From the Archives: Vermont woodworker took solid risks

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I’ve been reminded of this cover from July 2002 every time I went into my boss’s office. It hung on his wall and he would often tell me that it was the perfect cover, portraying a busy multi-person shop and the work they produce.

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The message was clear: Do more covers like this.

The shop, Cotswold Furniture Makers of Whiting, Vt., no longer exists. Owner John Lomas scaled back to a one-man operation in 2012.

“A lot has changed,” Lomas said recently. “2002 was pre-retail for Cotswold. I opened a store in Stowe around 2004 or so and ran it successfully for eight years. I decided to open another in Great Barrington. Mass., in 2010 and that went well, too, but the timing was a little off and we became worried about the increasing overhead in hard times. I realized I had not worked much with my hands for about eight years and saw this as an opportunity to get back to basics. So in 2012 I built a barn on my property and run it alone. Less stress, but I have to do the sweeping now.”

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As the story went, Costwold Furniture Makers explored every available marketing opportunity, using a network of retailers, a web site, catalog, showroom and shows to move its lines of high-end, custom furniture. It sold wholesale, directly to consumers and through architects and designers.

“We are finding that none of these approaches work in isolation and that someone interested in our work nearly always has to feel it and talk about it one-on-one. Creating the necessary exposure is the challenge,” Lomas said at the time.

Lomas was born and trained in England. He came to the U.S. in 1992 and served a two-year apprenticeship with furniture maker Chris Bretschneider. He started Cotswold (named after The Cotswold, a region that was home to England’s Arts and Crafts movement) in 1996.

Another of his quotes from the 2002 story sticks out: “As soon as we reach a comfort level we move to where we’re not comfortable anymore. In that respect this whole thing is like an ongoing adventure. You find out you can do something and you look for something you can’t do.”

Lomas can still make furniture and, for more on that, visit www.johnlomascustomfurniture.com.

To read the 2002 feature, visit www.woodshopnews.com and search for “Lomas.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.

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