Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Mike Whitehead

October 26, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Mike Whitehead, the artisan behind our gorgeous new handmade Cast Iron Pans with Coil Handles.

Mike Whitehead with pan

When did you know you wanted to be a maker?

I’ve just always been happiest making, growing, or fixing something. In kindergarten I would bring scrap wood to school every day and build clunky wooden models with it in our little shop corner (can you believe they gave hammers and nails to 6 year olds?). In high school I took every art class they would let me. In college I was both the newspaper and yearbook photographer.


3 stacked cast iron pans - Mike Whitehead
What’s been the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artisan?

Easily the most exciting thing is being able to really collaborate with others and dedicate myself to it full time. Making cast iron cookware is incredibly complex and labor intensive. It takes so many additional people and skills that you get exposed to along the way. I am always learning something new whether its pattern making, graphic design, or machining.

What does your typical day in the studio look like?

I haven’t had a typical day yet! I spend most of my time surrounded by vintage cast iron cookware while developing and testing new designs. If I’m not doing that I’m in the workshop obsessing over tiny manufacturing details. Our team works in an old WW2 machine shop with high wooden ceilings, natural light and a tiny view of Portland’s Willamette River.

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?

Yes, I keep an old Kennedy silver half-dollar that my 95-year-old godfather specifically gave me as a pocket piece when he was still alive. It’s one of the early heavy silver ones and even in the middle of winter it feels like a smooth river stone in the sun. I absolutely love how metal ages. It reminds me to slow down and take care in whatever I’m doing.

Cast Iron Grill Pan

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartener for the first time. What do you think they would say?

They would get very excited and say, “This is where pancakes come from!”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

See Mike's Collection | UncommonGoods

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