Conversations w/ Good People: Michael Gilling
Michael Gilling has been designing and crafting wooden things since he was a little boy. From his first toy boat to recent commercial projects under his business XYLO Woodcraft, Michael has always shown an eye for detail and simplistic form. Despite his talent and achievements, he's also one of the most down to earth people around. We sat down with him to chat about his passion for good craft and what he's been working on.
What drew you to working with wood and what was the first piece you ever made?
My Dad had a little workshop in the garage at home. He is very practical and was always making things when I was young, from small pieces of furniture to a wooden dinghy he still has today. This captured my curiosity and I was always really happy when I got to go down to the woodwork room at the school Dad taught at. I was amazed at all the machines and at what was being made.
This exposure to woodworking and my natural tendency to be active is what drew me in. Dad used to make us these little wooden boats for floating down the creek. I remember the first one I made, I roughed it out with a hand saw, nailed and glued it together, then used tape and paint to put coloured stripes on it.
From commercial fit-outs like Alfred Bar and Grizzly Baked Goods to beautiful wooden surfboards, what is one project you're particularly proud of?
It’s hard to choose a particular one, but I’d say Grizzly and Alfred would be up there. Alfred was my first job on my own, the clients trusted me with it from the start and let me do what I thought best from design to materials. There was a lot to learn on the fly. Looking back at those early jobs, there are always things I could have done better- however they mark place and time for me, and show the skills and knowledge I had. It's nice looking back over previous work and seeing growth. At Grizzly I’m proud of achieving the scale and technically of that job with the very small and limited workspace and tools I had at the time.
What can we expect from you in the woodcraft space in the next few years?
I am keen to make a collection to exhibit as a different challenge to myself, and a chance to design some pieces that are not commissioned for a change. Aside from that I just hope to keep growing my knowledge and developing my personal style. I’m always open to trying and learning new skills and new projects, so who knows what shape this will take in the coming years!
Finally, what are you typically up to if you're not in the workshop?
I’m usually at home with my wife and our 4 month old, we live near the coast so I try to surf when I can, go running around the hills and walk the beach.