A love of wood and nature inspired a young Mike Cruz to form a career. His passion led him to woodworking and his business “Knotty by Nature” was born.
As a native and current resident of Maryland, Mike lives on a 21-acre horse farm with a new 900-foot woodshop just minutes from Boonsboro. “Woodworking has been my passion throughout childhood, middle and high school, and college, where I was surprised to find a woodworking course offered. Through graduation, it remained one of my favorite classes.”
After college, he continued woodworking as a hobby until 1999, when he was fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a “fantastic” woodworker who taught him more than any classroom ever could have. “I got paid for what I loved to do! He introduced me to the lathe, but the interest of turning bowls didn’t strike me until 2010.”
Now, in his own woodshop, he has two lathes. Each with its own job: one for small items; and a custom-built lathe for bowls and platters up to 28 inches in diameter.
“Most of my turning is done with local woods like walnut, cherry, ash, and others, but a large percentage of my turnings are maple. This is due to me having a good supply of many species of some quite spectacular maple. Maple is one of those woods that can have nearly every kind of figure, including Spalting, burls, curl, ambrosia, bird’s eyes, and feathering. It can also range from light to much darker in color.”
Mike creates beautiful wooden bowls , platters, wall hangings, pedestal bowls, and hollow forms. He also creates Greenstik putters. “Greenstix putters are individually handcrafted. Each putter is made with extreme attention to detail and painstaking care. Form and function combine to create a golf club that is as consistent on the course as it is a stunning piece of art. While I use some modern tools, these are crafted and honed by hand, without mass production or assembly line workers. The shafts are even tapered by hand from blanks made from rough stock, not turned on a lathe.” These putters have been submitted to the USGA and conform to USGA rules.
An avid outdoorsman, he does not cut down any live trees for woodworking (or for any other reason). “My works come from trees that have come down in storms, died naturally, or ones I’ve saved from becoming firewood when taken down by arborists.”
Because of Covid-19, Mike has had to cancel all 2020 shows. “Covid has hit my business like every other small business. My avenues for sales have been cut off. Since my art is most appreciated when held and touched, pictures neither create the same experience nor do they elicit the same emotions.”
Normally doing almost 20 shows a year, this year he did two. “You can imagine what that does to revenue losses. And the earliest I can see shows returning safely is May, but even then, I think July or August is more realistic.”
During the global pandemic, Mike has taken part in several virtual shows, but they do not reach the volumes of people that a live art and craft show can produce. So, he put his entire inventory on his website.
“If you don’t find something in the ‘For Sale’ section that will fit your needs, or if you see a particular piece under the ‘Turning’ section, it might be possible for me to design and create something similar to it.”
Mike and his wife have been together 33 years, have a 14 ½-year-old Boxer and three horses.