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Mike learned his first carpentry skills working summers alongside his father, owner of Hilary's Home Improvements in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Beginning at age 12, he gradually learned the basics of home building and renovation as an apprentice to his father.
Mike's talents as a visual artist earned him a full scholarship to Northern Illinois University, where he received a B.F.A. in studio art. He then went on to earn an M.F.A. in printmaking from the University of Oklahoma, where he also received a full scholarship. He supported himself through college and graduate school working as a carpenter, gaining new skills and experience all the while.