Woodworking began as a hobby for Austin-based Michael Yates, who discovered his passion in the student center workshop at Texas A&M University. “I made a small breakfast table there, and it was supremely more satisfying than what I was studying in college,” says Yates, who also studied Japanese,dabbled in architecture and pursued a degree in electrical engineering.
While visiting Kyoto, Japan, Yates was inspired by the expert craftsmanship of the city’s many shrines and temples, specifically the sublime joinery that reminded him more of puzzles than buildings. “From the custom joinery to the placement of the wood, every step was highly revered, and that level of intimacy was very appealing to me,” Yates says. “Seeing the legacy of the woodworking there lit the fire under me.” Indeed, after a short stint as an engineer, Yates opened his own studio and turned his full attention to furniture design and woodworking: “Making furniture is the perfect combination of my skill sets.”
LX: My work is…
MY: Slightly sculptural. I would never call it organic; it’s just visually uncomplicated. I really try to remove things from a design before I start working and pare it down to only the essential elements.
LX: Keep an eye on:
MY: Studio Job. They make great furniture. I’m always impressed with people who can pull off different designs using varied materials.
LX: Coveted item:
MY: One Christmas, my dad gave me a set of books called Audels Carpenters and Builders Guide. They belonged to my grandfather; he was a carpenter.
LX: Work approach:
MY: The more you work with wood, the more you understand how vital each step is, beginning to end. I try to be aware and present for all of it, no matter how fun or mundane, loud or quiet.
LX: Eames or Mackintosh?
MY: For me, it’s Eames, hands down, because of comfort. A Mackintosh chair, to me, says “look at me,” while an Eames chair says “sit with me.”