Michael Rybak first started creating his own furniture while living in a small apartment on Thames Street in Fells Point.
After struggling to find furniture to fit the space, he decided to build everything himself.
Finding furniture to fit unique spaces is a problem many Baltimoreans face, particularly in older row homes, Rybak explained.
“Nothing is ever truly square in the world,” he said.
The Baltimore native turned his own experience into a woodworking career.
In 2015, he sold his first furniture item – a timber-frame bench – to Smaltimore, a bar in Canton.
“I had never sold anything that I created before, and I was intoxicated by delivering a piece of furniture and seeing someone smile and be excited to have it,” Rybak said.
This season, Rybak ventured into holiday items with “Baltimore rat” ornaments.
“You eventually see the rats. Nobody really likes them, but you embrace it as part of life and carry on,” Rybak said.
In a city that ranks among the top ten most rat-infested cities in the country, seeing rats is part of everyday life.
“It’s about embracing the punchline,” Rybak said.
The rat ornaments, which come in three different colors and cost $15, are laser cut and engraved.
Each ornament has a unique feel, Rybak said.
So far, he has made 325 ornaments and sold around 150.
Rybak is selling them on his online store and in two Baltimore stores, Su Casa and Baltimore in a Box.
Rybak, who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, says it is “very exciting to show people an idea and the fruits of labor.”
“This is a really good jumping off point to make more products for the community,” he said.