Andrew Pitts ~ FurnitureMaker
Tell us about your business.September 1976 .. I was an Ensign in the Navy. I bought a saw and some oak and made a pair of book cases, and I was hooked. I knew I would make furniture full-time someday. In 2002 I left the Navy and built my workshop in the forests of Virginia, and started making my own designs. I am mostly self-taught, but my prior career as a naval nuclear engineer unexpectedly prepared me for success as a designer. The discipline necessary to command three warships and operate nuclear reactors translated into an astute attention to detail and pursuit of perfection. Although I like the challenge of designing pieces for exhibition, I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative effort of working with clients to develop furniture that they can pass down to next generations. A committed steward of the environment, I mainly use pre-fallen hardwoods local to the studio, which I milled and dried myself. My furniture has been featured in numerous exhibitions and books and has garnered more than a dozen awards.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.When I completed my Navy career, I spent a couple of years building my dream workshop, complete with sawmill and solar drying kiln in the secluded forests of Northumberland County, Virginia (take a video tour at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bif8FrBSeXk). After ten years of milling lumber from storm felled trees and such, I no longer have the mill, but I have a lot of hardwood! The shop is almost 2000 sf, with a wood storage area below on the same footprint. I keep the entire building humidity controlled, since in Virginia it gets quite humid and I need to keep my wood dry enough to make furniture. The shop is fully equipped with machinery and tools, including the recent addition of a CNC routing machine, and is very well lit so I can do detailed work. I also have an area for my computer, an office which doubles as a finishing area, and that is where I do my CAD design. I work alone, and some say this is the perfect man cave, but it is actually a full-time hard working shop.
What inspires you?I love to create! I love fine craftsmanship! I’m blessed to be able to work with my hands! I am emotionally involved with my work! I suppose I am self-inspired by the joy of doing what I love. I relish the freedom to transform wonderful woods into equally wonderful pieces of art that people can use. I believe that it requires an artisan to unlock the wonder of the material, but that the synergy of the client/artisan relationship is what results in the finest designs. I see my furniture career as a journey where new discoveries are an essential component of the art. Making my furniture is the most satisfying work I can imagine.
What makes your business stand out?My design approach is to celebrate the wood's inherent beauty with outstanding craftsmanship. My designs are recognized by the grace of curves, exquisitely matched grain patterns, exacting joinery and meticulous finishing. I work closely with my clients to get the designs right, and my clients are integral parts of the process. I am equipped to use small scale tools, techniques, traditional strong joinery, and the finest woods and hand applied finishes, and because there are often no intermediaries, I can keep the costs down to be competitive. I provide a professional service of artistic and technically correct design, using computer aided design (CAD) software to exacting standards and providing color renderings of the designs to my clients before construction begins. The completed pieces are among the best work available today and reflect my client’s personalities and homes.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?This is hard work, but the reward is the satisfaction you receive from knowing you did the job well. Your good reputation is your capital, but is not gained instantly. Keep putting yourself out there, through exhibitions, shows, books, articles, and studio tours. Be active in artistic organizations and become known in your arts community. Have a backup means of financial support until you are established. In this business, money is hard earned, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s not simply about making a living, but is about the art.
What does American Made mean to you?American Made means more than just making things in the United States. It means the economics encouraging and enabling crafts people to pursue careers in producing the finest goods right here in the States. For many artisans, it is necessary to have independent sources of income in order to pursue passions of making, and although being able to sell goods certainly helps, that alone is not of sufficient scale to bring the US back to the days when crafts people in held in the highest esteem. When I see merchandise that was made in America I know that there was real sacrifice involved in being competitive with underpriced imported goods. Although government policies can help, it really is up to us as crafts people to keep the quality of our work at the highest standards so that consumers will selectively choose our work over the imports.
Mark Your Calendar
NominationsJune 3–Aug. 29, 2014
Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.
JudgingJune 23–Sept. 9, 2014
Judges will select finalists throughout this period.Meet the judges
Online VotingSept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014
Vote for your favorite American makers.Vote now
Winners AnnouncedOct. 17, 2014
2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.See past Award Winners
American Made EventNov. 7–8, 2014
Join us for our annual event in New York City.Buy tickets now