Woodworker brings art into the kitchen
By Jessica Laskey
Thomas Cannell is in the business of making beautiful, useful things.
A native of Newcastle, England, Cannell is the expert woodworker behind Block & Bowl, a new venture he launched with his wife Rosemarie in April to merge his passions for cooking and carpentry.
As a youngster, Cannell spent weekends building things in his grandfather’s backyard woodworking shop. He also loved to spend time in the kitchen and intended to become a chef upon graduating from high school. But his mother insisted he learn a trade.
Cannell set off on a two-year carpentry apprenticeship that turned into a five-year job as a cabinetmaker—in between some work in local kitchens.
In 2010, Cannell decided to travel. He moved to Whistler, a Canadian resort where he quickly found restaurant jobs. He also found the love of his life, meeting Rosemarie on her annual Whistler snowboarding trip. He followed her to Los Angeles where she finished pharmacy school at USC.
After moving for Rosemarie’s job—first to Seattle in 2014, then Sacramento in 2018—Cannell admits carpentry became more of a hobby while he focused on his dream to attend culinary school for baking and pastry arts.
Though he flexed his woodworking muscles doing home renovations, he didn’t make carpentry his full-time focus until this year, when the pandemic gave him time for his workshop at the couple’s Land Park home.
“The transition back into carpentry has really worked out,” says Cannell, who creates beautiful kitchen and home goods, such as chopping blocks, serving boards, egg holders, muddlers and rolling pins. “Friends and family wanted things, so we started an Etsy page—and now we’re shipping things all over the country. We’ve been lucky, everything snowballed pretty fast.”
Every piece is lovingly staged and snapped by Rosemarie—an avid food and travel photographer—and then posted online on the Block & Bowl website or on Etsy. Cannell’s pieces are available in person at Details Mercantile on Riverside Boulevard, Crocker Cutlery on H Street and The Pip Wine Bar & Shop in Dixon.
Each piece is unique and can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to make. Cannell explains the time varies depending on the size and number of pieces of wood involved.
Many of his chopping boards have exotic woods from South America and Africa in vibrant colors inlaid into a neutral-colored body of maple, cherry or walnut. A typical Cannell board goes through several steps: First the lumber is milled, then planed, glued, set and planed again. The corners are sanded and styled, then the whole board is submerged in mineral oil, drip-dried and coated in beeswax to seal the surface and toughen it for everyday use. Each piece comes with a tin of beeswax and care instructions.
Now that he’s back to serious woodworking, Cannell plans to add cabinetry and other pieces, including coffee tables and dining tables to his inventory. He’d love to collaborate with local restaurants and hotels on custom boards now that the world is back to dining out.
“I love making things that people can actually use,” he says.
For information, visit blockandbowl.com.