Dharma Design Furniture

Unwittingly at first, as a young dental student/dentist, it was teeth, later it was boats, as a world-cruising sailor/boatbuilder, and since 1998 it’s been furniture that has captured my interest. I recall vividly my infatuation as a dental student with the shape and curves of the teeth I studied and needed to know in order to sculpt them both in the lab and the mouth. There was a similar enthusiasm later on upon discovering the aesthetic wonders of sailboats and the realization that form follows function. Then it was in 1996 while living aboard in North Carolina that I spontaneously began making furniture with little more than a jig saw for tools. Soon after, I encountered the books of James Krenov and I became riveted by the aesthetic potentials of furniture. During the winter of 1998 I did a self-directed intensive, designing and building rectilinear furniture daily, and for the first time experienced the breath-taking presence that a piece of my own furniture can have. In 2003 I established the enterprise, Dharma Design Furniture, in the present location, Tenants Harbor, Maine.

For some reason, and perhaps it’s the Scottish DNA, I clearly gravitated to functional art. There is something “cosmic” about the fact that form actually does follow function, that what works the best also looks the best and vice versa. From the standpoint of design, there is the greater challenge and potential reward by creating something optimal in both form and function. But also from just the aesthetic point of view, I found it interesting that there seemed to be forms/designs that were “classic”, timeless and universal in their appeal and when combined with great function had very high value for me, inspiring their creation.

David Talley

For the the decade following that first intensive immersion I remained true to my artistic aspirations. Being content with a meager existence, I was able to take the time and have the energy to let the creative process unfold. Simultaneous with the furniture design process was a deep “spiritual” calling and development. Both these processes came into completion in 2008. With the furniture process, I arrived at a place where for the first time I no longer needed to do it, a certain mastery and fulfillment had developed and the focus turned more toward making a living with it. With the contemplative process, a deepening realization of the true nature of reality arose, an awareness of the ineffable stillness at the heart of everything, which lead to a sense of completion with that process. Now it’s my privilege and pleasure to design and build furniture, often by opening to a deeper place than personal will can reach, by being in-the-zone, to use a term from athletics, by resting in the stillness of each moment and acting on whatever inclinations arise. I am deeply grateful to engage in this work and to touch the lives of others with my creations.


It’s interesting to me that the very first furniture style I made back in 1996, while living aboard in North Carolina, with just a jigsaw and small garage in which to work were simple sculptural forms under a piece of circular glass.

I soon got engaged in the more normal rectilinear designing and building of furniture but, for a long while after, was haunted by strong images of sculptural tables under glass. It was recently, however, that I realized, low and behold, I’ve returned, in the past few years, to where I began, often making sculptural table bases under glass!