Creative Connections: Classic cars, cutting boards and a long career in woodworking
Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — David Winters has been working from home like many of us over the last few weeks, but these are normal days for his unique craft. He finds himself lucky to have a wood shop next to his house in Steamboat Springs. It is in this wood shop that he spends his days crafting walnut and maple kitchenwares.
Almost 50 years ago, Winters began his career as a woodworker through an industrial arts program at his high school in Hermosa Beach, California.
“My calling was in the wood shop. … (There) was an interesting teacher I had, and he sort of inspired me,” Winters said.
He took four years of wood shop classes and was a foreman by his senior year. Winters said he put the craft down for a few years but just kept collecting tools until he had a decent shop.
Over the years, Winters has worked on projects as large as residential remodels and as small as jewelry. On the larger side, he worked on the historical restoration of the Lockhart Auction House at 11th and Yampa streets last year. He also restored a 1965 Morris Minor Traveller Woody that he named “Ernie.” As a classic car enthusiast, Winters started a social group called “Cars and Coffee” that meets regularly during the summers.
His other creations have included marionette puppets, doors, jewelry boxes, pendant necklaces, wooden bowls, bottle stoppers and even, his own brand of skateboard decks called Moonlight Longboards.
Winters said his confidence in diversifying his products comes from his long experience with the craft.
“I get interested in something, and it suits my eye, and I think … if anyone can do that it’s me,” Winters said. “I get into something new and take it to the nth degree trying to perfect it — to my own detriment sometimes.”
Winters arrived in Steamboat more than 40 years ago via an ex-girlfriend whose sister lived in the area. He began the season as a skier and then “turned to the dark side” when snowboarding became popular.
Growing up in Hermosa Beach, he enjoyed a variety of sports that inspired his love for snowboarding.
“I grew up surfing — body surfing, board surfing and skateboarding and all that in LA,” Winters said.
His proudest local claim to fame is having been on the very first chair the year Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. first allowed snowboarding.
Winters believes much of his inspiration comes from his love of these sports and the outdoors. He finds that “being in the woods always inspires me to make things out of wood.” His most popular items, cutting boards, have a signature wave design reminiscent of a snowboard’s path or the flow of water.
“I really miss the ocean, and it kind of shows up in my work,” Winters said.
Looking to the future, Winters is not sure what impact the global COVID-19 pandemic will have on his business or the retailers that sell his items.
“Artists and craftsmen will take a huge hit,” he predicts.
He says that many of his items are given as wedding gifts or housewarming presents. In the absence of these events, he wonders, “who wants a wooden cutting board during a pandemic?”
Nevertheless, he feels fortunate to be able to continue creating.
“I’m so blessed during these tough times that I can do it,” Winters said. “I have my shop right here. I’d really be bummin’ if I couldn’t do that. You can only watch so many movies and so many YouTube videos before you go absolutely batty.”
After the closure of Steamboat Resort in mid-March, Winters’ snowboarding season ended earlier than expected, leaving woodworking as his main pastime.
Though Winters sees himself more as a craftsman than an artist, he believes art can add value to life, especially amidst the unpredictable days we find ourselves in.
“We’d be lost if we didn’t have art,” Winters said. “Life is tough. (Art) is soothing to the soul. … It is certainly a contemplative and restorative pursuit.”
“You at least feel like you are doing something for the world,” Winters added. “You might not be a doctor or a nurse, but maybe you can bring some joy to the world in that way.”
You can find a variety of Winters’ handmade luxury items at the Homesteader in downtown Steamboat or at the Riverwalk Collective Gallery at the Depot Art Center (though you’ll have to wait until they are open again). Until then, you can explore Winters’ creations at david-winters.squarespace.com.
Routt County is home to a diverse collection of creative people and practices. Inspired individuals thrive at our crossroads of the wild outdoors, rustic grit, and fun lifestyles. To share your creative story, contact Sarah Valentino at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Bud Werner Memorial Library is teaming up with libraries across the country to bring a live event to Steamboat Springs, featuring New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter.