Michael Nizo, is an artist in Hilo, originally from Kekaha, Kaua`i who works with woods like Birch, Poplar, Mahogany, and Koa. Michael sells finely designed Hawaiian-themed laser-cut Wood Jewelry, Fun Educational Puzzles, Key Chains, Lamps, Coasters, and Ornaments mostly at craft fairs. He graduated in 2013 from Technology for Untapped Talent, where he learned computer-aided design and laser-cutting. Michael now owns and operates his own business, Nizo Natural Precision. The name stems from his surname, Nizo, the fact that he works with only natural materials, and uses a laser so that each piece is cut with absolute precision. Michael goes into his studio in Pana‘ewa about three days a week to create and produce.
An only child with a large extended family, he is a quadriplegic with limited use of arms and legs. As a kid he was an all-star baseball player, always outdoors, in love with the game of baseball.
While he can drive and get himself to work, his left side is weaker than his right, and detail work with his fingers is very difficult. Despite this, Michael says “the hardest part is the designs,” which he does on a computer. “Once you have that,” he says, “the laser does the rest.” Michael’s work includes earrings with inlays, plus etched coasters, keychains, and lamps, which adds depth and dimension to his pieces.
Michael sustained an injury at the age of 14 as a result of a jump off Hanalei Pier on Kaua‘i. To this day, the doctors don’t know how he sustained such a catastrophic injury, since he wasn’t the only kid who was enjoying plunging into the water from the pier on that fateful day. All he remembers is waking up in a hospital with people around him crying.
His injuries led to nine months of critical care and rehabilitation in a Shriners pediatric orthopedic hospital in Sacramento for a bruised spinal cord that required fusion of several vertebrae in his neck. Michael remembers the hospital because he saw many traumas there — young kids with severe burns, amputees. “I grew up fast,” he remembers. “No patient there was over 21. I saw some horrible things and realized that I was lucky.” His father stayed with him, he told Michael he would need to put in 110%. “We can do this together,” he said, but Michael had to be all in. He was; and after nine months, Michael was able to return home.
As you can tell from the photos, Michael has made incredible progress since his injury in 2004 and has become proficient in his craft. He could use some help taking his business to the next level. To do that, he needs a new vehicle that will accommodate his wheelchair better, and allow for more independence. He is also looking to invest in a larger and more reliable laser machine.
Become one of Michael’s supporters and you’ll also get to enjoy some of his original pieces.