Pye studied at the Architectural Association (AA) and spent three years working as an architect, latterly specialising in wooden buildings. He served in the Royal Navy during the war and taught briefly at the AA. His main career was in teaching and he spent 26 years at the Royal College of Art (1948-1974), where for the last ten years he was Professor of Furniture Design. At the same time, he designed furniture for industrial production, made wooden bowls and boxes, and wrote books. The most of important of these was The Nature and Art of Workmanship (1968) which has had a long-lasting influence on the crafts.
David Pye's unusual fluted bowls and boxes were carved (not turned) on a lathe or 'fluting engine', which he had invented in 1949/50. He exhibited and sold his work continuously from 1949 to the early 1980s and in 1984-5 the Crafts Council arranged a touring retrospective exhibition. He was awarded the OBE in1985.