Back before the internet when I was first getting into woodworking, I bought an old 1970’s book on North American studio woodworking from a second-hand bookshop in Sydney. The imagery was mostly black and white, and the text was very heavy-a totally inferior style compared to the glossy publications you see everywhere today. The one thing about it however that really caught my eye, was the quality and the originality of the work presented. I am yet to see its equal even today. And besides the craft, the pages were adorned with pictures of the equally original creators, all dressed in flares and open neck plaid shirts. What a bunch of groovers.
“his style draws influence from a diverse range of sources: from nature, from the past and the day to day objects he finds around him”
One maker stood out in particular-Michael Fortune. Standing there at his extra narrow bench sporting a mop of bushy black hair and thick rimmed glasses, Michael had the 1970’s ‘hipster’ look nailed. Unable to simply Google Michael to find out more, I remember thinking ‘who is this guy and what ever happened to him?’ Who would of thought that skinny dude would go on to be one of the great woodworking identities, not only as a craftsman, but as a leading voice in the international woodworking community.
At the heart of Michaels success over the years is his studio work, which is now primarily about designing and making furniture by commission for private residences across Canada and the United States. Michael has developed a unique style that incorporates traditional woodworking and metal working techniques in combination with innovative forming processes adapted from the aerospace and boat-building industries.
Michael describes his work as contemporary and says, ‘I enjoy playing with a wide range of natural and historical influences, whether it is a beautiful vase from Mesopotamia circa 2800 BC, a piece of discarded furniture or the texture found on a split piece of firewood. Sketching, making scale models and building full-size prototypes are a very important part of my design process. My goal is to create objects that are resolved on every level and satisfy my personal aesthetic.’ Michael’s furniture designs are bold, confident and true to their mediums. There is something deeply satisfying about his style which draws influence from a diverse range of sources: from nature, from the past and the day to day objects he finds around him.
All these years later since first learning about Michael in that old book, it feels quite weird sitting here writing a piece about him attending an event that I am helping to organise. I am not sure what forces have brought our paths together, I guess it all just boils down to the woodworking journey. A journey once started that has no end. As for the old book, I am not sure what happened to it. We have moved house many times since living in Sydney. I assume it’s somewhere in one of those boxes that seem to never get reopened. Or maybe it found its way into another second-hand store ready to ignite another story, no matter, for me it has served it has purpose.
Michael and Wood Dust
Michael Fortune is a feature Exhibitor at Wood Dust Australia 2018 and will be leading a three-day intensive masterclass going through the design and construction process to build a piece of furniture with compound angles and without common woodwork joints. We regret to inform you however, that Michaels masterclass has already sold out! Don’t despair, you can still catch Michael at another one of the following Wood Dust events.
Michael will speak and participate at the “A Makers Life” Yarn at the Wood Dust Yarns at The Q lecture series on Wednesday evening the 17th of October. Michael is our feature speaker alongside American furniture artist Andy Buck and Fine Woodworking Editor and writer Matt Kenney. Secure your seat at this very special evening, tickets now on sale.
You can also meet Michael at the Wood Dust Timber & Tool Marketplace held at the Bungendore Showgrounds on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of October 2018. Come and chat with Michael at the “Meet the Makers” pavilion alongside other woodworking identities including Tom Lie Nielsen, Vic Tesolin and Terry Gordon. Tickets to the Timber & Tool Marketplace are available online now.