John Gallis doesn't know the meaning of the phrase "good enough." The art furniture he creates for his company Norseman Designs West doesn't
leave the shop until it's top of the line.
"I'm my own toughest critic," he says. "Every piece has to be well thought out, well designed and well constructed. It has to have grace, elegance and style."
After 30 years as a woodworker, Gallis has crafted several award winning pieces, taking top honors at the prestigious Western Design Conference in 2001. Most recently, one of his desks won a national Design Portfolio award for best residential furniture.
"We are a three-man shop, so to win a national award like that is quite an honor," John says. And the more his work is recognized, the better he gets.
"My confidence level is boosted," John says. "Instead of saying, 'Gee, I've never done that before,' now it's like 'No problem.' I've become more daring." And his success has allowed him to be more flexible.
"People are more and more trusting," John says. "Some of them don't even know what type of piece they want. They just come in and say, 'I want a John Gallis piece.' That's really flattering."
John mostly uses walnut and juniper. It's a combination that has worked for him over the years and one that helped him define his refined Western style.
"I try to make it look like the wood naturally grew together," he says. "I like my pieces to be a textural experience and I like the wood to still look like it came from a tree."
John and his crew, Eric Shell and Tim Goodwin, create 14 to 15 large pieces a year. The three craftsmen build from their hearts.
"We build within the client's specifications, but there are no set plans," John says. "We just listen to the wood."
Spec pieces are their favorite to build. "We usually do two spec pieces a year," John says. "They're fun because there are no limits. If we start out building a $7,000 desk and it turns out to be a $10,000 desk, it's no problem."
Since the spec pieces aren't commissioned, John always gets his hopes up that he may be able to display one in his home some day.
"I build it like I'll be looking at it for the rest of my life," he says. "I always think, 'Maybe I'll be able to keep this one,' but they always end up selling."