Today, we wanted to introduce you to local craftsman Mike Williams, a man on whom we rely to make so many projects special! Mike is a very gifted metal worker (among other things) and is always such a delight to work with! Let’s take a minute to get to know Mike, and some of his work, just a little bit better!
1. Introduce yourself! Where are you from? Where did you go to school? Tell us a little about your family!
I grew up in South Jackson in the 70’s and graduated from Wingfield High School in 82′. I joined the Marines in November of 82′ and served through 86′. I guess I got my creative gene from my Dad, John Williams who worked with Dr. Guyton in the Physiology department at UMC. They were always experimenting with new theories and my Dad was the one that would create the mechanics of all these experiments. I shadowed him many times and I guess that’s where it rubbed off on me.
After the Marine Corps, I went to Hinds Junior College in Commercial Design and Advertising which really helped me with the mechanics of design and creating aesthetically pleasing work. While at Hinds I worked at home in our shop building wood and glass pieces which I sold at arts and crafts shows and to regional stores.
I have a wonderful family who has supported my work now for 25 years. My wife Jan, son Sean, and daughter Maggie all have helped me many times as I was meeting deadlines or delivering pieces. We’ve always had pets, mostly dogs, and right now we have three dogs: an Australian Shepherd, a Pom-a-poo, and a long haired miniature Dachshund.
2. How did you get into metal working?
2. Metal working is one of those things that happened as part of a natural progression of my work. My wood working lead to glass etching which lead me to work in sales at Dixie Glass in the late 80’s. I met a furniture designer who would order glass table tops from me. I showed him my glass etching designs and we started incorporating them into these dining table tops. They were Greek Key designs, mostly. He showed me the metal furniture he designed and said he had a welder who built them for him. As I looked at the pieces, I told him I could build them for him, although I had never welded in my life. He allowed me to give it a try and I literally went and bought a welder, metal band saw, torch, etc. without ever doing any of this and I taught myself how to weld, bend steel, etc. I was introduced to someone in the MS Forge Counsel, a group of Blacksmiths, and I joined the group and learned invaluable things through our meetings. Then after a few years of building for him I started approaching designers on my own with furniture designs and this is really where it all started.
3. Can you tell us what inspired the name “Functional Art” as your business name?
When I went out own my own, I was exploring all creative avenues that interested me. I applied for and was accepted in the Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild. At first I was just using my name for the business but later decided on MW Functional Art to represent the fact that my work is functional and can be used in a utilitarian way as well as be a piece of art which brings beauty to the surroundings.
4. What is the most unique/exciting project you’ve ever done for a SummerHouse designer?
There are so many pieces I’ve made through Summerhouse Designers that are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s hard to choose one piece that’s the most unique and exciting but one that I personally love is the Chandelier I made for Lisa for the Firefly Cottage project through the MS Craftsmen’s Guild. It was an esthetically flowing chandelier that has flute shaped arms that organically flow out of the middle. Just a stunning piece.
Custom fixture at Firefly Cottage. Photo is from Social South
5. Tell us about all the mediums you can work with.
I’ve worked with so many mediums over the years. Metal, glass, wood, stone. And techniques I have used are things likes airbrushing, glass etching and carving, faux finishing (wood graining and faux marble techniques), wood carving and the list goes on.
6. What is your ideal work environment?
My ideal work environment is a shop that’s open at both ends allowing the sun and air to work their way through, sort of messy with tools and pieces of metal strewn about, and under intense pressure to meet a deadline. I seem to do my best work under high levels of stress. This may not be the best formula for most people but if I have to make something work, I will find a way no matter what.
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Thank you so much, Mike! We learned so much and are continually wowed by your stunning work! Here are a few more photos of impressive pieces of work Mike has done for us!
Window display at Arco Avenue, designed by Elish Phares. (See more from this project here!)
Custom bed designed by Lisa Palmer. (See more from this project here!)
Railing and light fixture, designed by Lisa Palmer. (See more from this project here!)
It’s probably easy to see why we are in love with Mike Williams! Not only is his work breath taking, but he is just such a nice guy! Thank you, Mike, for all you do for us!