“Let go and let the wood speak.” That’s John Lomas’ mantra. The Hinesburg, Vt-based furniture maker has listened to the wood for more than 30 years. Well, we like to hear the furniture maker speak, too. We sat down with John to talk all manner of topics from why he loves making furniture, his strangest customer request, new projects, and what he would do if it he were not a furniture maker.
Why do you love to make furniture?
It’s about independence, creativity, and working with the client on something that will make them happy. Then, there’s the ever-changing and limitless variety in the raw material. Learning to work with and not against the wood is an ever-evolving challenge. Thirty-six years in and I am still learning.
What is the most unique furniture item you have crafted?
There are so many. I’ll just go with the most recent. I was asked to make a reproduction of a table with a matched veneered top, fluted pedestals, and aluminum bases. Nothing about it was easy, but I was pleased with the result, as was the client.
What is challenging about being a furniture maker?
Turning the craft into a living. I’ve tried many avenues to market with all manner of successes and setbacks. Working in a small shop has proved to be as effective as anything else I’ve tried. But, my current viability only works as an extension and continuation of all that came before.
Where have you failed and what did you learn?
Where to begin? I think attempting to wholesale to other retailers would be my greatest and most drawn out debacle. The theory that filling larger orders would lower overhead, and justify the greatly reduced return, proved to be too much of a challenge, both from the point of view of quality control and profitability.
What is the most bizarre request you have received?
800 blobby-looking coat hooks with a curve in them. Passed on that one.
What is your advice to customers?
Keep an open mind and talk to me. My goal is to give you what you want, so I need to understand what that is. When communication is flowing nicely, that’s when the work can be at its most rewarding for all concerned. Creativity is a partnership.
Interested in working with John? Send him an email to get started.
Is your family involved in the business? If so, how?
Yes, my wife is a huge help with blogs and newsletters and always has something to say about my designs. And no: It’s all I can do to get my son to set foot in the shop. That’s fine, he has other plans for his life.
Are you about to embark on any interesting new projects?
I’m about to replace a suite of furniture that goes to Virgin Gorda. The first set was sucked out of the window during the last hurricane season and was never seen again. How can a king-size bed and a large dining table disappear without a trace?
What gets you excited to go into the shop every day?
Right now, it’s the thought that I will be walking into a shop with lovely air conditioning. I don’t have that, but it’s an exciting thought.
If you weren’t a furniture maker, what would you be?
My father wanted me to be a lawyer, like him. When he realized that wasn’t in the cards, he thought I should join the army. For myself, I think I would have liked something outside, like becoming a park ranger.
What do you like about being a Guild member?
The Guild is a community of like souls. We compete for work, but that doesn’t get in the way of sharing just about everything from methods, suppliers, camaraderie, and beer.