June 04, 2021
There is a lightness associated with walking into a woodworker’s workshop. The smell of cut wood, the feeling of sawdust under your feet, and the evidence of someone working on something ethereal and organic.
It is a craft that requires a ton of raw skill, grit, and artistic precision. A marriage of capabilities you don’t often see in other art forms.
Stepping into the workshop of Mike Mulvey doesn’t just confirm these notions, it embodies them entirely.
“It’s flattering to be called an artist I suppose, but it's only a label,” remarks Mulvey.
The classic understatement you might expect from a humble crafter such as himself. When you look at the detail, precision and even cleanliness of his pieces, created with such unique consideration, it would be hard to arrive at a label other than art.
But naturally, as he pointed out to me, that is subjective.
What we can see without contradiction from his work is that it is an act of meditation, and that very soulfulness is served up in the end result.
“It’s so interesting to be in the moment, because you're working and you can tell whether you're in the right space both by how the work is unfolding and also your attitude towards it.”
“If I put a tool down and a minute or two later I fail to pick it up and I can't find it, then I realize I am getting off track.”
That is a rule he abides by, commenting that he quits for the session if that happens. You need to be firing on all cylinders for certain parts of the process, and if you aren’t, you make critical mistakes. If we were to put together a list of tips from our artists, that one might sit at the top.
“You plan certain parts of the job you can do when you're tired, other good parts of the job you've got to run with all your lights on.”
When you are working with a material that is unforgiving, with measurements so precise, and under the respect and guise of the living being which gave its life for the project, you can’t afford not to be present.
For Mulvey, all of the process is his process.
“I do everything. So I'm out there designing a job for the client then I'm going and buying material.
“I come home, I'll do a shop drawing if I haven't done it already.
“I start cutting, and that's a very exciting time because it's all potential. You haven't made any mistakes yet so you get into the job and really enjoy it,” says Mulvey.
“You get to a point where well you've made a couple of little mistakes or you're starting to see the thing come together, and it's not exactly what you envisioned so there's kind of a frustration, an apprehension.
“[I am in] a small shop so I have to complete the piece, I can't put it in the corner and start another one.”
Even the best of artists are their own worst critics at times, but he says he has never had a disappointed customer. And while he says not everything turns out the way he plans, his collection of beautiful pieces represent the efforts of what it means to be truly present.
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Bluerock Gallery Inc. acknowledges the land in which it is is situated on as the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.