Growing up in London, Ont., working with canvas became second nature to David Lundberg.
While still at a tender age, he and his father crafted their first teepee together. He later spent time in the historical re-enactment and ceremonial communities where he helped with setting up, taking down, and repairing canvas wall tents, teepees, wedge tents, ceremonial lodges, and more.
It made sense, then, that after meeting his partner and moving to Timmins seven years ago, his expertise would lead to establishing his current business, Sewn Home, through which he designs and handcrafts custom canvas structures.
“Every step along my life has been sort of culminating in this,” Lundberg said. “The universe just told me, ‘This is what you’re going to do,’ and everything just kind of fell into place.”
Though he started off repairing sewing machines, he soon found himself taking on small sewing projects – “a boat tarp here, some cushions there,” he said – until the volume of those requests overcame the repair end of the business.
From his 1,000-square-foot shop in downtown Timmins, Lundberg now conceives and assembles his custom creations from scratch, doing all the design work himself, and even sourcing and preparing the support poles from nearby forest.
Teepees, ceremonial lodges, wall tents, prospector tents – Lundberg can make them all. If well maintained and properly cared for, one of his canvas tents can last about eight years, he said.
Though most of his clientele hails from Ontario and Québec, Lundberg said he’s got customers in every province and territory in Canada, and even a few from the U.S.
“Certainly, in the future I’ll be looking to expand across the border to some degree,” said Lundberg, who prefers meeting customers and delivering his tents face to face. “But I see a lot of potential just here in Ontario.”
The job that Lundberg considers his “first big break” came in the film industry, designing and making tents for the sci-fi TV series Orphan Black, which was filmed in Toronto.
Representatives for the series contacted him through an online ad and commissioned a number of large wall tents for their fifth and final season, which aired in 2017.
Having worked in the film industry previously, Lundberg was no stranger to the strict timelines of a production shoot. So, he set to work having plans for the frames drawn up by an engineer friend and designing the canvases to specification.
“That was probably my first large order that really made my heart kind of thump,” he said.
“They were a pleasure to work with, and they were appreciative, and the tents ended up looking really, really good on the screen.”
Next up: a few of his custom-made teepees will make their debut in a new film that will be released shortly.
Roughly 75 per cent of his work comes from Indigenous communities and organizations. With a recent cultural revitalization in many Indigenous communities, Lundberg said he’s getting more requests for traditional structures such as teepees, wigwams and teaching lodges to complement their programming.
Lundberg also believes that, but for a few stumbling blocks, there’s a nascent Northern Ontario glamping industry just waiting to explode.
Tourist operators have spoken with him about the significant amount of time it takes to set up and maintain canvas structures in addition to running their regular business, and they’re leery of the complexities associated with securing the appropriate permits and insurance.
But Lundberg is proposing to take on those challenges for operators, offering packages that would include full installation of tents, stoves, bedding – anything they need to provide a full camping experience, complete with all the creature comforts.
“I’m looking to expand in the next few years into offering full-service, full-installation, small-scale glamping,” he said.
“I’m looking to work with various operators across the country – everyone running anything from sugar bushes to farms, hunting and fishing lodges – who want to offer tented accommodations.”
In particular, he sees winter camping as being a rich, untapped market, just loaded with potential.
He’s currently building relationships with industry partners to prepare for his eventual expansion into experiential tourism.
If Sewn Home grows as he anticipates, Lundberg said he’ll require more space and a larger workforce.
This spring, he plans to bring on an additional full-time employee in addition to the full-time employee and two part-time, on-call workers he has now.
He’s also planning, in about two years’ time, to expand his shop space to about 3,000 to 4,000 square feet to accommodate larger volumes of work.
But Lundberg isn’t eager to grow too quickly. He approaches each request with the same quality-over-quantity ideology that has served him well in carving out this niche service.
“I’m really shying away from competing with other companies, because a lot of companies are just not meeting certain demands,” Lundberg said.
“I focus on those demands that are not being met, and people are really taking notice of that.”