The wings of a butterfly poised to alight from a branch. The shadows of maple leaves dancing in the wind. These small events in nature inspire the designs of 28-year-old furniture maker Eric Ritter. "I often draw forms that are ephemeral," says Ritter, a Maine native who spends long hours walking and cross-country ski-touring through the New Gloucester countryside, 45 minutes from Sunday River. "I'm trying to develop forms that evoke a sense of movement, a transition from one shape to another."
Ritter's handcrafted, aptly named Morphology deck chair (above), is free-flowing, delicate and light, and indeed looks as if it's about to take flight. "This chair gives you the opportunity to create a dynamic in a room, a fluid motion to set off a space," he says. Though his designs capture fleeting moments, Ritter's furniture is built to last. Made of recycled stainless steel and wood—oak, ash or cherry—the Morphology line, which includes dining chairs, tables, rocking chairs and benches, can withstand even the harshest of Maine winters. "The first chairs I made have been sitting on a deck in Freeport taking in sea air for eight years. And they still look great." With no toxic finishes, the wood is saturated in natural oils to protect it from withering wind, water and sun.
Ritter grew up near Freeport's rugged coastline, building "anything I could think of out of wood," he says. He eventually attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied under renowned furniture master Jere Osgood.
Ritter credits his style to the school of Danish modernism—characterized by airy forms and innovative materials—but his innate talent is something that cannot be taught. He recalls summers building airplanes in his maternal grandfather's metal shop, and he still uses tools passed down through four generations of his father's family. So just as his furniture preserves an instant in nature, his craft preserves his past. If his grandfathers were alive today, he says, "I think they would be really proud that I'm putting their tools to use and carrying on their knowledge."
See more of Ritter's work at ritterfurniture.com.