Blue Mountains artist and furniture maker, Michael Hoffman, likes making things. He chooses not to exist solely within the confines of woodwork, and specialises in other interesting materials, metals, and even discovered objects (like the teeth of now-extinct Giant Whale Birds)… But, more from him on that later…
Blue Mountains artist and furniture maker, Michael Hoffman, likes making things. He chooses not to exist solely within the confines of woodwork, and specialises in other interesting materials, metals, and even discovered objects (like the teeth of now-extinct Giant Whale Birds). Environmentally conscious, Michael often works with salvaged and ethically-sourced materials. He also focuses on producing high-quality, one of a kind pieces that will last for generations and never end up in landfill.
Here he discloses the nitty-gritty of his eclectic style and love of bespoke:
Q: Tell me a bit about your background.
I grew up in the Yarra Valley in country Victoria. Strangely enough, I hated woodwork at school. I loved metalwork, as my teachers allowed me to make whatever I liked. Making boy things was so much fun, and I made all manner of things including: slingshots, throwing knives, toolboxes, fishing lures, and camping gear.
Q: Has design always been a passion of yours?
For as long as I can remember I’ve made things, so I guess I could say that design has always been a part of my life.Q: Have you faced any challenges in pursuing furniture making for a living?
Making a living as a designer and maker of one-off pieces is not an easy life… Not for me anyhow.
You’ll have your ups and downs, great successes and pieces you’re not happy with, times when you feel financially stable and times when you’re so damned broke it’s not funny. [But,] for me, the rewards far exceed the hardships. I get to spend my days learning, challenging myself, and making things that people love and will get many years use from. Although I’ve had some breaks, and done other jobs when I was fed up with struggling so hard to make a living, I’ve always come back.
“I make things. My head is wired this way. It’s what I do best.”
If you’re really struggling for inspiration in your workshop, and you can’t shake it, then just get out. Do some other work for a while. Take a break, six months, a year or two, whatever it takes. There’s no shame in this. The break can help to make you feel reinvigorated when you do come back. Q: Do you have a signature aesthetic?
My aesthetic is quite eclectic. I’m continually inspired by things that I see – things made by people and things made by nature. Objects, architecture, colours, trees, rock outcrops. My work is always changing and evolving as I learn new skills, and collect tools and machines to do different things with different materials.
There are definite traits that characterise all of my work: Thoughtful consideration of a piece from the fine details through to the overall aesthetic, and visual balance, functionality, longevity and choice of materials. I am very particular with the quality of my work all the way from finishes down to the choice of hardware – often off-the-shelf hardware isn’t good enough, so I make my own.
“I strive to give my clients something that they can’t get anywhere else. Each piece has a bit of me in it.”
Q: What is your ‘furniture philosophy’?
Build it to last, to be loved, and passed on. Build it to be beautiful, to do its job, and do it well. Build it from materials that consider the world in which we live, and the world in which our children will live.
Q: What are your favourite materials to work with?
That’s a hard one as I love so many. Timber, steel, cast iron, brass, copper, aluminium, plastics, stone, leather, bone… I love them all.
Q: What part of the creative process do you most enjoy?
My favourite part of the creative process is the problem solving. Dreaming something then thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to do that?’. Hours of thought and experimentation then finally a win. ‘I did it!’ Or I didn’t do it, but I came up with another great idea. That’s what I love most.
Q: Why is ethical sourcing of materials important to you?
Sourcing of ethical materials is very important. What right do I have to use unethical materials just to save a buck or some time? I find it unconscionable to use anything I feel does not fit within my environmental ethics.
Q: What is the beauty of buying bespoke?
The beauty of buying bespoke is that you are buying a something that is individual, a piece of the artist who made it. It wasn’t made in a factory by someone who hates their job. It was made just for you by a person you can talk to.
“You meet, you share, you gain mutual understanding, and often you gain friendship. This is bespoke.”
The most unique material I have worked with would have to be a tooth from the now-extinct Giant Whale Bird. These flightless birds were huge – big as a whale – with teeth like you wouldn’t believe. From the tooth I fashioned a rather luxurious bath tub complete with taps and faucet. It sold at auction for a ridiculous sum of money.
Q: Are you enjoying Handkrafted thus far?
A friend of mine gave me a newspaper article about Handkrafted written by its founder, Fred Kimel. What he had to say really resonated with me, so I joined and I must say I’m very glad I did. The exposure has been great. The team at Handkrafted have been stellar – very helpful, friendly, responsive, and reliable.
“Handkrafted fits nicely into its own special niche. It is a valuable resource for both makers and buyers of handcrafted bespoke work.”
Q: What’s the most memorable piece you’ve completed?
I have made many memorable pieces over the last fifteen years or so. But, my first Handkrafted project stands out as it was recent and such a positive experience. I made four photo booths in timber and brass for Rupert Velasco, owner of Photo Booth ME, a Sydney photo booth hire company. The budget was very reasonable and Rupert was so trusting, I was really able to put my all into the project.
“I had many sleepless nights mulling over how I would make it all work. But, the job was a great success; Rupert was more than happy and so was I.”
Handkrafted is a community marketplace connecting people with passionate makers to commission custom goods. We have brought together hundreds of Australian independent, bespoke craftspeople and artisans who specialise in producing high quality, sustainably made pieces.
Our makers can help you realise your own idea or collaborate with you on a new design. Many also feature a range of original designs that can be made to order or customised to suit your specific needs. Whichever option you choose, we’re here to help make it happen. Support local makers and kick-start your own project today.
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