Archive for Lee Weitzman

A Visit With the Hopi

Posted in Artisanal, Hopi with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2012 by johnwiggers

One night in the late 1990s I had an incredibly vivid and powerful dream. It happened with such profound clarity that I could have sworn it was real.

In the dream I was standing on an open plain that was completely barren for as far as the eye could see. Far off in the distance was a range of mountains with low, flat peaks. I had the sense that I was standing somewhere in the desert of the American Southwest.

The ground beneath my feet was absolutely arid and dry, and I could see deep cracks and fissures running in all directions. The earth was brittle and hard, and it crumbled audibly into tiny fragments with every step I took. I could smell the dryness of the dust as it wafted lazily in the stillness of the desert air.

Standing to my right was an old Native American who seemed to be an elder of some kind. His face was weathered and deeply wrinkled, and his eyes had an expression of incredible sadness. There was a sense that he was tired and about to depart on a long journey. I had the impression that he had recently passed away.

Before leaving there was something important he had to tell me. He spoke softly and slowly in a low, deep voice with words I could not understand. The language was not English. Nor did it resemble any European language I am familiar with.

Raising his arm he gestured for me to look to the horizon. I could see silhouettes of animals in the distance, walking slowly in single file from left to right. There was a panther and a buffalo and many other species I cannot remember now. In some cases a predator walked behind prey, but all were walking calmly and deliberately in an orderly procession. There was a sense of balance to what I was being shown.

The silhouettes were all solid black, and within the heart area of each was a small ball of light. It seemed that this light within each represented their energy, or life force.

It was at this point I became aware that the animals were walking up to a great, old tree that stood alone on a very slight rise of land. Within this tree was a similar ball of light to that which was held in the animals, only this ball was much larger and much brighter. It was as if the Sun was positioned behind or inside this tree, and in some way maybe it was.

Looking back to the old man I could see he was now smiling. He seemed pleased to have been able to share something before going on his way. Before I could say a word, he turned and departed.

At this point the dream ended and I woke up.

Although it was the middle of the night the intensity of this experience jolted me fully awake. I immediately ran downstairs to turn on my computer. Surfing the Internet I looked up familiar names such as Black Elk, Geronimo and Sitting Bull. I was convinced that if I could find a photo I would recognise the man from my dream. But the effort was to no avail, because I never did find an image of anyone who resembled the one who spoke to me.

Nevertheless the experience stuck with me, so much so that several years later I commissioned wildlife artist Donna Bisschop to capture my memory of it to canvas.

What does the dream and this painting have to do with furniture making?

Absolutely nothing, but here’s where the story gets interesting.

While channel surfing one night in December 2006 I came across the popular television program ‘The Colbert Report’ . I tuned in near the end of Stephen Colbert’s interview with author Daniel Pinchbeck; with the two of them discussing Daniel’s then-latest book “2012 – The Return of Quetzalcoatl”.

Several weeks later I was discussing the book with friend, and we ended up talking a great deal about a Native American tribe called the Hopi. The Hopi live in the remote mesas of northern Arizona, and Pinchbeck mentioned them in some detail near the end of his book. Out of this discussion came the suggestion that since I was so interested in the Hopi maybe I should travel to Arizona to go see them.

I laughed and said that this was not going to happen, because I could not foresee any reason for ever having to travel to Arizona.

Then something strange happened. On the very next day my phone rings and it’s Lee Weitzman calling from Chicago. Lee had a client in Tucson with a problem they needed help with on a custom dining table we had made a few years earlier. (Apparently a housekeeper had tried to clean the table with abrasive cleanser, and now someone was needed to explain to a local cabinet shop the process of repairing the finish).

As much as I tried to explain the repair process over the phone the client was adamant that I travel to Arizona to deal with the matter personally. They had no qualms about paying for my time and travel expenses. As it turned out, for as much as I tried to talk my way out of making the trip, it soon became clear that I would have little choice but to go.

It was also now apparent that since I was travelling to Arizona anyway (thanks to a client willing to pay for the bulk of my travel expenses), there would be little in the way of added cost to extend my trip a few days for a personal side trip. That said, I decided to follow an intuitive hunch down the proverbial rabbit hole by planning a visit to the Hopi reservation as part of this journey.

I flew to Arizona and managed to resolve business matters by the morning of February 9th. I then made my way to Winslow, Arizona where I then took a 4-wheel-drive north into the desert. After first travelling through the Navajo reservation I ended up on the Hopi reservation by late afternoon.

After driving around and orienting myself with the area I eventually found myself in one of the most traditional of Hopi villages. In so doing I also ended up having a chance meeting with the eldest elder of the Hopi – a revered individual by the name of Grandfather Martin Gashweseoma.

