Mike Mikutowski and the skilled artisans of Mikutowski Woodworking, produce intricately detailed and perfectly engineered wooden objects such as jewelry boxes, desk-top pen/pencil boxes, clocks and photo frames using locally grown maple as well as imported exotic hardwoods. Mike starts with wood that comes into his shop as rough-cut lumber just like you would see at your local lumber yard. With planing, shaping and sanding, Mike creates timeless treasures that are beautiful to look at and a pleasure to feel. What a bonus that his pieces are also useful!
Mike does all of the design work for new pieces as well as all of the inlay work. He has a crew of 4 full-time woodworkers who have been with him for at least 10 years. They all work side-by-side "as we work the ‘bugs’ out trying to produce them in a quantity so as to make them profitably. Sometimes we have to scrap a design because we just can't make it, even when it looks really cool." Mike speaks highly of his crew whom he clearly respects and appreciates. "My guys are really supportive of my work and try really hard to make my designs work. Since I am working with them everyday, they know that I won’t ask them to do something I can’t do."
When you look closely at Mike’s beautiful work, it is apparent that he is a perfectionist and that he loves the engineering involved in designing and producing his pieces. He has several special designs that he says are so complicated that only he works on them. Mikutowski Woodworking is a small shop, employing a total of nine, including Mike’s semi-retired father-in-law, his wife, Liz, and their dog Smokey who, Mike says, is the main supervisor!
My inspiration comes from the natural world around us. I see shapes and designs wherever I go. I walk or ski in the woods every morning and I see new shapes in the world around me that are so gorgeous that I am inspired to try to make them work in the woodworking shop. Sometimes it takes a few years before I use a design or pattern that I have seen. I draw every day and save all of my drawings. It is fun to see where the designs originate, sometimes I am surprised at how long ago I sketched something.
Mike’s two children have also worked at one time or another in the shop. Mike says, "They both have creative passions in areas other than woodworking. My son loves to draw and conceptualize interiors. He currently is studying marketing and is great to work with. My daughter prefers to work on farms and uses all of the heavy farm machinery with ease. I think we all share a zany sense of humor and their involvement with the business has given them an appreciation for hard work. They both understand that even when a project doesn’t work out, whatever it is and no matter how much energy has been expended, it isn’t the end of the world. I always tell them, that something, sometime, will fail or break down but the sun will come up tomorrow and we will have another chance to try again."
Mike Mikutowski was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was exposed to woodworking, plastics and mold-making through industrial arts classes in high school. He played hockey as a kid (and continues to this day) making his own goalie mask and custom masks for others. Working with the messy, itchy fiberglass in his parents’ garage, Mike actually made the masks used by the 1984 U.S. Olympics Hockey Team. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Stout with a Bachelor of Industrial Arts and did graduate work at the University of Minnesota. He taught for a year and then worked for a couple of years in industrial model building. He also worked in a machine shop and then a cabinet shop. Mike’s background and experience make him incredibly well-suited and skilled for his fine woodworking.
Mike lives and works in Menominee, Michigan near its border with Wisconsin, with Lake Michigan to the east. It’s no surprise, living where he does, that he is an avid trout fisherman. While he loves eating fish, he’s a catch-and-release fisherman because he says he likes to have the experience again and again.
Mike Mikutowski’s distinctive functional art can be found in many galleries around the country. His work is noted for its use of contrasting woods such as birdseye maple, curly maple, bubinga, cherry, cocobolo, koa, paduak, purple heart, Bolivian rosewood, wenge and walnut. Mike’s commitment to fine workmanship and his attention to detail are only part of why his work is highly cherished. His love of family and the natural world around him speaks to all who have a chance to enjoy his beautiful wooden treasures.
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