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Samuel Pawlak comes from a family of achievers, and he didn’t waste any time leaving his own mark.
In college, the Big Flats native won a design competition by creating a product that was picked up and marketed by the Target department store chain.
Now, Pawlak owns two companies, one of which is in the process of rolling out a new high-end line of coffee tables.
And he’s only 25.
“I come from a very entrepreneurial family. It might be genetic to a certain extent,” said Pawlak, who likes designing things, and he’s always been highly motivated. “I didn’t know how or where or when, but I knew as soon as I entered the workforce, someday I wanted to own my own design studio. I didn’t know it would be this soon.
Big Flats native and entrepreneur Samuel Pawlak sits on a high-end coffee table he designed through his business, Livesay Ether. (Photo: Nick Artale/Provided photo)
“My dad David is an attorney in Big Flats; his only brother owns his own business. My grandfather owned his own businesses as well,” he said. “I was home-schooled all the way to 18. At 16, I started doing classes at Corning Community College part time. I had 27 college credits before I went to Philadelphia University. Only a few months before I had to pick a major, I discovered industrial design. Only a few places offer it. That was exactly what I was looking for.”
An early start
Pawlak was still in college when he designed his first product.
He was one of four industrial design students at Philadelphia University who won a design competition, “For Students, By Students,” run by Umbra, a Toronto-based home products design firm.
Pawlak won by designing “Cacti,” a desktop organizer that was selected for Target’s back-to-school line and is being sold online and in nearly 1,800 Target stores nationwide.
After graduating from Philadelphia University, Pawlak was recruited as a designer for Armstrong World Industries, an international manufacturer of walls and ceilings based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Pawlak, who still lives in Lancaster, enjoyed the work, but still dreamed of owning his own enterprise.
He also likes to design furniture, which eventually led him to creating his own business — known as Livesay Ether — in 2017, and he put his creative talents to work to conjure up a new modern coffee table called Pangaea, described as inspired by the abstract forms found in surrealism.
Samuel Pawlak works on a prototype of his high-end coffee table Pangaea in his design studio. (Photo: Provided)
“For two-and-a-half years, I started building in my own apartment, using fiberglass. I built the first prototype … and started reaching out to different showrooms and galleries,” Pawlak said. “Thankfully, one of them thought this is a good fit, and that’s how we got started.
“As I draw, I just watch to see what looks nice and what looks balanced, and I’m totally going for a certain aesthetic. I was looking for something unconstrained. It was random,” he said. “Also, funny enough, I went through my own sketchbook from my freshman year and looked at early sketches, and they very much resembled what the table looks like, without me even knowing it.”
Pawlak turned to a Rhode Island company called Amaral Custom Fabrications to produce the coffee table.
It won’t be available to the general public, but instead will be marketed to interior designers and fine art collectors through the Wexler Gallery of Philadelphia and New York.
Only a limited run of the ultramodern coffee tables will be produced, but in the meantime, Pawlak also has income from a second company to keep him going, along with a second project through Livesay Ether.
“I do have a three-piece set coming if everything comes together as planned,” he said. “The next set is a coffee table and chair that will be around in the spring of next year.
“I have a second company called Ikoniqa. I co-founded it with a friend in Pennsylvania,” Pawlak said. “We specialize in doing branding, web design, business strategy and all sorts of other branding — business cards, presentations. We do that for companies all across the Northeast.”
Related: Corning Community College students win statewide innovation challenge with the ‘GripM8’
Pawlak, who said he returns to Big Flats often to visit family and friends, said his career so far has been a perfect mix of drive and initiative, and a vision that came together just right — better than he ever expected.
“I was always very into manufacturing of products. I loved fine arts and design,” he said. “I didn’t want to just work in an art room. I wanted the perfect combination of art and science. (Career progress) didn’t seem fast to me, but looking back, it was.”
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