“Against the Grain”
Meet the Designer, Salt Magazine Sunshine Coast Autumn Edition 2017
Words by Penny Shipway, Photos by Krista Eppelstun
As a young boy David Suters would watch his father with a careful eye. The hammering of wood, shovelling of soil and tinkering with joinery were all familiar sounds at his family’s Port Macquarie home…
David would often be pushing wheelbarrows, mixing cement and gathering the required tools as his father constructed decking and pergolas, and reconstructed anything that needed fixing.
“Occasionally I would be labour as most boys do with their dads, watching them and learning.” David says. “My father worked in bridge constructions for the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. There wasn’t much he couldn’t create with his hands. I guess thats my earliest introduction to being a craftsman.”
Fast forward more than 30 years and Davids hands are still at work. However, now they move with care and precision, sanding and shaping exquisite, handcrafted bespoke pieces of furniture and artistic works mostly from Australian native wood.
David, a highly sought-after timber craftsman and owner of Artisans Gallery Eumundi, was 16 when he completed his apprenticeship and forged his career in furniture making.
“My exposure to what Dad was doing, and being involved in creating things, led me to technical subjects at school, which I found very interesting. We used to tinker and waste good timber,” he says fondly.
David worked for a furniture company for 17 years, where his position evolved to workshop manager, training new apprentices and designing and prototyping new pieces. “In the early days I mostly crafted pine furniture, which back then was normal to be stained a particular colour to emulate a more exotic species of timber, for example teak, walnut and cedar; occasionally undertaking a project using Australian red cedar or Tasmanian blackwood.
“That’s when my passion for solid timber was born.”
David’s one-of pieces started being displayed in several galleries across Australia’s east coast. With designs that were unusual, he hit the ground running, literally – knocking on doors of galleries to show them his master creations, such as free-form mirrors and hall tables.
“I knocked on a few doors and no one ever said no.”
And as his reputation grew, so did the sales; it was not long before David launched his own business here on the Coast.
“With design change came the need and the market for more exotic species of timbers, mostly Australian hardwoods,” he says. “My designer range evolved into a new phase, and at that point I opened my own furniture-making studio.”
A large percentage of David’s studio time is dedicated to designing and handcrafting commissions for private and corporate clients. However, he always factors in time to work on new pieces or concepts for his Eumundi gallery, where he has lately been experimenting with more free-form sculptural style of works.
David also offers “meet the maker” talks at the gallery, sharing the furniture’s journey from start to finish, and how the timber was sourced.
He says with each piece comes the thrill of sourcing “that unique slab or pack of timber”. “I never tire of a timber’s natural beauty. For me, it’s the raw material where no two pieces are the same. I love the shape and the grain structure.”
David always sources responsibly, and uses a lot of recycled or salvaged timbers, with Tasmanian black woods, Huon pine, blue gum, and native eucalypts and exotics as stand-out favourites.
Inspiration is no doubt abundant when your studio is set on two beautiful acres in Eumundi, where David lives with his wife Cindy and three children, Luke, 26, Sharni, 24 and Kahlee, 14.
“Ideas come from nature all around me; from flora and fauna, and landscapes and the countryside, from inland to the sea. My biggest source of ideas comes from the trees themselves – with natural curves, shapes, colours, textures and grain.”
“Each piece of timber can remain in my workshop for months, and even years before an idea will come to me. Other times, ideas are brought to me by clients, who I then work with on concepts and evolve a design to specifically suit their requirements. My clientele wants one-of-a-kind fine furniture that lasts a lifetime, not mass-produced factory-made pieces that are prone to falling apart and need to be repaired or replaced.”
Of his three children, Kahlee has shown the most interest in taking on her father’s passion in a world where mass-produced furniture is consuming the market. Just as David watched and learned from his own father, Kahlee has spent much time with her dad from an early age, hammering nails into wood, gluing offcuts together, shading timber, and making her own gifts for family and friends.
“More recently she has developed a fascination for creating artworks, using pigments and liquid acrylics. Her first artwork sold quickly, and from there she has since delivered two larger commissioned pieces. She has quickly learnt a few tricks of the trade, and has been successful already as an emerging visual artist with sales in the gallery and commissions of her own. With her passion and creativity, perhaps she will become the next generation of designer and furniture maker.”
And while David remains one of a few craftspeople who custom designs and creates fine furniture from solid timbers using traditional techniques, he has faith the market will soon return to more clients seeking individual, quality and locally sourced furniture.
“Having seen design influences change over the years, I am heartened to see market trends now shifting back to timber furniture; for its timeless natural beauty, as well as the elegance, warmth and character it brings to its environment in a home or corporate setting. White painted or chrome furniture has for too long suppressed and depersonalised many family homes and workplaces.”
“Goodbye the sterile look! Bring on the warmth of timber furniture, textiles and wall art.”
Artisans Gallery Eumundi, 43 Caplick Way, Eumundi. www.artisanseumundi.com
David Suters Timbercraftsman, 43 Caplick Way, Eumundi www.timbercraftsman.com.au