Seeing A Second Life

As a longtime lover of lakes and antiques, painter Douglas David, BFA’79, has seen his fair share of wooden water skis that have been relegated to retirement in a fiberglass age.

But when David decided to create Adirondack chairs from “found objects” — objects that “have a history, had a past” — the graduate of IU’s Herron School of Art + Design realized that he’d landed on just the thing to give those skis a second life.

Since that light bulb moment, David has sold dozens of the quirky, handcrafted water ski chairs that ultimately proved to be the catalyst for launching his second business, Douglas David Cottage.

And it all started, he says, with gathering water skis at flea markets. Months later, he enlisted his father to help create a prototype for Adirondack chairs, focusing largely on using pristine skis that matched each other as closely as possible.

But like the rest of his line, David found his ideas evolving.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, and the more comfortable I get, the more wild they get with the color and the graphic,” says David, who designs the chairs and subcontracts out the manufacturing work. “I’m driven by what I’m able to get my hands on, but that’s fine because that’s how life is: you do the best you can with what you are given and make it work.”

Each chair takes eight skis to build, so production is limited based on the number David and his “pickers” can locate each year. Still, he prefers selling about 15 chairs a year to giving in to suggestions that he simply produce new skis designed to look old. That, he says, would “ruin the purpose” of the chairs — and of his entire mission to bring new life to antiques in a whimsical way.

“I think what’s exciting about that is if you repurpose with that in mind, it makes it kind of a challenge,” says David, who often picks up “intriguing” items and finds he needs to live with them before deciding what to make.

David and his chairs were featured in the Original section of the Spring 2015 issue of the IU Alumni Magazine, a magazine for members of the IU Alumni Association. View current and past issues of the IUAM.

Original shines a spotlight on the works, talents, and interests of IU alumni across the globe. Have something unique worth sharing? Let us know at

Written By
Kasey Husk
Kasey Husk, BA’08, is a freelance writer/blogger living in Sicily, Italy.