At Home With…
John Dawson, owner of Timber & Thimble
Photos by Rachel Maucieri
What led you to woodworking and building custom-made furniture?
“In my experience, woodworking has required creativity, problem solving and attention to detail. The creative part of my work comes directly from my mom’s side. Her dad saw the world through a unique, innovative mind, always repurposing and turning old things into new for his family. Her brother was a skilled artist and writer. My mom was a talented photographer and graphic designer. The attention to detail and skill of woodworking comes from my paternal grandfather; he had a shop and built furniture growing up.
I started thinking like a woodworker in my very early years. I was fascinated as a child with how things were made. I always wanted to take things apart to better understand how they were made, and then figure out how to put them back together (much to my parents’ dismay). From Lincoln Logs to LEGO, to helping my mom with projects, to watching both grandfathers in their very different workshops, it only made sense for me to take up woodworking, at least as a hobby. I started building in high school, and it has since been a bit of a snowball effect, from helping with sets and props in the theatre to building inexpensive pine furniture for myself in early college (mostly out of poor college kid financial necessity). I was eventually able to build and sell pieces to my kith and kin, which helped replace older pawn shop tools with more suitable tools. Over the years, I became more serious and focused on furniture. It was my wife who urged me to spend more time building than in an office. She saw that I was more alive and more me when in my workshop and working with my hands. I wouldn’t be building custom-made furniture without the sphere of creative and skilled influencers in my life.”
Do you have a style of furniture that you favor over others?
“The answer to this question ebbs and flows for me. I am currently personally drawn to George Nakashima and Danish modern influences on furniture, along with a blend of modern and urban modern. I have also always loved Shaker furniture because of their commitment to simplicity, utility and honesty. I have noticed these styles impacting my design in recent projects. I like these styles because the mentality is function meets form, practical and simple. As far as wood goes, walnut and oak are a personal favorite. I also love the opportunity to draw in oak that has been finished in black. This allows the piece to exhibit subtle contrast while keeping functionality. It keeps the focus on the wood, simple finishes, straight lines or slight contours. I want to design pieces that last and will work long-term in the open space feel many people are wanting today, but will also be able to transition when trends change over time. Again, I like when styles prioritize both art and functionality. I’m finding what excites me most is when I get to build aesthetically beautiful, fully practical pieces for my clients.”
What icon, designer or artisan has had an influence on your work?
“My family has had an incredibly strong influence on my work. As far as more well-known icons, George Nakashima, Gary Rowski [should this be Rogowski?], Jory Brigham and Børge Mogensen are all furniture designers or artisans I admire. Matthew Crawford also inspires me. He’s a motorcycle mechanic who wrote Shop Class as Soulcraft, a book about his experiences and the life-giving aspect of working with our hands.”
Are there any projects you are particularly excited about right now, either in progress or already completed?
“I am always excited about dining tables and coffee tables. The dining table in particular is what I look forward to building most. The dining table is a piece that is underused in many homes. Real life happens around the table: Homework, important conversations, meals. I think more and more people are realizing the importance of these pieces in public and at home. Tables matter in coffee shops, restaurants and our own dining and living rooms. Any time I get to play a part in designing or building a piece that has the opportunity to be a sacred space for a family, I am honored. I have somewhat recently completed a live-edge oak and walnut coffee table that I’m very pleased with, and have a dining table in the queue which I’m looking forward to starting soon. As far as specific completed projects, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside Sara Kate Studios on a few projects recently. Sara Kate is an amazingly talented designer, so getting to partner with her on some tables and seating for The Yale was a great experience.
Natural Beauty: The Gerald Coffee Table
Crafted from a solid body of oak and contrasting walnut legs, the Gerald is designed with a focus on the natural beauty of the materials. The walnut base and figured oak top are showcased by a natural oil finish, accentuating the naturalistic and raw state of both. The cracks in the surface have been decoratively reinforced with a contrasting striped butterfly joint, also made using walnut and oak.
“This coffee table pays homage to my late maternal grandfather, Gerald Daniel Murley, with his unique and innovative mind, repurposing and turning old things into new.”
Length: 55” Height: 18” Depth: 26”