From his studio in Nelson, Mike Hindmarsh designs distinctively stylish contemporary furniture. He specialises in sustainable furniture designs in plywood and his work has been featured in Urbis and appeared in Air New Zealand’s KiaOra magazine. Selected pieces from Mike’s furniture range can be seen in his Felt shop, mikesdesigns.
What do you make?
Mostly furniture. Some sculpture. At the moment I’m developing my range of flat-packable tables, stool and shelving, in between commission work. Someone will enquire about whether I make, say, a chair in the same style, and that will lead me to develop the next piece. My designs are inspired by interlocking and stacking flat planes, in the main.
How did you get into your craft?
My dad’s a builder, and he taught me how to use tools at an early age. I built my first piece of furniture when I was about 8 or 9. A chair out of 2 x 2 offcuts and bits of ply. Straight up and down with zero lumbar support! Can’t remember many family members using that chair…
I completed a signwriting apprenticeship when I left school (because I enjoyed art) and was one of the last to learn the ways of the brush, before it all turned to computers. After a few years I went travelling and re-evaluated things. That’s when I decided to start making furniture. I rented a garage in Berhampore, Wellington and proceeded to drag myself up a steep learning curve. I decided I wanted to develop my design sense and started to look at some tertiary training in furniture design with a strong practical component.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology was running a Diploma course at the time that best suited my needs. And it was being run by John Shaw, a highly respected furniture maker who has since started his own school here in Nelson, The Centre for Fine Woodworking.
After graduating, I was really lucky to be offered a part time position with David Haig, which really cemented all the skills I’d learnt at the course. I worked on and off for him for about seven years. Nelson is a fantastic place for furniture makers. There is a community here with a lot of support and no real rivalry. John’s school plays a large part in this.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Plywood is the predominant material I work with. I love the way you can cut shapes out of it and then build mass from those shapes by stacking, interlocking, laminating. Curves usually feature in my designs and ply is a suitable material for this. You also need relatively few tools compared to working with solid wood. I mainly use hand power tools like a jigsaw, router, sanders and a good bandsaw.
What inspires you?
My work is usually a progression from one piece to the next. While working on a job I’ll think of different possibilities when going about the same task and this will trigger an idea for my next design. Also when working to a client’s brief you have parameters which dictate your design to a certain extent. If I’m ever stuck for inspiration, I’ll flick through my sketch books.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I guess in recent years I’ve been driven to create furniture that has a relatively low impact on physical resources etc. That’s been the idea behind my flat-pack furniture range. Using sustainable materials minimally etc. Also ergonomics and usability are the predominant focus when I begin a design. That’s number one for me. It also has to look cool of course!
Five words that describe your mind: Mostly full of superfluous clutter?
Describe your workspace:
I’ve got a double garage-sized space at the front of our property. Twice the size would be nice so I’ll expand at some stage. I’ve had shared workshops in the past which I really liked, so would be keen to do that again in the future. Working from home is great though and my kids wander in and out wanting help on their various projects, which has its moments as well! It’s semi-tidy. Usually descends into a pit of chaos the closer I get to the end of each job!
What are you currently listening to? Interpol, Band of Horses, Fleetwood Mac, Elliott Smith, Deftones.
Recommend an album: PJ Harvey – Stories from the city, Stories from the sea.
Your favourite childhood book? Usborne Book of Spycraft.
What are you reading now?
Born to Run – inspirational account of a journalist who sets out to track down a tribe of ultra distance runners in the depths of Mexico.
My Italian Nona, I’ve been trying to replicate her spaghetti meatballs for years.
Do you have any pets?
Chevy, a nervous little Foxy who knows more people in the neighbourhood than me. Maisy, an incredibly laid back cat, and four chickens.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Sky blue.
Visit Mike’s Felt shop, mikesdesigns, to see details of his current range or contact him about custom designs.