Volcano Art Center Featured Artists

Riley, Mike

Mike moved to Volcano in 1972 and is a self-taught woodworker. His knowledge of local woods has come from hands-on experience developed over the past twenty-five years. He designs many of the pieces he builds, starting from a three-dimensional sketch to work out ideas with the client. “I also will build pieces in well-known traditional and contemporary designs, I feel this gives me an opportunity to explore and understand the work of masters that have come before me, and allows me to design future pieces with the experience necessary to incorporate the essential elements found in each period of design.”
He runs a one man shop, meaning every piece is built, sanded, and finished by him. Production is not his focus. One koa tree in a hundred is the quality of wood he can use, so has developed relationships with the mills working in the prime koa zone. When they discover a log of the quality he wants, he goes to the mill site to direct the way the log is milled. “I know exactly the grain direction and thickness needed to build high end furniture, then I slowly cure and dry the wood myself.”
Each piece of furniture he builds is finished in a hand rubbed oil using a recipe he developed himself. “Oil finish only needs to be reapplied occasionally…brings out the true color of the wood, has the most natural feel of any finish and never has to be stripped for refinished, thereby preserving the patina of the fine furniture.” Knowledge of local woods and years of experience building custom furniture on the Big Island have contributed to developing a unique style of work that is a reflection of the many cultural and natural influences found in Hawai`i. He builds fifteen to twenty pieces a year and his work has won many awards.
“Living with an active volcano as a neighbor has provided exciting moments over the past thirty years. It is a part of life in Hawai`i that has influenced my work.”