Furniture Designer of the Year 2014: MTH Woodworks
Michael Thomas Host earns a second Furniture Designer of the Year award as he transforms found material into works of art.
Everyone sees something different in MTH Woodworks Bloom panels. You might be familiar with designer Michael Thomas Host’s more straightforward tabletops and benches—his company did win Furniture Designer of the Year in 2011, after all—but his latest venture into modern headboards and wall hangings made of white resin and wafer-thin slices of hypnotic tree rings practically begs for contemplation. “It’s like a Rorschach test,” says Host, the mind (and hands—he logs the wood, mixes the resin and fabricates each piece himself, start to finish) behind the award-winning Vancouver furniture design firm. “Some will focus on the wood and see that as the positive, but then you step back and suddenly the resin is the focus. That’s the draw for me, to create these cool shapes out of organic waste.”
His work certainly got our judges talking. “Michael has created a tension between the natural and the manufactured that is simple and bold and demands the viewer’s attention,” praised judge Raymond Arenson of Crate and Barrel. “He has done an extraordinary job of simply highlighting in his work the beauty of the environment around him.” Back in 2011 when he first won our Furniture Designer of the Year award, he shared it with then-partner Tanja Hinder. The pair split in October and Host took over MTH Woodworks as a solo project. Each morning—sometimes as early as 4 a.m. if he can’t sleep—he heads with a coffee to his East Vancouver workshop, housed in the graffiti-layered Parker Street Studios along with a grab bag of painters, metalworkers, and concrete and woodworkers, to get a jump on his work when he’s fresh. “It’s a fun place to be,” says Host. “When you run out of inspiration or need a tool or don’t know how to do something, there’s someone who does.” In the afternoons, he makes his way to the hills to mountain bike or snowboard, or hops on his paddleboard to seek solace and a little inspiration.
Host grew up in B.C. as part of a family of foresters, did a stint refining his skills in Brooklyn, and trained for years as a yacht builder, but it’s here in his very own studio that his skill set finally found balance with his artistic side. “I’m getting more comfortable with the materials, and there’s a ton of places to go with them from here,” Host notes. “I’m lingering now at the corner of organic and geometric.” He recently found chunks of 1,200-year-old wood in the Fraser River and is working those into a piece; a wood-grain speaker box collaboration with Kanto is in the R&D stages; an oversized art piece, commissioned by a condo developer, is ready to be hung. This last design is a step toward Host’s ultimate goal of getting his pieces seen by as many people as possible. “The Bloom design started to feel like it deserved a spot on the wall. It still serves a function, even if you can’t put a wineglass on it,” he laughs. “But it starts a conversation and makes people happy. I get a kick out of it.”