Panama City's sparkling blue waters and breathtaking sunsets are the perfect inspiration for creativity. As a result, talented artists of all stripes and colors call Panama City home. Every month, we feature the handmade objects and inspiration of this creative core. This month, meet artist Mike Abbot.
Meet PC Artist Mike Abbot
How long have you been doing this and how did you get started?
I've been making wire trees for about 7 years. I
discovered it by accident when I was working around in a shop and there was a piece of copper sitting on a bench. I picked it up and formed a rudimentary piece of a tree. I wondered what I could make with more and it grew from there. I have Parkinson's disease and it became therapeutic for my hands and I started using it as a therapy. The tree part came about because I am a retired forest ranger and I really love trees.
How did you learn the craft?
I'm self-taught and didn't think much of it at first. My family saw my work and encouraged me to keep working. It was a lot of trial and error and experimenting to find what wire works the best and to find the right beads to match the leaves I wanted to
How has your work and technique evolved over time?
I started out making bare trees with no beads on the limbs. I wanted to add leaves and that's when I began exploring different stones. My biggest struggle is to find the base that the trees sit on. I always have an image of what I want the base to look like, and then I have to go find that base. I go walking in the woods to find the piece that the tree will fit on. I am learning that with the bases, I have to give a little and I have evolved in what I use.
What are your current focuses or themes?
Right now, I am trying to make everything as natural as I can, using natural materials. I'm trying to use recycled wire instead of commercial wire, and varying the color of the stones. I'm getting more into fall colors and
experimenting with red and orange tones. It's hard to capture the way the leaves on a tree change color.
How do you source your materials?
I find the wood bases on my property near a riverbank. The wire is recycled or purchased. The beads are natural stones that I order in bulk.
How does living here in Panama City influence your work?
I'm from Pensacola, Florida and moved to Panama City when I became a forest ranger. The sand pines and their habitat are very unique in this area. They can be really twisty and knotty. I like that type of design and it's easy to find here in Panama City.
At what point were you inspired to share your skills with others?
If people ask me to teach them the skill, I teach them the best wires and beads to use. I can teach the mechanics, but I can't teach the love of nature and trees. It's a skill that takes a lot of patience and learning to adapt.