March 24, 2010
John Gallis has been creating custom furniture for 38 years. He has worked the last 10 of those years in Cody with his Norseman Designs West.
Gallis works mainly with walnut and juniper in creating one-of-a-kind pieces. He is able to fulfill a customer’s vision of what they want.
“Sometimes people have pictures of something or show me a space that has inspired them,” he says. “I then work to create a one-of-a-kind piece that becomes something special for them.”
Gallis creates drawings and sketches and the customers identify what they most like. Gallis says his philosophy is simple: build each piece like it’s for himself.
“That way if a customer doesn’t like a finished product, I can take it home and put it my house,” he says. But he says in 38 years that has yet to happen.
Gallis says the furniture business, like most industries, suffered a slowdown in the least year. But he says he’s stayed busy enough that he didn’t have to lay off any of the five craftsmen he has working in his shop.
“They are a great team and their job is to make me look good,” Gallis says. “At the same time, I make them look good with the customers.”
Gallis has shown his furniture in the Cody High Style Show at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Prior to that, he showed in the former Western Design Conference.
Originally from New York, Gallis has work on display in the Adirondack Museum and has won awards on the East Coast and in Cody. He says the shows spotlight his work and Cody really is the Western furniture capital.
Norseman Designs West is a one-stop shop for everything from desks to chairs and tables. He creates many desks for men, including office and fly tying desks, then matches the desks with filing cabinets, chairs, and lamps.
Gallis said people enjoy the wood he’s using because they tire of the fence post look.
“The walnut and juniper are more refined and pleasing to the eye,” Gallis says.
He says his crew’s attention to detail sets them apart. Each piece is hand-sanded and they work to create little surprises because Gallis doesn’t like to be predictable. He says it takes hours to do the sanding and hand-carve the furniture.
The crew gathers their own juniper for their creations and, in so doing, Gallis says they are recycling dead trees and giving them a second life.
Gallis does all deliveries himself because he likes to see the excitement in the customer’s face.
“I love to hear someone say the piece is better than they expected,” he says. “If you make things pleasant for them they keep coming back.
“We develop relationships and create an extended family,” he adds.
During Cody High Style, Gallis teaches classes and each person that attends builds and leaves with a chair.