David Lewis’s introduction to furniture making was a happy accident. He had decided he wanted to start a custom ski-making company. The siren song of the Green Mountains drew him to skiing in Vermont. “I’ve always liked Vermont a lot. My family has been skiing in Vermont since I was little,” he said, “and we would spend about three weeks here during summer vacations.”
The first step to making custom skis was learning the finer points of working with wood. His parents advised him to try a woodworking class to see if he enjoyed it. Naturally, he was drawn back to Vermont, his childhood vacation spot, and the Vermont Woodworking School. He began with their introductory class, just to see how he felt.
“I signed up to do one of their four-day intro classes to see if I would like it — and I did,” Lewis explained. “I signed up for the immersion program the following semester, and during that time is when I decided that I really enjoyed making furniture.”
It was then that furniture making became not just a means to an end, but an end unto itself. The piece that probably singularly convinced Lewis that furniture making was his real passion was the first chair he had ever made at school. It demanded complex joinery and hand shaping, challenging the limits of his burgeoning skill. He realized that the personal growth he achieved from furniture making was something he wanted to continue to pursue.
And that growth continues today. Although Lewis has his preferences and styles that he has more experience in, there isn’t one that he considers to be his own just yet. “I really haven’t picked a style of my own yet,” he said, “but I have noticed I am more drawn to the Shaker and Federal styles of furniture. I am enjoying experimenting with different styles of furniture and seeing what elements will work well together to create a more unique style for myself.”
Lewis’s enjoyment of making diverse styles shows through in his work, and may continue. Maybe, ultimately, that will be his “style” — working on everything.
Once juried by the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers, Lewis felt that being a furniture maker had finally sunk in. “I had heard about the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers while I was in school,” He said. “I liked the idea of joining a group of people who support each other and share their knowledge. It’s really the start of my professional career.”
Lewis advises others to follow a similar path, one that first involves exploring your passions to discover what your life’s work should be. “Really spend some time figuring out what you want to do,” he said, “and then follow that plan through.” We asked him what you need once you’ve determined your path in life and his sentiments echo those of furniture makers: “Work hard. Always work hard and maintain high standards.”
Curious about what motivates all that hard work he puts into his pieces, we asked Lewis for his inspiration. He said, “Working with my hands and creating pieces in a traditional way inspires me. I find it very satisfying to take a rough piece of lumber and turn it into a refined piece of furniture that will last for generations.”
As the newest journeyman member of the Guild, we can’t wait to see what David Lewis creates next.