By Blair Jackson
The small town of Oxford Miss is home to a wide variety of artists, some of whom are nationally known and others, although equal in skill and craftsmanship, may slip under the radar.
John Davis is a local wood craftsman who works out of his home in Water Valley. He makes everything from chairs to archery bows, all of which are his own designs. Since beginning to work with wood in 1996, Davis’s pastime has evolved into his occupation.
“I make chairs, tables and bows mainly,” Davis said. “Most of my business is gotten by word of mouth.”
Ole Miss professor John Beckwith is a friend of Davis’ and a big supporter of his work. Beckwith is a three-dimensional design instructor at Ole Miss.
“He’s simply an excellent artist. What he does is not easy to do,” Beckwith said.
Through his work, Davis has made connections throughout the Oxford area. His work is often displayed in the Southside Gallery of Oxford where the public can view his work.
Tom Holworth of Oxford’s Howorth and Associates Architects, has bought work from Davis for both his business and his own home.
“What I like about John’s work is that he doesn’t over craft the material,” Holworth said. “His finished work still bears the markings of its natural condition.”
Davis crafted the business conference table for Holworth’s business. The table is made with all local products. The glass top is from Reliable Glass in Oxford and its iron support was made by Walter Neill, a local blacksmith.
“Oxford is a excellent place to make a collaborative work of art because there are some excellent artisans that work in a variety of media,” Holworth said.
Davis is the definition of simple woodworking talent according to Beckwith and Holworth, who know his work. On a larger scale, Davis’ work has been recognized by the Mississippi Craftsman Guild association, of which he is a member.
“John is interesting because he’s essentially self-taught,” Howorth said. “He not only makes this furniture, he largely makes his tools that he uses to make the furniture.
Davis says that work has slowed down some due to the struggling economy, but that he’s hanging in there.
“I just really enjoy working with my hands and creating things in my own style of work. It hasn’t made me rich or anything, but I enjoy doing it. It’s a really enjoyable way for me to spend my time,” he said.