Out of respect for Grandfather Martin and the Hopi I will not give much detail on what happened during my visit. I was asked not to take any photographs or make any sketches in and around the village, and I respected those requests. The only photographs I took were outside the village, and even those were taken with permission.

It is my understanding that many Hopi feel that their way of life has been exploited and misrepresented by non-Hopi such as myself – and not without reason. Therefore, I prefer to err on the side of caution and will share my story based on my own personal experience with what unfolded.

It was late in the afternoon of February 9th when I first met Grandfather Martin. He was busy gathering coal, and after a brief discussion he offered to let me stay the night in his home. I thanked him for the offer, but not wanting to impose on his generosity I said I’d find a place off reservation and return the next day.

“Be back before sunrise” he said.

That night I could barely sleep. I had just met a man considered by many to be the Native American equivalent to the Dalai Lama, and he had just welcomed me into his village. Not wanting to be late, or delayed for any reason, I checked out of my room by 3:00 a.m. and drove back to the reservation, where I parked on the side of the road outside the village to wait for the dawn.

Because this area is so remote, and there is absolutely no electricity or street lights (or streets for that matter) within the village itself, the darkness at night is more than palpable. It was literally and figuratively pitch black.

At some point a very faint glow of light began to appear on the distant horizon, and I knew that dawn was approaching. Not knowing the exact time of sunrise, and not wanting to be late, I set out on foot to make my way into the village. I used my memory of curves and laneways from the previous day to guide me to the main plaza – alongside of which Grandfather Martin’s home was located.

It felt strange to be a white man walking gingerly through the darkness of a Hopi village. On some level I felt like an intruder. As I got within yards of Grandfather Martin’s door I heard growls and something suddenly rushing at me out of the darkness. I didn’t know what it was or where it was coming from until it was right upon me.

Rez dogs – two of them. At first I thought they were attacking me, but thankfully they didn’t. I was then concerned that they’d start barking and waking the whole village, so to keep them quiet I started rubbing and petting the sides of their necks. Thankfully that worked because they loved the attention – so much so that they ended up coiling themselves so tightly around my legs that now I couldn’t walk anywhere.

So there I stood in the pre-dawn darkness – about 10 feet from Grandfather Martin’s door – hunched over and scratching the necks of 2 feral dogs who were determined to keep me standing exactly where I was. I didn’t dare stop rubbing their necks either, because at least what I was doing was keeping them quiet.

There was no light or noise coming from inside the home, so I also had no idea how much longer I’d have to wait.

After a long while the door opened, and Grandfather Martin peered outside. Seeing me there he beckoned for me to come inside. The dogs, it turned out, were his and he seemed pleased that they liked me.

What I soon discovered was that I had unexpectedly shown up on one of the most sacred days on the Hopi calendar. Known as Powamuya, this is a time of purification that culminates with a ceremony known as the bean dance. To describe it in simple terms: this celebration marks the return of the katsinam, who are the benevolent spirit beings who live among the Hopi for about a six month period each year.

In broader terms, and to use a sports analogy, it was as if I had shown up at a football stadium and discovered, quite by chance, that the Super Bowl was being played there that day. The fact that I was welcomed and invited into this elder’s home was the equivalent of receiving sideline passes to the 50 yard line.

The experience was magical beyond comprehension. Grandfather Martin’s home faces a main plaza, and as the day unfolded the bulk of the activity going on in the village was happening right out front. Inside the home was like a veritable Grand Central Station, with an ongoing feast and an endless stream of family, friends and other villagers constantly coming and going.

By far the most pleasantly haunting and treasured memories of that experience were the sights and sounds of the costumed Kachina dancers as they emerged from the underground kivas to slowly dance and weave their way down the dirt lane ways and into the central plaza. It gave me chills of awe to bear witness to ceremony that was probably the same as it has been for thousands of years.

I still get goose bumps every time I recall the memory.

But what impressed me and influenced me the most were the Hopi people themselves. As a stranger and a white man I had shown up unannounced in their village on one of their most sacred of days. Instead of being turned away I was treated as a welcomed guest. Although the material means of the Hopi were few, what little was there was shared generously.

The laughter and sense of humour amongst the Hopi was also a joy to behold, even though some of the loudest of laughs came at my own expense over what a Kachina dancer had done to my leg earlier in the day.

Given how busy things were with ceremonies etc. I had few opportunities to talk one on one with Grandfather Martin, although he did ask me to sit with him on a few occasions while dances were taking place.

