ināt: Crafting perfect imperfections in Montreal's New Chabanel

Furniture maker and woodworker Michaël Fiset (AKA Mike Fiz) of the workshop ināt on creativity, finding purpose, and (re)building.

J.P. Karwacki

J.P. Karwacki

January 30, 2024- Read time: 7 min
ināt: Crafting perfect imperfections in Montreal's New ChabanelPhotograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

There's a thin layer of sawdust coating every surface of the Montreal furniture maker and woodworker ināt’s workshop loft, floating on the sunlight coming in through a wall of windows that look out over the Garment District in Ahuntsic.

One of the progenitors of what's been called the 'New Chabanel', where Montreal's makers have flocked for space to create, Michaël Fiset (known to some as the BMX rider Mike Fiz) has called his studio home for half a decade now, and it shows: A wall stands lined with personal effects—a cabinet of half-drank bottles of scotch, his daughter's drawings from daycare—and hand tools upon hand tools like mallets and travishers, planes and drills, chisels and carving knives.

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

“We’re all looking for a space to do our craft," Fiset says of the creators he calls his neighbours.

"The creative energy here feels like what Mile End felt like in the 2000’s. Sometimes I’ll just stay here because the vibe is good. It’s the fun part about having your own space.”

Building and refining his profile since he began with small carvings in 2018, Fiset has slowly, but surely, been quietly appearing under the name ināt in disparate places: The furniture of Le Relais Boréale microbrewery, the quiet winter chalet of Schnee-Eule in Morin-Heights, and most recently the 19th edition of SOUK.

"I’m pursuing perfect imperfections. Nothing is truly perfect. I feel like I’m in pursuit of that thin line where the imperfect becomes perfection."
Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

Originating in the Mind

Taking cues from Danish and Japanese woodworkers, ināt’s style is something more natural and tactile. All of his work is done freehand and much it involves hand tools, even with work that’s repeated like a set of furniture where some element remains freehand.

"All these tools are primitive, but refined. It gives that human element, and I like the imperfections they give," he says.

"I’m pursuing perfect imperfections. Nothing is truly perfect. I feel like I’m in pursuit of that thin line where the imperfect becomes perfection."

"Our eyes strain to see symmetry—that’s what our brains do. With objects made by (automated tools) for example, if everything is too perfect, any little imperfection will become a defect. On the other hand, with handmade objects, sometimes those little imperfections are what make the object become perfectly one of a kind."

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu
“Two woodworkers can take the same pieces of wood and same inspirations, but come out of it with two entirely different pieces. That’s what I love about this—it’s malleable, and the only restrictions are the ones the materials have.”
Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

Despite the sleek appearance of the work, Fiset likens it all to chaos, albeit the kind that comes from the artistic process. Working off ‘renderings’ he composes in his mind, objects are formed through intuition—hence the name. In trying to find something that would speak to what he felt inside, “that’s why I liked the word ‘innate’, as it means something which originates in the mind,” he explains.

“Two woodworkers can take the same pieces of wood and same inspirations, but come out of it with two entirely different pieces. That’s what I love about this—it’s malleable, and the only restrictions are the ones the materials have.”

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu
“Time is always fleeting. The time we share together won’t exist once the moment is over. But objects? They are like a time capsule, all the energy put into its creation will stay, quantified by the person who actually made it.”

The Shape of Time

Fiset's profile is rising: At a time when mid-century styles are taking over furniture lines found throughout big box stores, ināt’s creations are a rare presence of craftsmanship. Pieces on a showfloor in a boutique Griffintown space can look similar, but a closer look at the edges, or details in the joinery, show something they can't: Time.

“Unless you are really interested in furniture, it’s hard to see the difference. Sometimes you need to be in it to actually understand the object,” he says.

At face value, it can be difficult to see the sheer number of hours that go into a given piece: A single chair can take upwards of 20 to 22 hours, and a set can take up to three to four weeks.

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

“Time is always fleeting. The time we share together won’t exist once the moment is over. But objects? They are like a time capsule, all the energy put into its creation will stay, quantified by the person who actually made it,” Fiset explains.

“What I do is cater to people who care for the object and process, and we’re getting to a point where people are getting more attached to the process and the things they put into their lives. Unless you’re creating and filling your life with that energy, you need to acquire that energy and put it in your life.”

“We’re all running in life, but what are we running towards? We’re running towards the end. So what you have in life is what you have to show for it.”

It's a lesson Fiset learned the hard way.

"Here, it’s full-on passion, and it’s hard to run a business on passion, but I’m doing the things I love."
Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

Loss and Rediscovery

Hailing from the Eastern Townships, Fiset arrived in Montreal in 2002. His first four years following high school and studying social sciences at Dawson College ‘like everyone who doesn’t know what they want to do in their life,’ he ended up working as a glazier at his friend’s father’s shop, Vitrerie Nationale, for 12 years.

"He taught me everything I can do right now, the old school way, making things with your hands and not depending on computers."

But it was when he stayed by his girlfriend's side through five years of treatments and remissions that he lost her to an ewing sarcoma, along with his drive and creativity. That, coupled with an injury that prevented him from enjoying his creative outlet of BMXing, he hit a wall and depression set in.

"After that, I took time off to regroup, but it was like running the Boston Marathon before before waking up in the middle of nowhere, barefoot and having to run in the rain of the Great Ethiopian Run—I had to rebuild myself."

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

"In the last year of her life, my job was to make her happy and accept what she was going through. I spent that year telling her that it wasn’t about how long you live, but how you live; it’s a hard thing to do when you’re not sick and have that expiry date coming at you, but it’s still there."

He considered social work, but facing the choice of either studies or getting back to work, he landed himself a slot in the woodworking program at the Rosemount Technology Centre.

"That’s how I discovered I could this; I didn’t know I could do it, but one teacher noticed I had the basics from being a glazier—machines, safety, that sort of thing—and I was encouraged to do whatever I wanted. Then I rediscovered that creative side of myself, and it grew from there."

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu
"People see the quality, and that intangible essence that comes from someone when they're doing what they love."

Finding Purpose

"It’s always a process. Finding something you’re passionate about is the first step, but finding something you’re willing to learn about? You need a sense of urgency, and time to focus, making space to learn again," Fiset says.

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

"Here, it’s full-on passion, and it’s hard to run a business on passion, but I’m doing the things I love."

"People see the quality, and that intangible essence that comes from someone when they're doing what they love."

Photograph: Maya Naidu / @mayanaidu

Find more of ināt's work on Instagram and on the workshop's website.


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