Town of Niagara – Most people have hobbies away from their day jobs. For one Western New York resident, that hobby has provided years of memories and satisfaction.
Town of Niagara resident Mike Murawski has much of his spent his free time in the art of metal works, creating some interesting pieces of art along the way.
Though he has worked most of his adult life in the grocery store business, most notability with Tops Friendly Markets, Mike keeps busy. He has coached high school tennis and basketball, and spends time playing tennis, fishing, and camping.
For over 20 years, Mike has made thousands of metal pieces of art. Most of his creations are either sold at local art shows, or given away as gifts to friends and players. Among his most common pieces are birds, specifically ducks. Often comprised of a handful of simple objects, such as nails, horseshoes, and rocks, Mike’s artwork has been a labor of love, with the prospect of making money running secondary to the joy of creating unique pieces.
“I started because I was interested in what my dad did. My dad was able to create and do things with steel, and it was just so impressive what he could do, I was probably, 6 or 7 years old, when I started working with him in his shop,” says Mike.
Some of the machines he uses were designed by his father decades ago, who Mike describes as a brilliant, mechanically-inclined man.
“All this machinery was developed by my dad, says Mike “My dad was quite a mechanic. He could do anything.”
Once he entered adulthood, Mike never lost interest in the work his father instilled in him as a young boy.
“I saw some ideas and concepts of things that I thought I could do better than what I saw out there. Just started going off on a tangent with some abstract art, with metal, stone and wood,” says Mike.
While he has made garden arbors, trellises, wine racks, gates, and iron railings, Mike’s favorite metal hobby has been his statues. Working in his family’s garage, Mike utilizes a variety of tools and machinery to bend, blast, and connect materials to become instantly recognizable animals.
Mike states that while he can’t compete with cookie-cutter mass produced pieces of art, his creations carry a level of uniqueness. A focal point of many of his pieces are rocks, found around the Niagara region. The different sizes, shapes, and colors of the rocks prevent any of his pieces from being exactly the same.
“I’m looking for the uniqueness, the one of a kind type things.” Mike says. “I can make one of a kind items en masse.” He then points to a group of ducks he made, sitting together on a table.
“There’s 15 ducks there, every single one of them is different, because the rock is different on every single one. That’s what I like about what I’m doing,” says Mike.
Mike understands that what he does may not be incredibly difficult for someone with the right tools and knowledge, but he believes that his creativity and experience is what has kept him creating for decades.
“Anyone can do what I’m doing. I’m not fixing the Hubble telescope here, anybody can do this. Most people really don’t give themselves enough credit for the talent they have. I just happen to be lucky, I had the facilities, I had the capabilities of doing what I want to do,” Mike says.
Mike usually takes part in two or three arts shows a year, annually displaying his pieces in the Lewiston Art Festival and GardenFest. Every other year, he sets up at the Decorators’ Show House in Buffalo, where a kiosk sells his artwork.
When it comes to the quantities of pieces he makes, he prefers to work at a comfortable pace, and resists the temptation to sell his pieces in catalogs or on the internet.
“I don’t do anything online. I know if I put my stuff online, I’d get a lot more demand for it, but then it would also become a lot more work. When it becomes work, it’s not as much fun,” says Mike.
Most of pieces fit comfortably on a table or as a lawn ornament, and are usually relatively light in weight. An average piece sells at around $50. One statue that has given him the most pleasure is his biggest, and most expensive piece. A turtle, with an asking price of at least $800, which took him over 40 hours to make over four years ago.
“It’s one of those pieces that, if I sold it, I’d probably be more disappointed in selling it than not selling it. It’s so unique and so different. It’s a show stopper, when people are coming by my booth. I mean a lot of things they stop for and look at all my things, but that will really get them to stop,” says Mike.
He’s also made life-size figures of tennis players and golfers, two of which are displayed at a golf course in Cassadaga, NY. Most of the figurines of people, like skiers, hockey players, and pole vaulters, have been personally made for people, with only a couple being sold at shows.
“It’s just limitless what you can do and what you can make,” says Mike. “Overtime you see something, you’re trying to figure out how you can do it better, and make it more interesting, make it so people would be interested in seeing it or purchasing it.”