Michael Fortune is a furniture designer and maker from Canada who works in mixed media, but primarily his work is wood and metal based.
His furniture designs are bold, confident and true to their mediums. There is something deeply satisfying about his style which draws influence from a diverse range of sources, from nature, from historical cultural artefacts or even the textures found on distressed firewood.
A master furniture maker, a furniture design tutor and a mentor, Michael’s illustrious career in bespoke furniture design and making wasn’t a straightforward goal he had always set out to hit. He wasn’t on a mission from childhood, or even from adolescence. He describes his journey as having pieces of a puzzle very slowly put into place – be they seemingly serendipitous “wrong” (or right, depending on the way you look at it) turns that led him into a woodworking course workshop where an enthusiastic tutor cornered and “basically indoctrinated” the impressionable young Fortune, or more directly through the writing of “literally hundreds of letters” requesting internships at furniture design making workshops all over the world.
“A master furniture maker, a furniture design tutor and a mentor, Michael’s illustrious career in bespoke furniture design and making wasn’t a straightforward goal he had always set out to hit.”
In fact it was these letters that led him into the Devonshire workshop of master craftsman Alan Peters; a life changing experience that opened Fortune’s mind to the idea that the pieces of utterly beautiful furniture he was seeing in museums around the world were actually hand crafted by skilled master craftsmen, it gave the pieces an even greater impact and infused them with human stories.
What blew Fortune’s mind, most profoundly, was that not only did Alan not have electrical woodworking equipment in his workshop but that he could use hand tools to complete a process quicker and to a higher quality in the time another maker would take to even set up an electrical tool.
Fortune feels that he doesn’t have a prejudice towards either method of working, instead he feels that his time with Alan taught him the invaluable lesson of understanding efficiency; to know the quickest route to the finish you require and to employ the most appropriate tools to that end.
Indeed Fortune himself works not only on bespoke pieces for high paying clients across, primarily, North America but also works on furniture product design projects for the developing world – for which his product design school background comes into play as well as his understanding of efficient product manufacturing.
It is this crossover between bespoke and mass produced furniture design sensibilities that makes Michael Fortune especially interesting as a furniture designer; his ability to understand the very different requirements of these radically different markets and to be a master of both.
If you are interested in furniture designers and contemporary furniture making then take a look at some more furniture design blog posts.