Skip to content

Jonathan Otter

Designer, Maker, Teacher, Writer

“Otter’s craft is lovingly and laboriously manifested in contemporary pieces that combine beauty and comfort and also hearken to traditional designs.”

– S. MacAlpine-Foshay, Former Director of Mary E. Black Gallery

I began making furniture as a profession in 2004. I had no formal woodworking education and only a few tools. In my first year, I received Juried Status from the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council. I also began teaching at Lee Valley Tools, sparking a decades-long love of imparting my skills to other eager minds and hands. Commissions grew steadily and we moved to a larger workshop and gallery in Earltown, Nova Scotia in 2008. With the support of family, friends and some very loyal clients, I hit a stride that formed the foundation for the work I do now. I was invited to write for Canadian Woodworking magazine in 2012, and re-discovered a passion for writing. In 2017, due to family reasons, I moved to Ireland where I now work as Senior Maker and Workshop Leader in one of the top studio workshops in the world. I continue my own design practice on select projects with the collaboration of my brother who continues to work from the studio in Nova Scotia.


  • 2012 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Award Finalist
  • Certificate of Excellence 2015 Arts and Craft Design Award
  • 2016 Niche Award
  • 2016 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Art Award Finalist.
  • 2017 Arts and Crafts Design Award
  • 2016 Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council Master Artisan

Creative process

From the initial creative burst, we sketch the idea. As we sketch, we add the features we feel contribute the most to the design. From our sketches, we quickly make full-scale two-dimensional patterns to judge the beauty and functionality of a new design. We live with these for a while on mood boards, critiquing them constantly.

Next, we trial the design in three dimensions. Often, it is certain features of a design we model in clay or foam. Automotive clay is a wonderful medium for this stage; capable of multiple, immediate revisions.

Scale drawings follow. Using the simplest drafting techniques, we create plan, elevation, and side views. There is a reality about graphite and ink on paper that a computer screen can never match.

From these, we make a cut list for a model in wood. The model-making stage is where we refine the design as a whole. When a model is complete, we revise our drawings and present the design.

If we receive feedback from a client that they would like to explore or produce our design, we move to the prototype stage. Here we solve the design and engineering challenges at 1:1 scale. Comfort and joinery decisions- that couldn’t be tested on the model- are refined and finalised. In our small workshop, economics demand a rapid and accurate result.

Please reach out to discuss your project with us