Meet Dave Messmer: Student, Studio Fellow, Shop Assistant

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What inspired you to learn woodworking?

Growing up I had the distinct pleasure of a having a father and grandfather who would make me all sorts of wooden toys. Something about the way they were able to turn my desire for an object into reality sparked my interest. I started building my own toy swords and tree forts somewhere around 3rd grade, and when I got to middle school I couldn’t wait to take shop class; we made a wooden piggy bank, which I still use. I was fortunate that my school had a strong woodshop program; I took a woodshop class every year from 7th grade until my senior year. My teacher, John Barkee, was fantastic and encouraged me to pursue a career in woodworking.


Where were you, and what were you up to before coming to the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship?

After high school I attended SUNY Morrisville where I earned a degree in Wood Technology. For a short time I was employed in a mid sized commercial cabinet shop in Syracuse, NY. I grew weary of particleboard and laminate, so I decided to open my own shop on my family’s farm in Interlaken, NY. I worked part time for myself, building furniture and doing a fair amount of finish carpentry for about 4 years. The other part of my time I spent as a partner in my families artisanal cheese business. During those years I realized I had a gap in my education when it came to the use and care of hand tools and the finer points of furniture design. I honestly don’t remember when I first heard of CFC, but I think it was around 2008. It seemed like the perfect place and I promised myself I would go when I had the time and resources. That time finally came in February of 2014.


davemessmer2photo by Mark Juliana

You’ve been a student, fellow, and assistant at the school. Can you describe some of your experiences and what you’ve learned from them?

I took the Twelve-week Intensive in the spring of 2014, and then was awarded a Studio Fellowship for an additional 5 months. During my time as a fellow I built several projects, the most involved was a chaise lounge. I wanted to challenge myself with curved joinery, double tapered laminations and Danish cord weaving. The project was the perfect vehicle.

I loved the school so much I came back as a shop assistant for the summer of 2015. The assistantship was an amazing experience. I was able to learn from all the classes that I assisted in and from the amazing instructors teaching them; I also really enjoyed working one-on-one with students to help them progress. It revealed an interest in teaching that I wasn’t aware existed.

If I try to synthesize what I’ve learned at the CFC into one concept I think it would be how to pay attention to detail. I learned to look closer and analyze each process as a unique thing deserving careful study and focused attention, and that improving each step is the best way to improve the final outcome as a whole.


davemessmer4photo by Mark Juliana

What role do you expect woodworking to play in your life in the near and/or distant future?

I expect woodworking to have a major role in my future. Since leaving CFC I have invested in a website and marketing materials. My goal is to grow my current business to be profitable and sustainable for the future, and hopefully employ other furniture makers as well.

What are a few other interests you have, aside from woodworking?

Professionally, I have an interest in business. I’m currently studying entrepreneurship and business strategy at Cornell’s Dyson school of Applied Economics. Creating a venture and watching it grow is very exciting to me. I plan to grow my business so that it can provide livelihood for more people than just myself.

In my non-work time I love adventures and the outdoors. Few things get me as excited as being able to get lost in nature. I enjoy mountain biking, trail running and hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. I’m also big into traveling - road trips are the best. I’m rarely at home on my time off.

davemessmer3photo by Jan Regan

What do you like most about the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship?

In addition to the excellent curricula and instruction, I really love the sense of community that the school has fostered. I believe anyone who has spent time at CFC can attest to the fact that there seems to be an incredibly positive, creative, and relational energy buzzing around. The teachers and faculty are always incredibly open with their knowledge and students do not hesitate to share what they are learning or jump in to offer advice.