Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Fister.
Hi Mike, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I first began woodworking like many of my ‘era’, doing whatever it took to improve our homes using sweat equity and possibly to even offset some furniture purchases in favor of buying tools with the savings. Of course, my wife soon figured out that the latter was never a timely solution, but allowed me the luxury…
Apprenticing with my talented father, Sears was my primary tools source and most often softwood or cheap hardwood (poplar, sometimes oak) was my base; it’s why manufacturers created dark stains and paint. That said, we did tackle some huge projects and one that comes to mind was 2 stories worth of center staircase in a 100 years old Victorian that we owned – 80-period reproduction spindles of turning, a 10″ diameter newel post, and many feet of 3″ handrail (including volute) AND all 12/4 rough oak, on a 10″ radial arm saw, 4″ jointer, Craftsman lathe, and hand tools. The danger-quotient was ridiculous and I only wish I had some pictures because it was a showcase when we sold the house.
After a long career in high tech, I concentrate mostly on furniture commissions, custom cabinetry, and explore a myriad of turned vessels and art objects. Operating from my shop in Torrance, I prefer to design from concepts and use precious materials that can be hand finished (as opposed to painted material) and selected to allow the natural grain of the wood to incorporate into the objects. My clients range from BIG to small-ish and my work spans Newport Beach up into Marin and some have my art worldwide. My furniture interests range from traditional to contemporary and incorporate mixed materials like glass, metal, motion control, and integrated lighting at all types of scales.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Fortunately, my work is in very high demand and mostly be referral; often after I do a piece for a client, am commissioned for several more for them, and always referred to their friends… Experimenting as a Pro on the Houzz network, also with a burgeoning Instagram presence for further exposure. As a woodturner, have approached (and considered) several galleries, but the commission rate is extraordinary, so I’m also showing some of those pieces with Amazon Handmade and soon will likely put my furniture on 1stDibs. Since I was in and out of the Bay Area most of my career, establishing a presence here was part of the equation and like to do work for people I enjoy. My network of collaborators is also growing with a few interior decorators and fellow craftspeople/artists.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’ve always been a very driven person and why I’ll never stop; this is my outlet. As an electrical engineer/computer designer much of my advanced education was in mathematics and logic design – both excellent things that never go out of fashion and have always been very good with my hands… all are applicable to my work. Every piece I do integrates a passion for excellence and innovation. Having done a lot of casework (some crazy closets, cabinets, etc), my preference is always furniture in all styles and lately, I’ve also done some desks and technical elements for sound studios – really there is nothing I can’t do. My ‘art’ has expanded from open/closed turned vessels and larger wall hangings and some sculptural work.
How do you think about happiness?
Challenging myself and always learning is what drives me and always has. In my tech career, I was a part of changing the world and fortunate to work with many, many talented people and this is really no different. Well, the scale of it might be… BUT wood is such an interesting medium and the real craft is doing something ‘special’ with it and helping express my imagination, as well as having my clients realize theirs.
- My work ranges from $1000s to $10000s and I love to work with exotic and mixed materials
- Website: woodenimagination.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shop_wooden_imagination/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodenimagination/
- Other: https://www.houzz.com/pro/webuser-400439885/wooden-imagination