Michael Wilson did not know he was an artist for many years. Born and raised in Japan until he was 17, he made his way to the States to attend college in Oregon. He dropped out “pretty quick”—in his words—and went to work at a Japanese restaurant. During the next 17 years, he moved to Los Angeles and toiled in high-end restaurants. “I never liked it,” he says.
Eventually, Wilson and his wife bought an old house, and that’s when his life took a turn. “I couldn’t afford to fix it up,” he says. “I was forced to try and do something about it, and that sort of opened up a can of worms.” Despite having zero experience with woodworking, saws, or any type of construction, Wilson pulled it off. And when that project was complete, his wife wanted furniture. “I said, ‘Let me make something,’” he says. “I can’t really explain it. I figured it out, and I just went from there, and I knew that somehow this was a way out of the restaurant business.”
Six months later, noted architect Wallace Cunningham saw his work and arranged for Wilson to spend some time with famed furniture maker Sam Maloof. “I spent the day with them, and after that, I thought, I can do this. I kind of got fired up, thought, to hell with it, and quit my job,” he says. That was about nine years ago, and he has never looked back. Eventually, he did relocate. “I was really frustrated with my life in L.A.,” he says. “I was making things for celebrities—I did a whole house for Orlando Bloom. But I was coming home to a little box that costs so much money, and my shop was in a really bad area.” So he and his family packed up and headed to Wimberley, Texas, on a whim.
“I bought a house. I just moved. I was going for quality of life,” he says. “I knew if I couldn’t make it here, I could just get a job at Home Depot,” he says. That hasn’t happened, and he has been free to remain focused on his art. “I don’t look forward. I wake up every morning having this idea of what to do, what I want to make. I just keep going. I do it for myself,” he says.