Mark Munson is good with his hands. He made a living as a chiropractor. Now retired, he is a master woodworker and a musician.
He has made numerous unique pieces of furniture, glowing kitchen cabinets and wood and coral music stands that look like they rose from the sea.
Mark Munson started playing the trumpet when he was in fifth grade and did his undergraduate work in music at Bemidji State in the early 1970s. He has played trumpet and drums and has sung with several local groups and currently plays with a band in Texas, where he spends winters.
Barbara J Munson
Munson's love for woodworking may have stemmed from his need for hands-on activity.
"I have attention-deficit, and I liked shop classes in school because I could be active," he said of woodworking. "Doing something with my hands and receiving appreciation for it was important."
His shop, a short walk from his house, features an impressive array of power tools. The most imposing of these, which occupies the center of the shop, is a large combination woodworking machine made in Italy. It is a large sliding table saw, shaper, jointer, planer and mortiser all in one machine weighing over 1,400 pounds.
Mark Munson's workshop is a short walk from his house and features an impressive array of tools.
"It was a gift from my son after I built him a new kitchen," he said.
Munson also has accumulated a variety of wood, ranging from local wood to exotic wood from all over the world, including zebrawood, ebony and mahogany.
"Some of the exotic woods are currently protected, so to have stockpiled some over the years was fortunate," he said.
He is especially fond of Michigan-grown curly maple. He points to a hallway tabletop made from curly maple with a zebrawood inlay.
"This is a good example of the beauty of curly maple," he said. "If you look at it from different angles, the light catches it and it shimmers."
Mark Munson has melded his music with his woodwork.
In describing his artistic process, he readily admits to breaking the rules.
"The woodworking magazines all recommend that you make a detailed drawing first and then even do a cardboard model. I'm more experimental. Maybe that's why so much ends up in the burn pile."
Munson credits his wife, Barb, a photographer, with helping him achieve quality pieces.
"I'll get so far with a project, and then I'll have her come and check it out," he said. "She notices everything and has a good eye for details and proportions. She has high standards, and usually she's right."
Out of the woodshop, Munson is an accomplished musician. He started playing the trumpet when he was in fifth grade and did his undergraduate work in music at Bemidji State in the early 1970s. He has played trumpet and drums and has sung with several local groups and currently plays with a band in Texas, where he spends winters.
He spoke with delight of a recent reunion with his old rock band from the 1960s.
"Three years ago I was at a reunion in North Dakota and ran into a guitar player from our group in 1966," he said. "We discovered that everyone in our original band was within 100 miles. The bass guitar player hadn't played in 40 years, but he went out and bought a new guitar, and we put the band back together. Several hundred people showed up for our reunion concert. Every summer we've done a concert, and of course, we played at our 40th high school class reunion."
Munson has melded his music with his woodwork by creating one-of-a-kind music stands made from wood and coral. Brown fan coral forms the music holder and the rarer black coral is used as a peg that allows for variations in the height of the stand.
"I went down to the Caribbean and found coral that washed up onto the beach after a hurricane," he said. "I noticed that it had a grain that might polish up. It turned out to be gorgeous. "
He has displayed his work at the Franklin Arts Center and other art shows and gives most of it away.
"My projects take a long time," he said. "I don't want to worry about whether other people will like them. If it pleases me, that's what is important. I've sold only two pieces, and I felt so bad after I sold them that I don't think I'll do that very often. I'd rather give them to someone I know. Also, I don't want to make the same thing over and over. Very seldom do I make more than one of any piece."
KAREN OGDAHL is a member of The Crossing Arts Alliance.
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