Quilts and Marquetry

A week ago my wife and I went to the  Pacific International Quilt Show.  It is just amazing how those artists take fabric and thread and create landscapes, portraits, abstracts and other amazing pictures.  These aren’t your grandma’s keep you warm scrap quilts.  These are fine works of art.

As I left the show all I could think about was how much I’d love to create work that would move someone else as much as these quilts moved me.

Now I am not a quilter or fabric artist.  I work in wood where the colors are variations on brown and texture is in the grain patterns.  In wood you don’t get the same vibrant colors as there are in fabric but still there is line, shading, light values, composition and perspective.  I have often thought that many of the same design considerations that exist in a fabric picture must exist in a wood picture.  In fact I’ve seen some marquetry work that was every bit as moving as these quilts were.

I did have an interesting experience in the vendor’s area of the show – I found a marquetry tool that I have been looking for.  Wood veneers can be cut with either a scroll saw or a knife.  I’ve been wanting to learn how to cut a picture with a knife.  As I was wandering around the vendor’s booths there was a scissor vendor with the #3 scalpel handle I needed.  Yup, one of the knives used to cut veneer is a scalpel with a #11 blade (same shape as a Xacto but thinner).  So I bought it and then found the cutting mat I needed to go along with it.

Lately I’ve been feeling the push to just do some stuff.  I tend to mostly just sit around and think about things – I am really good at “big picture” thinking.  Not so good at getting of my rear and doing things.  Like my shop – it’s a disaster and there are a ton of things it needs to be the perfect marquetry workshop.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to do to “redo” or “fix up” my shop.  I need a new work bench, an air compressor, a lathe, a tape dispenser, a veneer storage and …

But after the show I decided enough of thinking and time to start doing – with whatever tools and fixtures I’ve got on hand.  Turns out I’ve got a bunch of tools and supplies.

In the last week I’ve started on three marquetry projects: Knife cut tulips, a tissue box and a chess board.  These are cut and glued down but still need to be sanded and have finish applied.  Here is a picture of the tulips:

Knife cut Tulip Marquetry

I did two of these tulips.  This was an exercise in technique and learning to cut veneer with a knife – plus a good excuse to use my new scalpels.  I won’t list the flaws I see in the work but I did learn a lot about knife cutting and I really like the results.  I did take pictures of the cutting process and plan to write a post on how I did this.

I went to the marquetry workshop this last weekend and showed them my tulips and got a lot of great suggestions on how to improve my technique.

They were doing two projects at the workshop – a marquetry tissue box holder and a chess board.  Two of the members gave instructions and demos on how to do each project.  Yesterday I made my version of the tissue box.

The turtle is a Hawaiian petroglyph and the box is destined for our Hawaiian themed guest bathroom.

Turtle Tissue Box

I made a start on the chess board.  The chess board is destined to be a gift so you won’t get to see it until after Christmas.

Chessboard in progress

There you have it – I did stuff.  Might not be fine art but it is mine and with that comes a sense of pride in having actually done something.  Maybe the next piece will be a moving artistic statement.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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