Story by Jeanie Erwin | Photos by Matt Kocourek
Just 100 yards from his home sits an old turkey barn, now carefully converted into a workshop. The addition of a wood floor and heat make the workspace comfortable year round. Throughout the space is a collection of objects gathered throughout his life, offering inspiration. Light streams in through the windows which provide a view of the hay meadows, and the valley where Tavern Creek flows north framed by a forest of oak, hickory and walnut trees; a fitting image that provides deep inspirations says the artisan, Thomas Taylor, who purchased the property in 1999. The space could not be a more fitting home for Thomas Lowry, LLC, because it is a space where Taylor can clear his mind and devote himself to celebrating every nuance of the wood furnishings he creates.
Woodworking and design runs deep in the veins of Thomas Taylor. Growing up, he watched his father, a surgeon, develop a love for woodworking when in 1968, he borrowed a partner’s workshop to handcraft a cradle for his first grandchild. The process was so fulfilling to his father that he quickly assembled his own workshop.
“In 1971 I was in high school when my orchestra director asked if I knew anyone who could assemble a harpsichord. I told him I could. That was my first furniture project; a Zuckermann Harpsichord kit, which I recently found out is still in use today,” laughed Taylor warmly.
Since that time, woodworking and design have always been part of his life in some capacity. Throughout that time, he has had wonderful design influences in his life including his wife’s father who died in her youth but left a wonderful legacy of woodwork for his family, and with the father that raised her, a wonderful architect and furniture maker as well.
While not all of his work throughout his life has been directly related to woodworking, all of his work, he feels, parallels different aspects of it in some way.
“It seems as though I have always had two or three parallel careers going at any one time. I have a Master’s degree in Architecture. I have worked in endless different capacities as a project manager, project architect, general contractor and carpenter. I am a Gospel musician and recording artist. I play in church and have a prison ministry to take the Gospel into the prisons and to the inmates through music. I minister to the children of incarcerated parents through the Angel Tree program, a branch of Prison Fellowship. I maintain an organic market garden on our 50 acre farm to raise organic produce for sale at local farmer’s markets, restaurants and organic outlets as well as provide for neighbors and ourselves,” he explained.
Now he is devoting his time to the the business of crafting beautiful furniture in a business called Thomas Lowry, LLC. The line of furniture already includes a coffee table, conference table, dining table and sofa table in a style he calls “something that fits well with minimalists but equally well in a rustic setting.” The designs are already drawing attention within the industry.
“I love all aspects of the process, but I am always designing. I don’t try to make a piece more beautiful by adding detail and intricacy. I try to make a piece more beautiful by focusing on proportion, balance and simplicity. That is the challenge. I also love the process of selecting the material and envisioning it as a finished piece; the individual pieces of wood, how the grain patterns interact and form a composition in harmony with the natural material I have on hand. And then the actual fabrication, joining the pieces into something new, and seeing the finished product.”
As his father approaches his 95th birthday, Taylor reflects on how his father still works in the shop two or three days a week, turning beautiful wooden bowls that bring such lasting pleasure to the maker and those who will use them.
“I’m very blessed with a wonderful wife and two spectacular children. I see this work as an outpouring of the amazing, fulfilling life I enjoy. I’m working on my own legacy, just like those who have so influenced me.”