Local furniture maker a finalist for provincial award
The chair and footstool which earned Otter a place as a finalist for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award. They are currently on display at the McCallum Gallery in Toronto. MARVIN MOORE PHOTO
EARLTOWN - A local furniture maker has been named one of five finalists for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award.
Earltown's Jonathan Otter was recognized for his J-class lounge chair and footstool, however, it's just one of the beautiful pieces of furniture he has created.
"The design for this chair was percolating in my mind for years," he said. "It's meant to be extra comfortable. The spindles, which are hand-shaped with a spokeshave, fit the curvature of the back and the seat is deeply sculpted. Sitting in it is like sinking into solid wood."
The chair is based on the Windsor chair and is called the J-class after racing yachts from the 1930s. He chose the name because of design elements and because of the heritage of fine craftsmanship connected with the yachts.
"Designing and crafting a chair is difficult so there aren't many wood workers who make chairs," said Otter. "It's something I couldn't have accomplished a few years ago. It has no right angles and lots of curves, and you have to create something comfortable and nice to look at that can handle strain and last a long time."
His J-class chair, which is made of black walnut with maple legs and spindles, was nominated for an award by the owner of the gallery where it is now on display, the McCallum Gallery in Toronto. The piece was completed in March and went to the gallery the next month.
"Making this was a pleasure from start to finish and I hated to see it leave," he said. "It's rare to be able to do a design where there are no limitations."
He does plan to make more chairs like it in the future.
Otter, who is self-taught, made furniture for years as a hobby but in 2004 he decided to take it up full-time.
"I was living in Halifax with a small shop behind my house," he said. "My wife and I decided to move to the country and this is the area where I grew up."
They purchased a building in Earltown and added to it to create a workshop, showroom and home.
Otter creates designs on a drawing board. Most of his pieces are commissioned so he submits those designs for approval before he begins working with the wood.
He makes about 20 pieces of furniture a year, with several weeks spent on each of them.
"The nicest part is when the finish goes on," he added. "The oil makes the colour really pop out."
He uses ancient joinery techniques to ensure that the items will last for many years, and the underside of each is sculpted, polished, signed and dated.
He has many repeat customers and feels the greatest testimony to his work is the appreciation of his customers.
Otter and the other finalists for the Masterworks Award will participate in a panel discussion, moderated by last year's winner, at NSCAD on Sept. 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and anyone interested is invited to attend.
More of Jonathan Otter's work can be seen on his website at www.jonathanotter.com.