By Deb Silverthorn
There are thousands of slivers that Michael Acks brings together in his cutting boards, lazy Susans, menorahs, pencil boxes and more. Shades of the artist’s heart, and shades of wood cuttings, make for stunning and utilitarian results.
“You never know what you ‘know’ how to do until you try. I wasn’t a woodworker but that’s changed, and it’s become something people are appreciating and I love it,” said Acks, first inspired by a piece his wife Ashley saw in a store.
Acks, who also makes shoe benches, entry tables and other special requests, turned a section of his garage into his workshop, where he designs and builds his creations of cherry, mahogany, padauk, walnut, wenge and other cuts — myriad colors and grains. While his wife and children play in the yard nearby, checking in on dad, or in the evenings after the house has quieted, Acks spends between two and 10 hours on most pieces.
“I started with the learning tower which lets kids stand by while an adult is cooking or working. Whatever they’re doing, they can be part of the action,” said Acks, who sold more than 100 towers in two months. After a recommendation, he posted the stepstool to Facebook. Voila, the birth of M&A Woodcraft Custom Woodworking.
“I’ve started a couple of menorahs that will be meaningful to the families they go to,” said Acks, who, if requested, can personalize his work, engraving in many fonts, Hebrew lettering too. “One hundred percent realizing the art that I’m making becomes part of a family, keeps me creating.”
It is said that Thomas Jefferson invented the lazy Susan because his daughter complained she was always served last. At the Gross house, Amy and Brad have found dinnertime more peaceful as their children Ethan and Hailey swing their 36-inch monogrammed poplar-wood centerpiece to whatever dish or condiment they need.
“Now, ‘I can do it’ means they can ‘do it,’ getting whatever they want themselves,” said Amy, whose functional centerpiece has the couple’s initials lasered in and filled with an almost-silver epoxy. “We have big family dinners with no — OK, fewer — passing spills. It’s useful and beautiful.”
Acks, from Cleveland, Ohio, is the son of Cherie and Harvey and brother of Jamie. He has been married to the former Ashley Cobbel for nine years; the two met on JDate. Dallas was Ashley’s home and a year after they were married, they made their way back to Big D. Michael’s sister, then his parents, made Dallas home too — Ashley’s parents Geanine and Gary rounding out the close family ties.
Not allowing distance to disconnect, Acks keeps close ties to his alma mater, Purdue University, serving as vice president and treasurer of the governing board of the school’s Hillel. Raised at Cleveland’s Park Synagogue, in youth groups and religious school, Acks found connection, something he hopes his children will too.
The Acks bought their home, walking distance from Congregation Anshai Torah. Their children Blake and Caroline are products of the congregation’s preschool and Michael serves on the congregation’s IT and security committees.
Acks is a project manager for the business strategy firm Slalom Consulting. In his spare time, he plays on the Direwolves, a Stars recreation league hockey team.
“Family is most important to me and I love sharing everything with them,” said Acks. “Even when I’m in my workshop, they’re usually shooting hoops or coloring close by. The kids love watching things happen.”
For more information, or to order, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the M&A Woodcraft Facebook page. To guarantee receipt for Hanukkah, orders must be placed by Dec. 8.
By Deb Silverthorn