My name is Bruce, and my shop is The Design Pallet. I live in Seattle, and work alone making furniture and small home decor items.
My creative process is focused on designing objects that are simple, useful, and close to their natural state. I don’t see the point of taking something organic and beautiful, then cutting, sanding, and staining it beyond recognition. The whole point of my work is that you can tell it came from a tree. As for the furniture designs, first and foremost I make sure that every piece of furniture is functional. So often, I see furniture where function is an afterthought. Part of my process is asking myself, “Can someone put a coffee cup on this table?” or “Will this bench be a comfortable place to put boots on in the morning?”
My process is about scaling back details and removing extraneous elements until all that is left is something pure and useful. Because I work with the natural shape and condition of locally salvaged lumber, I let the wood speak to me and tell me what it needs to become — a bit earthy sounding, I know, but there is truth there.
As for smaller goods, I realized how much quality lumber was being thrown out or put in the burn pile because it was too small to be made into furniture. It happens in most wood shops. I decided to use the material for small useful products. A few of the items I offer, like the test tube spice racks, have been inspired by requests straight from Etsy customers.
I actually used to be a corporate guy. I did that for a long time, and at the end of each day I didn’t feel connected to my work. I wanted to build things. I wanted to create things. I started an apprenticeship as a wood worker and made a small investment in my first set of tools. It’s not easy to make your way in the world as a furniture craftsman, but it’s the right life for me. My goals have shifted, and now I care more about creating something that will last for generations than I do about hitting someone else’s revenue numbers. I also care a lot about being a good guest, and as long as I’m passing through, I’d like to do as little harm to the planet as possible. I try to use locally salvaged material, reclaimed lumber, avoid landfills, and use beeswax instead of toxic finishes. What I love about building my own business is that I can decide to be a good environmental steward if I want to.
I like people to know not just where the furniture I’ve made for them was built, but also what kind of tree it was, and where it came from. In every manufacturing process, people, communities and natural resources are impacted. Being a conscious consumer starts by having a curiosity about those people, communities, and resources. The first step is to gain the knowledge, and from there you can decide what to do about it.
I got into this having a pretty good idea of how to be creative, but I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn about business. I’ve learned more about valuing my time, and, in turn, valuing the time of others. Now I don’t always look for the cheapest thing. I try to find the best thing made by the best person because that’s how I want people to find me. I’ve had to learn about finding work life balance, because even though my work is my passion, it is still work, and sometimes I need to take some time to rest and restore myself. I’ve become more humble and better at asking for help. I had to learn to admit that I’m just one person, and I don’t know everything. There was also a critical shift when I transitioned to being my own boss. I didn’t have to please anyone but myself, so I was able to make decisions about my aesthetic, process, materials, and promotions without having to compromise to please someone else. So I guess in some ways I’m more humble, and in other ways less so. I can’t tell you how much my appreciation for small businesses and their owners has deepened.
Etsy makes it easier for me to discover other like-minded craftspeople, and it exposes my work to literally thousands of people who never would have known about me otherwise. As a one-man show, I don’t have a board of directors to provide strategic direction — I have the Etsy community. There are several shop owners who have been incredibly supportive: Vitrified Studio, CamilleMontgomery, and Soap. Etsy gave me a vehicle to get my shop up and running in one weekend, and I started making sales the first week. It was a boost to my confidence, and those first early sales let me know that it was okay for me to take this risk and launch my furniture business. I can’t say enough about how glad I am to be a part of the Etsy community. It is a great compliment to my local commissioned work.
My favorite piece that I have made is actually available in my Etsy shop right now. It is a simple side table made from a very thick book-matched slab of locally salvaged elm supported on four gloss white hairpin legs. Simple. Organic. Beautiful. It embodies the Design Pallet aesthetic. And the numbers don’t lie. It has been viewed 2576 times, favorited 303 times, been on 28 treasury lists, and has been featured in almost every piece of press I have gotten to date. One college blogger even professed undying love for it and said that if she could afford it, she would love it “as if it were her own child.” Even though it hasn’t been purchased yet, it is a constant reminder that my craft touches people; that they feel something when they see it. And even if it never sells, that is just fine by me.
What I love about design and being a craftsman is the challenge to take the things that inspire me in this world, whether it be furniture, architecture, design, music, or travel and let them fuel my craft and my creativity.
We all take a little of something from the artists that have come before us, and (hopefully with good intentions) we put our own spin on things and make them our own. In my work, I try and honor the beauty of each piece of wood, add a hint of mid-century design, and make it comfortable in the modern world. This is what I strive for with The Design Pallet.
All photos by The Design Pallet.