Work On Canvas: An Interview with Furniture Maker Wouter Vos

By
Grolsch Canvas

People like to know who made their furniture and where it was made.

For furniture maker Wouter Vos, the journey is just as important as the destination. Wouter creates beautiful hand-made furniture with care and patience, re-using old and weathered materials and transforming them in to new designs which can be enjoyed in urban environments for years to come. As part of our Work On Canvas project we’ve been meeting working artisans who defy conventions with their creativity and learning more about their craft and inspirations. We spoke to Wouter about keeping things local, searching for materials and the process of creating.

Hi Wouter. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your craft?

I’m a furniture maker. I went to school to study furniture making about 12 years ago and after I finished my education I worked as a restoration carpenter in Amsterdam for 10 years. After 10 years though I became fed up with it and went back to where I started, making furniture. For the last three years I’ve been working as a furniture maker. 

For Wouter, each piece of furniture should tell a story.

What attracted you to furniture making?

I’m dyslexic, so I did some studies when I was younger and realised that reading, writing and academic work wasn’t really my thing. I figured out that I had to do something I liked to do. I’ve always been making and building things, so I chose to do something with my hands.

You start off with a couple of loose pieces and then when you’re finished it’s a piece of furniture that people can use. That's the most rewarding thing.

You make a lot of custom furniture – why do you think it’s important for people to own unconventional furniture, made especially for them with a higher level of care?

It’s becoming a bit of a trend over the last few years. People don’t want the stuff made in factories in places far away, they like to know who made their furniture and where it was made. People appreciate things that are hand-made. 

You like to use materials that are old and weathered, turning them in to cool new designs. What draws you to these materials?

I like to re-use things. Once every month or so I go to a couple of places where they sell old furniture and old building materials. I don’t look especially for something but I find stuff and think ‘this is going to be a table, this is going to be a lamp’.

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, finding things and re-using things. I don’t like to throw things away, I think it’s unnecessary and wasteful for the environment. The main thing I like is that the materials tell a story. I like the stories behind each piece; it used to be one thing and now it’s something else.

What is the most rewarding part about what you do?

You start with nothing and then at the end of the day you can see exactly what you’ve done that day. You’ve made something. You start off with a couple of loose pieces and then when you’re finished it’s a piece of furniture that people can use. The process of creating something is definitely the most rewarding thing. 

I like the stories behind each piece; it used to be one thing and now it’s something else.

Can you tell us a bit about the piece you were photographed with as part of our Virgin to Vintage project?

I had the bowl for almost two years and I didn’t know what to do with it. I injured my back a little while ago so when I started working again I had to do some smaller projects that weren’t too strenuous. Normally I do big pieces, like tables, so I needed to do something smaller. I went through my stuff and found the bowl, and I ended up making a lid for it using old oak. It was a project that suited me at that time.

Can you share some of the experiences you had during your journey with your Denham jeans?

I didn’t do a massive amount of work because of my back injury. Most of the damage done to the jeans was from cleaning my hands on them, wiping glue and paint on them while making furniture. Normally the knees would be a lot more worn because I usually sit on my knees while I’m working, but I had to avoid doing that because of my injury.

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, finding things and re-using things.

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