Thom Bertolacini makes turned-wood bowls and carved utensils in his workshop in Newark. His experience with wood stretches all the way back to high school, where he frustrated his shop teacher with his tendency to use the dimensions that he envisioned in his head instead of carefully planned ones on paper. Yet with his teacher’s guidance, he ultimately finished a cherry-wood cabinet after two years of hard work. Since then, Bertolacini has done various carpentry work for his church and community, but he traces the beginnings of his bowl and utensil making to the tools and wood lathe he inherited from his grandfather, a machinist and machine-broker.
An experienced hunter, gardener, and spelunker, Bertolacini speaks knowledgeably about using natural resources. Most of the wood he works with comes from his own property, with storms naturally felling trees on his land and that of his neighbors. “We can choose to use that resource or just cut it up and burn it,” he explains. “I do both. I work with wood; I heat with wood.”