As we've noticed before, Mike Calnan's woodworking is more art than anything
else. It will make you a believer of spirits in wood. These are totally unique
woodworking projects guided by what the wood tells the artist.

Page 1 Aussie Mike's African Home
Page 2 - The Funzi Furniture Factory

Page 3 - Mikes Work and Tips and Techniques
Page 4 - Mike and Sabine's Personal Paradise
Page 5 - Sabine's Work and Mike's New Project

In talking about the projects Aussie Mike has enjoyed the most, the artist in him comes out. During his description of his favorite type of project, the story of the bed to the left was explained.

"I truly love finding pieces that no one else wants, driftwood, roots, old dhows (woodenboats), and creating a functional piece of art from them.
Sometimes, these are found on the beach and sometimes we can hear of something in the bush, miles away, and travel all day to investigate.
One particular root I went to see in the nearby Shimba Hills took most of my labor force one week to extract from the side of a hill after a poacher had claimed the main trunk. He ended up in jail and I had work for a year.
I can sometimes spend years before I see what I want in a trunk or a root. These pieces I view from every possible angle and light direction. Sometimes, I see immediately a form I can develop into a scene and start immediately. Sometimes I can spend a year on a piece and then abandon it.
I also like much longer term projects. I once made a bed based on Henry VIII's at Hampton Court. It took 4 years and weighed over 1700 lbs."

Sabine has taken over most of the manufacture of the furniture at the Funzi Factory. Just to the left is her Shetani Bed. . A unique double bed with carved shetani legs. The legs are from the neem tree and the headboard is mahogany from the Congo

Both Mike and Sabine have an affinity for the feel of the wood and allow it to guide them in the design of functional furniture from unusual pieces of fallen timber and tree roots. There are no patterns and no time limits. Mike describes the process this way:

"It is not so much as how much in a week as how much in a year. Most of the work I do can take a year. Much of that time can be trying to see what the piece holds. What is hidden beneath the dirt and old bark. The shape and form within. What can it hold and how do I make it functional?
I find no use for non functional art. Sometimes I will lose the feeling for something after working long hours for a week, then I will do nothing, maybe even another week 'till the feeling comes back and I continue with my work.
It is easy to lose direction when you are working with such variables as are hidden in some complex root systems. Straight lines do not really exist in my work. To be honest, they do not even exist in nature. They have been created by man to accomodate conformity in repetitive design.
When I work, I often come up against holes and serious deformities in a piece. I never hide these deformities, I actually accentuate them, polish them, show people the nature of the real wood as it was intended."

The chaise lounge and the gecko bed are two other projects developed around the available wood and materials available in this area. Note the curve of the leg on the gecko bed, determined by the shape of the wood.

Mike expresses his philosophy and technique as a tip for novice woodworkers below:

"I do not make things to order. I make it. You like it, you buy it. I do not think this good advice to a young woodworker in your country, but the ones it does apply to will be more successful in their work.
Be an individual. Don't copy! Look for your finished product from the waste of others. Believe me, there is a lot of it out there.
I once found a log on the beach. It had been there for three months. Nobody wanted it! Nobody could even carry it. I worked it for a year. It now stands in a palace in the Middle East."


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