An astonishing seventeenth-century cabinet covered in the most intricate, decorative, floral marquetry that must have taken months, if not years to complete, resides on the second floor of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Four hundred years after the master craftsmen finished this cabinet, the ancient art and craft of marquetry, applying wood veneers to solid wood surfaces to make patterns and designs, is making a comeback. New technology and changes in public taste, have made a modern take on this wonderful craft possible and seemed ideally suited to an idea we'd been tossing around.
As with all art and design, you don't always know where you're going when you start and once you start, you just keep working it out. With a plan to elevate the side table from its lowly place in many a home, our first drawings produced the framework for a small, square table with tapered legs and a beveled edged top. We chose mahogany and maple woods to provide a strong foundation and balanced color quality. Michael made sketches of dancers and musicians and used marquetry to bring the surface of the table to life. Jamboree - Shorty became the first prototype in the Mardi Gras series and was cut completely by hand using mahogany and maple veneers. The table size worked well alongside a chair or sofa and added a joyful element of visual interest.
Designs for two additional tables, Slim Jim and Squared Away and the first cabinet, Sideline, followed with each piece going through several changes as lines were refined and spared down. A lone sax player and jam session provided the inspiration behind Cool Jazz and Good Times designs and the Mardi Gras series was completed with the addition of Stand and Deliver, a large double-door cabinet. These designs were cut by laser, which permitted more time to concentrate on hand-finishing and additional inlay work. The combination of laser and hand techniques gives modern marquetry a place to be relevant and allows us greater freedom to translate ideas.
Our second series Katman evolved a few months later, followed by Ikebana and then Circleline and the introduction of mirrors to each series. We used a mixture of hand, laser, and inlay exploring the effects of dying veneers and enduring all the pitfalls that occur as we worked through various stages.