Mike Johnson developed an interest in woodworking at a young age and first heard about Sam Maloof from an uncle who saved local newspaper articles for him about Sam’s woodworking activities. Mike went on to get his B.A. degree in Industrial Arts from Cal State Long Beach in 1980. In his last semester, before graduation, he first met his idol at a lecture Sam was giving in Los Angeles. Mike was able to see, and sit on, the furniture he unknowingly would soon be helping make.
Not long after graduation, Mike, now newly married to Joanne, met Sam Maloof by chance, and at the urging of his wife, introduced himself as an admirer. After a short chat, Sam invited Mike to visit his workshop in Alta Loma.
The very next day, Mike took Sam up on his invitation and the visit resulted in the offer of employment and for Mike, the beginning of a dream come true. He has now worked at the Maloof workshop for about 40 years, 30 of those years side-by-side with Sam.
“Keep one eye on your work and one eye on me, that way you will know what I am doing also.” These words spoken by Sam, Mike took to heart and in turn gleaned from his mentor the skill of sheer perfection necessary to construct, shape and finish the pieces to a level that thoroughly pleased Sam.
Mike has given workshops at the Maloof shop, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado, for the UCR Extension program and for the Des Moines, Iowa Woodworker Association. Mike attended a weekend at the Craft in America exhibition held in Southern Missouri, He has been a judge numerous times for the Orange County Fair woodworking exhibit. Mike has also given annual workshops for the top woodworking students from local high schools.
Mike was selected to represent the Maloof workshop and give a eulogy at Sam’s memorial service after his passing in 2009. His words about Sam were published in Woodworker West magazine in July 2009. Later that year he also gave a tribute to Sam at a dinner to honor him at the Chicago SOFA show.
Recently when asked about his relationship with Sam, Mike had this to say, “I think I can say without a doubt that nobody over the years has modeled for me a stronger work ethic than Sam. What an amazing body of work he has accomplished, beginning well before I was born. It has been a privilege to be but a small piece of this history and an honor to have Sam Maloof call me one of his craftsmen and friend.”