.

Who are you when you’re not making?

Someone that likes to observe, explore, see music shows, take the subway to parks and beaches, call friends, make instagram stories that are too long.

A favorite song to play when you're in the zone?

I feel like Russian music helps me keep good momentum and focus, the album Radio Nagra by Ivan Kupala puts me in a good place for that.︎

You can explore more of Shaina’s work at @shainatabak and


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