Although this is impossible to prove and difficult to articulate I believe that people such as Grandfather Martin and other indigenous peoples such as the traditional Hopi are some of the last remaining people on this planet who retain a true sense of spiritual connectedness to the planet and the natural world.

Perhaps the best way to explain the magic surrounding my experience there is to show you the following photo. It was taken (with permission) near the village of Kykotsmovi. When you compare it to the painting of the dream (shown earlier in this post) you’ll likely notice some rather remarkable similarities.

What does it mean? An interpretation is anybody’s guess, but it’s quite possible that some would call this little more than a coincidence. However, as coincidences go I’d say this is a pretty good one.

In the grand scheme of things I believe that at some point in each of our respective lives we all get confronted with an unusual circumstances, or “coincidences”, to remind us that the world is not always as it seems.

On these occasions it is often prudent to trust our intuition rather than blindly heeding what commonly accepted “conventional wisdom” tells us to do.

Testimonials and Referrals

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2011 by johnwiggers

Currently we are in the process of reviewing the design of our website.

One area I have been looking to expand is the Testimonials and Referrals page. On that note I have been pleasantly surprised at the positive and enthusiastic response we’ve received from the many customers who have contributed their comments for publication.

Some examples are as follows:

“John’s work is truly extraordinary! Working through Vivavi we explained the concept of our home, the lighting we had chosen for our bedroom and how much we loved one of the beds that he had designed. He melded these ideas and created a highly contemporary art deco inspired bedroom suite with a very exotic veneer he selected for our project. We were blown away by his final design and the actual pieces were beyond measure in their perfection. There are no words to describe it’s beauty or the positive change it brings to our daily life. It inspires us and helps us to come together as a couple. We are blessed by John’s work.”

Ara Lucia A. and Michael A.
Greater Chicago area, Illinois


“There are maybe a handful of people in the world who can create at the level John does.”

J. Wade Beam
VP Sales and Marketing
Brueton Industries, Inc.
New York, New York



“Thank you so much for the wonderful desk you made for me. It surpassed my expectations in both beauty and quality. Your customization of the design fits my needs perfectly and it receives daily notice for its seamless lines and gentle but bold curves.”

Dr. Sean Boutros, MD, FACS
Houston, Texas


“John is one of the most professional furniture makers I’ve worked with. His design prowess and craftsmanship speak for themselves. What further distinguishes him is his customer-centric focus, ensuring that every customer is not only satisfied with the final product, but also thrilled by the entire experience from its initial stages to final delivery.”

Josh Dorfman
Asheville, North Carolina


“Several years ago we were introduced to John Wiggers through a designer in Chicago and were very happy with several pieces he made to order for us. When we hired a design firm to do our home in Florida we insisted that the designer use Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. for as much of the woodwork as possible. My only mistake is that we did not insist that he do all the wood furniture in the home. The quality, craftsmanship, attention to detail was amazing. You can see and feel the difference between John’s work and the other pieces in our home. Everyone who comes to our home comments on how magnificent John’s pieces are and are amazed at not only the appearance but the substance and quality of the woodwork. Our designer could not understand how we could use some one from Canada when he had local craftsman available to do the work. Now he knows better.”

Arleen and Ken G.
Chicago, Illinois


“I have worked with Wiggers Custom Furniture for over 20 years, and am continually impressed with John’s design sensibility, customer service, and attention to detail. John is always sensitive to the goals of the project, and offers continual design improvements through his tremendous experience and creative eye. His pieces are much more than simply furniture – they communicate the joy and commitment to artistic creation that are the vanguard of his work. I am honored to work with Wiggers Custom Furniture on any project, anywhere in the world, as I know the standards will always of the highest caliber.”

Bob Halper, LC IESNA
Halper Lighting Solutions
Chagrin Falls, Ohio


“John is one of the finest furniture makers around.”

Vladimir Kagan
Vladimir Kagan Design Group, Inc.
New York, New York, USA



“Thanks again for the superlative clock case you made for my Charles Frodsham regulator movement. It exceeded my expectations. Charles Frodsham was a renowned clock, chronograph maker in the early Victorian period, and he is recognized as being one of England’s foremost clockmakers. Now the movement can be exhibited in a case of similar and suitable quality.”

William K.
Toronto, Ontario


“Wiggers Custom is an excellent source for custom furniture product. They have the best mix of technology, craftsmanship, and finish quality. John takes a personal interest in his customers and stays involved throughout the process. He brings great experience and production knowledge to each project; you can always count on the integrity of whatever his company makes.”

