Michael Rumsey shapes and designs decorative surfboards as functional fine art. He has created custom wood surfboards and other wood wall art commissioned pieces for private clients, collectors, and customers from coast-to-coast, Alaska, Hawaii, and most recently – Canada.
His clients often mention they are looking to bring a “beach vibe” or “coastal feel” into their homes – as it is more about celebrating the surf culture – instead of just the sport of surfing.
Michael does not use paint or tinted stain on any of his wood surfboards. He employs a variety of techniques to help the natural beauty of the wood to speak for itself. To accomplish this, he carefully hand selects each element to create his designs based on the wood’s color, grain pattern, and other natural properties.
Complete Artist’s Bio & Artist’s Statement Continued Below
Born, raised, and enjoying life today in beautiful Southern California, Michael is a fourth-generation San Diegan. As a surfer, fisherman, and all-around waterman, the ocean has been his continual source of inspiration, sport, and escape since childhood. Thus, the majority of his artwork is ocean-inspired ~ coastal themed.
After college, Michael worked for twenty years in the lumber and building materials industry. He retired early after a barefoot water skiing accident in 1988 caused permanent brain damage, double vision, and the onset of seizures. He resumed his art as rehabilitation – his therapy – as he calls it.
I am currently working with a variety of salvaged, reused, or reclaimed lumber to create custom decorative surfboards as functional fine art or as wood surfboard wall hangers.
Most recently, I’ve completed several commissioned pieces made from Cutwater Spirits oak staves and cask heads reclaimed from barrels used for Cutwater Spirits Devil’s Share Bourbon Whiskey and Bali Hai Tiki Gold Rum.
In addition, I’m in the process of working my way through a load of beautiful, straight-grain, red wine permeated redwood planks reclaimed from a dismantled wine storage tank used at a California winery back in the 1920s. I love working with this old-growth redwood and hope I’m honoring the life of this redwood tree with my art.
I enjoy experimenting with many kinds of reclaimed, salvaged, or unwanted lumber otherwise destined for landfills. For example, into several of my wood surfboards, I’ve incorporated mango wood flooring removed from a home in Hawaii, weathered fence boards from a dilapidated fence, gnarly twisted sticks of redwood rescued from the cull pile at Home Depot, and some exotic wood trimmings collected from local cabinet shops.
Most of my custom wood surfboards are functional, some are pure fun and fantasy, and because of the inability to reproduce my work, all pieces are considered fine art; one-of-a-kind handcrafted works which will remain original in the world marketplace.
Please be sure to check out my Events Page. Perhaps we’ll get the chance to meet where you can view my work up-close and personal as the pictures can’t convey the depth and complexity of each piece.
Past works include design and execution of art walls (mixed media murals), sculpture (wood and metal), drawing, and painting.
Currently, Michael is best known for creating functional fine art using salvaged, upcycled, or reclaimed lumber to handcraft highly decorative hollow wood surfboards and other wood wall art.
Materials and Technique
Most works include several hundred extremely thin strips or small segments of wood from many different species such as koa, redwood, teak, poplar, padauk, wenge, pine, walnut, butternut, mahogany, and maple. Occasionally, he will inlay a small sliver of stone (such as turquoise) or shell (such as abalone, mother of pearl, or a single seashell) as an understated, yet exquisitely detailed, custom touch.
Michael uses the strip-build technique along with his proprietary system of steaming, strapping, clamping, glue-up, and multiple stages of rough sanding through finish sanding to achieve his desired design and shape for each piece. The strip-build technique involves placing a single strip of wood – one strip at a time – over a hollow wood or chambered frame. Similar to the construction of an airplane wing, the hollow or chambered interior frame has a spar and ribs to provide shape and strength – without adding weight.
The final step in the process is the application of the finish involving either traditional ‘glassing’ (fiberglass cloth and resin polished to a high-gloss shine) or a more modern clear varnish or epoxy resin to achieve a matte (satin) finish. The finish is dependent upon both client preference and materials used in the piece. For example, while the salvaged mango wood flooring accepted the traditional fiberglass and resin process, the reclaimed wine tank lumber reacted unfavorably, most likely because of the red wine tannins within the wood. Thus, all future pieces comprised primarily of the tannin-rich wood require a more modern varnish or epoxy.
Interestingly, when applied to the old-growth redwood or other reclaimed lumber, these more modern finishes create a juxtaposition most collectors find appealing.
Medium, Artistic Style, Genre or Category
Artistic Style: Avant-garde inspired by nature and seasoned with his blend of sea salt, a pinch of surfers’ rebellion, and topped-off with his ingrained knowledge of wood bending. This is the best way to describe Michael’s artistic style – as there is nothing else available with which to compare his artwork or style.
Category: Fine Art, Functional Fine Art, Sculptural Fine Art, 3-D or Dimensional Art.
Awards, Exhibits, and Installations
This inherently talented artist has been juried into a variety of fine art events, including the prestigious Design in Wood International Competitive Exhibition. A multiple award winner, he has earned several 1st Place and Best of Show awards.
Michael’s custom artwork can be found in the homes of private clients and collectors throughout the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. He has also created several commissioned works of wood wall art.