I first met furniture maker Michael Hayes on social media quite a few years ago and our lives have woven around each other ever since. We discovered we have the same birthday and as twin lovers of upcycled and handmade furniture, we have developed a friendship that resulted in running a fabulous event together with Barry DuBois in Michael’s workshop, talking about the importance of using timber in your home and the handmade community.
I love connecting with him in particular on Instagram and seeing his latest pieces. He has just launched a brand new website (which is gorgeous) here and to celebrate, is having a big sale! Make the most of it to grab yourself an amazing piece of furniture that will last the test of time. I have one of his upcycled electricity pole coffee tables and it is a key piece in our home.
Michael is an old style furniture maker and an all round lovely guy. He says that his family came here as “boat people” on the first fleet (convicts) and his family name is scattered throughout Australian history, one most notably being a great, great, great (etc) uncle, Jim Hayes that was tried of treason at the Eureka Stockade. A third generation joiner, he was born around timber and joinery, and has been involved in this craft his entire life. It shows in his work. He started his working life with his father, undertaking many building jobs, mainly houses. He actually failed woodwork in high school, but says this was because he was bored and already knew all the joinery from his dad!
Family is clearly very important to Michael. He never meet his grandfather because he passed away in the war when his father was 8 years old. His mother is an artist, and he has watched her create paintings and other work for many years. Her work has been in many galleries throughout the world: LA, Sweden, New York and many places in Australia. Her work can be seen on Instagram @avalynd
Michael first started to “play in furniture”, making a bookcase, or small TV unit (ply from visy board) and a clothes horse from a pallet he found on the side of the road which was his first recycled piece. But he was looking for more. “That’s when I found Ancient Modes (now Mark Tuckey) and that’s when the world of furniture really opened up for me”.
Michael had the joinery knowledge already, and here was a place to learn how to use it. “I quietly started my days there, first pulling out nails in recycled timber, sweeping floors and what ever odd things they had. Over the next 8 years I worked there, I moved through all aspects of furniture making, up to head cabinet maker, then to managing the workshop”.
And still at this point, he wanted to learn more! He undertook making a Japanese style cabinet that had no nails, or screws holding it together. It was based on Japanese joinery, with all parts interlocking together. This cabinet was made for himself to keep his son out of the video player, as he would watch the postman putting letters in the mailbox and post cd’s into the video player! ( I remember my kids doing that but never had a solution as beautiful as Michael’s cabinet!).
At this point Michael flet he had gone as far as he could at Ancient Modes, and it led him to his own business. After 16 years in my business, he still haven’t stopped learning. These words from his grandfather, an amazing engineer, still ring in his ears – ” if you want to do well in life, do your best“.
And that is the basis of Michael’s ethics about life and his work.
When I asked Michael the thing he loves most about furniture, his reply was that of a true creative “being lost in the ideas, lost in the shapes. Nothing gives me more joy, than to look at a piece of timber, and let it take it’s own shape, and I just help bring its form out. In these moments, I could easily lose time, and spend many hours not wanting to stop!!!!!!”
Sustainability in his work began for Michael at Ancient Modes, as most of the work there was recycled, but he says, “I don’t think I’d like to have worked anywhere else. I grew up in the country and loved the bush” and to this day he still believes that we as humans NEED to live in balance with the earth. “If you cut down a tree to build a house, you plant another one“ kind of balance.
Michael does not believe the planet can take much more of the damage we are doing to her. “I can make furniture and support the earth that supports us” he explains. He believes that through using older style joinery, he is making things that will last a lifetime and beyond. “Once upon a time we made things that lasted, or could be fixed, and could be handed down through generation, to generation. This type of work doesn’t add to landfill. We have become a generation that throws things away when they don’t work anymore, and I strongly DON’T want to be a part of that.”
In terms of dreams, Michael would love to be able to stand in the same arena as the iconic greats of the 50’s, or even the designers of the Art Deco era. “These designs/designers are who inspire me, which I think you’ll see in my Curlew unit”. It’s been a slow road, but thanks to Instagram, he is being seen far more and with the launch of his new website it is an exciting time. “To be seen by these people without Instagram would cost far more money than I’ve had, so in the past it wouldn’t have happened.”
He sees his work cutting across a range of designs and styles and feels timber is a wonderful way to bring warmth to a home. “I see so many different designs in homes, and they all work. I’d love to have a home that had a different theme in every room, vintage, deco, modern, rustic and Asian.” He has many new ideas and says “my head swims with them daily.” His workshop space has timber everywhere – and I can vouch for that having prepared it for our event! The machines are simple – you can make many things with a simple machine, you just need to know how to use it – and jigs are wonderful (and I don’t mean the dancing jigs, although that has been known to happen!).
Where can you get your hands on his work?
Head to Michael’s new website here and take advantage of the sale – but be quick!
He encourages people to come to the workshop – “many are wowed by it and it gives people a sense of an old style workshop, to see that things are made by hand, and we are humans doing it.” This is also the beauty of buying Australian made, at any point the customer can come down and have a look, even to see if they’re happy with the timber and select the materials from which your next beautiful piece of furniture will be made.