Mark Logan
Vice President
Dakota Jackson Inc.
New York, New York


“For over 10 years I had the pleasure of working with Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. I found their work to be of exceptional quality and craftsmanship. They always provided expertise in the construction details and manufacturing, thus providing our clients with the most creative furniture available. In my 35 years of experience in the high end American furniture market I never found any manufacturer who produced a more beautiful finished piece of contemporary furniture than Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd.”

Dale Leland Mardiros
Pacific Showrooms West
San Francisco, California


“In my experience as a designer of high end residential, it is imperative to find great artisans to partner with.

John Wiggers raises the bar in every aspect of the custom design process.

It is a pleasure to work with his team and the level of client services his company delivers time after time is tops in the industry.”

Olga Markoff
Olga Markoff Design
Chicago, Illinois


“This is a short note to thank you for producing the beautiful, oval, black walnut boxes for presentation to the recipients of the Women’s Health Research Awards, 2004 – and to thank you for making them under such a tight deadline!

The boxes were presented at a reception to honour the women and men who are leading the way in women’s health research in Ontario, and we were delighted to be able to give the beautiful work of an Ontario artist to each of them.

Several recipients have contacted us since the reception to tell us how much they admired the box. It turned out to be the perfect way to acknowledge all of the work they are doing on behalf of Ontario women.

Thank you again for your wonderful work.”

Marnie MacKinnon
Chief Operating Officer
Ontario Women’s Health Council
Toronto, Ontario


Dear John,

“It was a pleasure dealing with you for our order of 16 pieces from your beautiful selection. Whatever custom detail we could dream up, you found a way to put it in reality.

When the U.S. government formally put formaldehyde on the list of known carcinogens on June 10, 2011 (finally!), you must have smiled – and so did we. You have been so much ahead of your time. Thanks to your foresight and care, we could enjoy your pieces from day one without headaches from outgassing and knowing that we purchased truly “healthy” furniture.

Whether it is the wonderful sunburst design of our two Ellipse tables; the fact they are made from sustainable bamboo; the brilliantly manufactured Inamorata nightstands. dresser and boxer chest; the elegant Irenic beds including the clever height adjustment you came up with; the versatility of the Island Tables – it’s more than just excellent workmanship – these are pieces of art made for practical use.

And, not to forget, this furniture comes with a “soul” created by all the spiritual details you put in your work: the Amboyna inlays from the Solomon Islands or the sacred stone in the beds’ headboards, just to name a few.

Thanks again for all your assistance from the planning stages up to the day you personally delivered the beauties into our home.”

Kind regards,
H. Meissner


I am pleased to write this letter of reference for John Wiggers, who has custom built and installed numerous projects for us in Toronto and New York.

John and the staff of his company, Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd., have always been extremely accomodating to our organization. Most importantly, projects have been completed in a timely fashion and details have always been closely adhered to.

In his dealings with us, John has always maintained the highest degree of integrity and professionalism. Exclusive design arrangements with us have always been honoured.

For these reasons, I do not hesitate to recommend John and his company to anyone requiring high quality custom furniture.

Ariel Muller
Ariel Muller Designs
Richmond hill, Ontario

“I have had the privilege of working with John Wiggers, whose passion for high quality craftsmanship and sustainability are contagious. We have shared many inspirational conversations that have resulted in a trust that is unshakeable. John has beautifully crafted my challenging furniture designs with every infinite detail mastered and an environmental integrity that is unmatched by any other.”

Jill Salisbury
el: Environmental Language
Chicago, Illinois


“We just finished building a custom home and had been searching for the “perfect” desk for our new home office. We wanted something that was original in style, made to last a lifetime and not too large. It was impossible to find something ready-made that fit all of our criteria. We contacted John and within a few days he had prepared detailed drawings for us to consider. After some fine tuning, we quickly settled on our perfect desk. The desk is flawless and looks exactly as drawn, down to the last detail.”

Barry S.
Toronto, Ontario


We have worked with John Wiggers and Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. since 1990. During that time, they have produced product for our United States showrooms, as well as for our clients that was both highly unique and innovative.

John has conducted his business in a very professional manner and we have the highest respect for his fine craftsmanship and vast knowledge. Communication is excellent, so even the most minute details are meticulously done. His environmentally sensible veneer work and polyester finishes are some of the finest in the world.

Our client satisfaction has been outstanding. The product has arrived on time and in perfect condition, as all merchandise is blanket wrapped and transported by their own driver on their own truck. Therefore there is no excessive handling, no transfers and freight damages are virtually eliminated.

We are very pleased with our relationship with John and his company and look forward to our mutual continued success.

