Mark Samsonovich Of ‘Head Of Marble’: “My advice is for parents to encourage their children to take up a craft”

My advice is for parents to encourage their children to take up a craft. Motivate and teach them to learn how to sew, how to make pottery, how to grow vegetables and how to make the objects that they live with and rely on. And when they are old enough and able to, foster relationships […]

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My advice is for parents to encourage their children to take up a craft. Motivate and teach them to learn how to sew, how to make pottery, how to grow vegetables and how to make the objects that they live with and rely on. And when they are old enough and able to, foster relationships with makers, learn their process, and support crafts made with dignity. Consumerism doesn’t have to be a wasteful process. Don’t buy things you plan to waste, and don’t buy from companies that plan obsolescence.


As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Samsonovich.

Mark Samsonovich is an entrepreneur, designer, and artist. His artwork is among the most viral of the internet age with visibility in the hundred of millions and collected by some of the most prominent curators in the world. His recent venture, Head of Marble, makes easy to assemble, long-lasting furniture while representing a new standard of non-toxic, sustainable production. Head of Marble is officially the world’s first carbon negative furniture company.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I spent most of my childhood in a small apartment in New Jersey with my mother and stepfather. My mother and father both nurtured my creativity as a child, but I don’t think either of them expected (or wanted) me to become an artist/designer. And although I make art and furniture now, I didn’t have the space or means to do those things until later in my adult life — even now, most of the furniture that formed the basis of my company was built in a regular apartment.

Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become an environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?

From my experience, there weren’t many “aha” moments as there were “oh no” moments. My furniture business, Head of Marble, was born from a pure desire to make everyday objects for people, but once I started to see what a furniture company looked like at scale — I was horrified at the idea of being responsible for so much potential waste and harm. Everything from realizing that 30% of all ecommerce transaction are returned, to watching veteran woodworkers spray finish tables with neurologically toxic chemicals without ventilation or protection, to learning about how a tree gets cut down in Maine, the lumber travels to China, and then back to a consumer as a piece of furniture, potentially in the same state the tree was cut down in — all just to save cost on production. I realized the entire furniture industry will do anything to save a dollar on their bottom line without considering the cost to human health and the environment. So I painstakingly began the process of changing every aspect of furniture production and starting a company that made furniture with a positive impact on people and the environment.

Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?

When you operate at scale, a small change can have a profound impact. Our company aims to eliminate potential waste at any possible point: One of the key features of our tables is that they come in parts that are replaceable. If something goes wrong, perhaps decades down the line, with say a table leg, you don’t have to throw the whole table out, you can just fix the part that needs fixing. Or, if you’d like to upgrade to more premium later down the line, you can keep the parts that don’t need an upgrade — eliminating potential waste but also saving you a significant amount of money by not having to buy an entirely new table. When you consider the potential of saving thousands of tables from being thrown out, that’s a lot of labor, transportation, and material that doesn’t end up going to waste.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Head of Marble is the world’s first Carbon Negative Furniture company. That means we remove more carbon than we produce.

We’re also manufacturing furniture in a way that no major supplier could even imagine. But it’s pretty simple:

  1. We source our hardwood lumber from sustainable forests
  2. Our lumber doesn’t cross the Atlantic. It gets shipped to a local US manufacturer.
  3. We ship directly from the manufacturer to the consumer, and avoid travel to distribution centers.

We also aim to eliminate post-consumer waste by making products that are designed to last a lifetime or have a second life. Somehow, our entire society got used to furniture that’s only made to last one or two rent cycles — we end up spending more money on furniture over the course of our lifetimes than we would on a single purchase of an heirloom quality item. Not to mention, heirloom furniture is just so much more pleasing and beautiful.

Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?

The reality is 70% of all emissions are generated by just 100 companies.

It’s important that:

  1. Consumers choose to support companies that operate currently (not just promise to) in an environmentally friendly manner.
  2. We collectively support legislative change that forces us towards carbon neutrality.
  3. Be vocal about eliminating corporate funding for political campaigns.

Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

Have you ever sewn your own t-shirt? Built your own furniture? Grown your own food?

If you don’t have a connection to the products you live with or consume, you’re likely to take them for granted. Even if it wasn’t you who built your own table, but instead bought it from someone you personally knew, you’d be more likely to treat it with respect and make every effort to preserve it in your life. I stay in touch with as many of my customers as I can and I think because of that, they care about what they bought just a bit more.

My advice is for parents to encourage their children to take up a craft. Motivate and teach them to learn how to sew, how to make pottery, how to grow vegetables and how to make the objects that they live with and rely on. And when they are old enough and able to, foster relationships with makers, learn their process, and support crafts made with dignity. Consumerism doesn’t have to be a wasteful process. Don’t buy things you plan to waste, and don’t buy from companies that plan obsolescence.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Most e-commerce startups these days make profit not on the initial sale but on the lifetime value of the customer. There’s two vectors that businesses can take based on that: they can make products that break or become obsolete and convince buyers to re-up with new ones. Or they can make products that last a long time or forever, and bring customers back through loyalty. I think loyalty is the better one — especially when thinking about a customer who you aim to be with you for 50+ years.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I immigrated from Russia just after the Soviet collapse in the early 90’s to New Jersey, where I grew up. I lived in low income housing for the majority of my childhood and watched my father, who was a cardiologist in Moscow, go to medical school in the US for a second time in his life, juggle multiple jobs, and build what eventually became the American Dream for him and his family. Watching him come from nothing and build everything he has now is my greatest inspiration.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Learn to make an object that you use everyday. It will fundamentally change the way you appreciate that object.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

In college I was obsessed with a book by Miyamoto Musashi, who’s regarded in Japanese folklore as the greatest samurai of all time. In his “Book of Five Rings”, he says something akin to: “achieve the great by way of the small”. A small change in a furniture design can prevent tremendous waste. A small increase in a minimum wage can change the lives of every member of a company. I’ve always been fascinated by how a single action becomes profound when operating in a system at scale. Head of Marble is a company formed by a multitude of small changes to the idea of “a furniture company”, which compound to a total shift in what it means to provide the world with furniture.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

You can follow my furniture company, @headofmarble on instagram, and my personal account is @marksamsonovich.

You can also shop furniture and art at HeadofMarble.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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