We are expanding our content portfolio to include spotlight stories on unique and innovative artisans, manufacturers, and custom home builders. Owning a home is a joy for any family. However, discovering new ways to enhance your home, apartment, or condo can be overwhelming.
Today, we’re proud to share our interview notes about Lightwood Designs, a high-quality handmade furniture design company. Recently, a close friend of mine bought a charcuterie board from the company and is enjoying this quality-made product to entertain guests.
Let’s get on with our interview. We spoke with Andrew Neufeld, Founder/CEO/Artisan for Lightwood Designs.
— William Lane, Editor in Chief
Table of Contents
- Tell Us the Origin Story of Lightwood Designs
- What is your academic or business background?
- What is the philosophy behind Lightwood Designs?
- Is this your business, or do you have staff?
- Why Elora, Ontario? Did you grow up there?
- Does Elora have a history of artisan and high-quality craft or art?
- Why is Elora such a special place for artistry and crafts?
- Is there anything else about Elora that our readers should know?
- Any Special Projects?
- What sparked the creation of your beautiful table beside other items?
- Any other thoughts on the final products you make?
- Does the Karger Gallery have a book with your table?
- What are your specialty areas? Any future product ideas?
- Any special orders? Do you sell locally or internationally?
- Any other plans? An online store?
- Editor’s Closing Note
Tell Us the Origin Story of Lightwood Designs
Why Did You Start the Business?
I was born to a Luthier (instrument builder – my dad) and a potter (mom), so functional art, entrepreneurship, and hard work have always been a part of my life. I have always been woodworking, but it was not my primary focus. My other passion in life is travel.
Working and living in Papua New Guinea for eight years came to a crashing halt with COVID-19. And that is the pivot. Lightwood Designs was born before my feet landed back in Canada.
Though I had been building furniture for years, I did not intend Lightwood Designs to be only about furniture products.
What is your academic or business background?
I went to the school of hard knocks. The first business I started in 2008 and sold in 2014 was materials processing. After that, I took the role of General Manager for a large company in Papua New Guinea, and it was in tourism, where I managed seven eco-lodges and had 203 employees. Between those two experiences, I got a first-class education in human relations and management.
What is the philosophy behind Lightwood Designs?
My goal with Lightwood Designs is to continue to produce with my own hands, though I am now gaining help for more straightforward tasks. Lightwood Designs is not just about furniture, intended to be my creative outlet, but under the flag of creative, functional art for the home.
Quality is number one, and I want people to feel the quality. I want them to know their product got made by other creative souls here, including myself in the small town of Elora, Ontario.
Is this your business, or do you have staff?
Yes, I have people to help me when I need them, including my retired father, who still loves the workshop after 50 years.
Why Elora, Ontario? Did you grow up there?
I am from Elora. I have traveled across Canada extensively and still find myself drawn back here.
Does Elora have a history of artisan and high-quality craft or art?
Elora is a town of artisans, creators, and crazies – all lovely people. Unfortunately, the older generations are retiring, but the art community is still robust.
Why is Elora such a special place for artistry and crafts?
I do, however, find Elora to be inspiring. The geography is lovely, and it is an old town dating back to the 1820s. It has always attracted that type of individual, which is surprising because it’s entirely different from the city of Fergus, which is only three kilometers away.
Is there anything else about Elora that our readers should know?
Elora is a great day trip from the Great Toronto Area and a great weekend getaway destination.
Editor’s Note: Our people on the ground tell us that if you’re coming from the United States, spend some time driving through Ontario’s towns. The farming, farmer’s markets, artistry, and crafts will surprise you. Ontario is also famous for its wines, so visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake is almost a given for the wine connoisseur besides seeing Niagara Falls. For Elora and Fergus tourism information, visit the official website.
Toronto can wait. 😉 Oh, and if you decide to spend some time in Elora, the Karger Gallery has its own Airbnb!
Any Special Projects?
For example, they sell my table at the retail store (Karger Gallery).
I do most of my work on commission; however, I have the opportunity to place my creative works in a few galleries when I have time to build.
The table in the Karger Gallery right now was the first table (in some time) where I have been able to do what I wanted. I enjoyed this build. It combines silver maple epoxy and African Padauk (Sandlewood), while the legs are walnut.
I am creating a desk for the Noodle Gallery in Alton; however, it has become very complex. I have always faced this problem and have always built things in a manner where I have never done something before. It allows me to keep pushing my abilities. But if you’re not growing, what’s the point?
What sparked the creation of your beautiful table beside other items?
So if you’re asking why furniture vs. other items, in simple terms, it’s because it is functional art.
I love to build art, but when art people can interact with it, it helps grow the story and becomes part of their story and moves with them.
If you’re asking where the ideas come from for particular pieces, they appear relatively fully formed, usually when I am thinking or doing something unrelated. I want to paint the picture that I sit at my large, naturally lit desk with a cup of artisan coffee and draft on a large paper or fancy computer.
But in reality, the vision comes to me, and I sketch it quickly in my notepad. From paper, I apply working measurements and adjust accordingly. I am also known to make adjustments during the build if I don’t like something or see a modification that would improve the aesthetics or functionality. To the many makers that draft exact drawings and build them perfectly? Boring! (Andrew laughs).
Any other thoughts on the final products you make?
I build a product to my interpretation of what a client would like. Making the final product is only the beginning, though. If I build to a quality level that will last generations, the story grows as they use it, cherish it, and hopefully pass it on.
The product (like the table) becomes a time capsule as it will carry the stories and memories of family dinners, parties, funerals, etc.
And for something to carry that history over time to me is unreal. But it will only happen if I make it unbelievable and so good that the client can’t consider parting with it.
Does the Karger Gallery have a book with your table?
Yes. I have included a PDF version of that book for your readers. (Editor’s note: See full embed at the end of this article)
What are your specialty areas? Any future product ideas?
My specialty would fall into tables and desks. Tables of all sizes, but the dining table is the principal item. I have attached pictures of my clocks, which I love making, and I do this just like wall pieces. I also build small items such as trays, Charcuterie, and Cutting boards; they fit nicely into my overall picture.
I am in the design phase of a series of lamps which will be my following “line” : Should time permit!
Any special orders? Do you sell locally or internationally?
Most of my custom build requests are from Ontario; however, I have been building for more out-of-province requests lately, with builds going as far as Vancouver Island.
Any other plans? An online store?
Yes, the website will be live soon, and I expect the end of September or a bit later.
The website will have continuous releases. But I have not decided whether to release them in “collections” or continually update products as they become available. Stay tuned!
(Andrew closes the interview)
Thanks for taking the time to look out for the little guy. There are so many artisan and craft makers in Elora, Canada, and the United States, and our products are of high quality and, most times, are handmade.
Our goal is quality and a lifetime of happiness for generations to come.
Editor’s Closing Note
- About the Author
- Latest Articles
I am a swashbuckling, mind-reading, techno-czar. Ok, leave out everything except “techno”. That might suggest the music genre but it’s really my technology background. My last studies were in Syracuse, and it was all about advertising. However, my career has been as diverse as the charcuterie board. We’re talking dot-com (actually, dot-bomb, lol), digital advertising before people understood “online”, payments before people understood what a “digital wallet” was, and online/digital games. This expanded to mobile marketing, mobile swiss cheese (edit: scratch that), and more. I ran operations for a digital financial portal, and found ways to sell things before they were mainstream. Today, I am Editor in Chief of one of the interwebs’ fastest growing home and architecture sites. For the big picture, visit our About Us page.