Monroe Sherman
elan for Carriage House, Inc.
Dania, Florida



“We wanted you to know how appreciative we are of all the assistance you have provided for us in the manufacturing of our furniture line. Your expertise and knowledge of construction methods, the properties of various wood species, and the techniques available for intricate and complex finishes has been an invaluable asset to our (Shaver/Melahn) furniture division.

Your work goes well beyond the often-difficult task of manufacturing. You have always been there to guide us through design alternatives, providing solutions to design problems and corrections to flaws in concept. As we were designing in the United States you were able to see flaws in prototype and send out red flags warning us of possible problems.

You also kept our price points in mind always trying to deliver product at a level commensurate with the quality and high standards our furniture line demanded. Should you ever need a reference please know that we would be honored to pass on our recommendation of your excellent work.”

Rick Shaver and Lee Melahn
Pleasant Living
Madison, Wisconsin


“I recently had been retained by one of my Los Angeles clients to do the interior of their home in Toronto. I initially thought I would have to make all the furniture in Los Angeles by my cabinetmakers and finishers and have them shipped and installed in the Toronto location. Through a very good reference, I was given the name of John Wiggers of Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. I sent him our plans for many built-ins and furniture pieces, mainly done in exotic and rare woods, and requiring either a low-VOC high-polished or polyurethane finish, which is very difficult to find a manufacturer that is able to do it.

I contracted with John to make and install all of the pieces that I required. During the process, I went to his shop and saw how beautiful he was set up and how clean and organized it was, and knew at that time I was going to receive, from John, quality of the highest level for all cabinetwork and finishing.

When the furniture and cabinets were completed, his workmanship excelled my greatest expectations and my clients were extremely pleased. I wish John would open a shop in Los Angeles, because of the quality of his work, and how pleasant he is to deal with.”

Stephen Tomar, ASID, CCIDC
Tomar Lampert Associates
Los Angeles, California


“On a recent project I chose Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. because I knew their quality and expertise was to the high standard my client required. I have to say their ability went way beyond my expectation. I was able to customize each piece – choose from their extensive range of woods and veneers, stains/finishes and hardware.

John’s knowledge of his profession and his company’s customer service is an asset to the clients who want the very best – his concern for a green approach and his thinking behind some of his designs – like the Solomon’s Desk, is awesome.

The finished pieces are exquisite and to top it off the packaging, which was for overseas, was of the same standard. Each piece will be enjoyed for many, many years.

Thank you for making it such a pleasure to work with your company and know that we will always receive furniture that is perfect.”

Heather Tomei
Tomei & Tomei Creative Consultants Limited
Maui, Hawaii



“Hello! It is a pleasure to thank you for the custom dining table fabricated by Wiggers. It is truly Wonderful! Fantastic! Beautiful! Wow! Now THAT’S A TABLE! My client is delighted with it also, not mention everyone who walks in. The table is so large…surely it could seat the United Nations comfortably. Thank you for such a gorgeous product!”

Kyle S. Weinstock
K.W. Interiors
Overland Park, Kansas


“John Wiggers is one of the best furniture makers I have ever met. He is one of only a few that I truly trust with our designs. His dedication to quality construction, material selection, fine finishes, and his sensitivity to design and detail is unmatched in the high-end custom furniture industry. His finished pieces are of an heirloom quality, so rare with today’s “throw-away” attitudes. Very, very impressive.”

Lee Weitzman
Lee Weitzman Furniture
Chicago, Illinois


We have had the opportunity to collaborate with Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. on several high-end projects and throughout our dealings with them they have always been professional, reliable and masters of their craft.

It is a pleasure to work with a company that is also knowledgeable in wood species and that is also able to produce extraordinary finishes. We are pleased to be able to recommend Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. for quality custom furniture and architectural woodwork.

Luc M. J. Wintzen
Luc Wintzen Design Inc.
Toronto, Ontario


“My husband and I decided to upgrade from a double to a queen sized bed, but were discouraged by the poor quality and questionable materials of today’s mass-produced furniture. Thus, we decided to have a new bed built that matched our current suite, with the additional criteria of sustainable and nontoxic practices. John Wiggers exceeded our expectations on all counts. John worked closely with us, providing detailed design drawings and photos by email. The Irenic Bed design was adjusted to our exact specifications, and was beautifully constructed such that the grain of the oak veneer radiates in an arc, providing a visually spectacular head and footboard. The materials used are FSC certified, the plywood core and glue are urea formaldehyde free, and the wood was darkened naturally with a vinegar/iron process. John and his son delivered our bed and assisted with its setup. We couldn’t be more pleased with the ease of the process and the final result. We highly recommend commissioning custom furniture from this talented, environmentally conscious, and service oriented craftsman!”

Kimberly and Mark Z.
Peterborough, Ontario