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Walt Swanson

What I Do

I am a designer and furniture-maker with a background in theatre.  Inspired, I guess, from my experience as a director and set designer, I try to create furniture that adds presence to the room.  Certainly, they must compliment the space that they will occupy, but additionally, they might suggest movement or imply some physical action. 

My primary goal is to give the piece life.


For over 30 years I have been a designer and maker of fine art furniture.  Much of that time I was also a teacher of design and furniture making in England.  (For images of our smallholding and workshops in the Yorkshire Dales, click here.)  In 2014, I moved my workshop from the UK and have now settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan where I create original designs inspired from a wide range of styles (including Arts & Crafts, Shaker, and Japan), and makers (particularly Wharton EsherickGeorge Nakashima, and Sam Maloof). 



I have built furniture from detailed architect’s drawings, from sketches on beer mats, and from everything in between.  Designing generally begins with a conversation about a problem or a need which includes an investigation of the space the piece will occupy, and a look at some style preferences.



All of my commissioned work, to some extent is a collaboration with the customer.  However, when the client is more fully involved in the design, I often think that the process is much more rewarding.  Our discussions may be about moods, beliefs, and philosophy.  We will challenge convention, generate a diversity of ideas, and build lots of models.  The result is generally not what either of us expected, and often a more elegant solution to the design problem. 

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