This 2015 marquetry class held in Santa Rosa CA was the third time I have given a seminar at Davids shop in this lovely northern CA town. It was a full class of 10 students, and the range of work was impressive, as I have come to expect from the students that come to his school. This four-day class is a condensed version of the 5 and 6-day class, so the heat is usually on pretty high, to get all projects designed, cut, sand shaded, assembled and finished. Most students made two panels, and my favorite was the abstract cow, and the three wine barrels with the brass faucets with what appeared to be a gazillion parts, which actually got finished by the fourth day! We also got to experiment a bit with pushing veneer to its limit, yet again.
This stone inlay class was held at the Marc Adams School of Woodwork, where I have been teaching once or sometimes even twice a year, for the last 17 years. This school is well organized and well equipped to handle a variety of programs, where I have seen strong interest in students learning the skills I have been practicing since my various European apprenticeships, almost 40 years ago (yikes !)
There are always new things to learn from such classes, for students and teachers alike. Some of the challenges that emerged from these classes usually give many opportunities to solve new types of problems associated with this tedious and finicky work. One can push wood around a lot, where stone you cannot. We used marble tiles, stones found in the yard, and semi-precious stones that some people brought to class, to make pictures of stone, with a technique called ‘Pietra Dure’. This trade originated in Italy, where I studied wood and stone marquetry and inlay.
I am constantly amazed at peoples creativity, and am happy to give the advise and guidance needed to make long lasting works of art, sometimes rivaling work found in many galleries and museums today. Working with stone has a particular allure and fascination within the world of hand-trades. The colors do not fade with time, takes time and skill to master, but with the use of some modern cutting techniques that I developed over the years, allows one to create several pieces of work that can be inserted into furniture projects or left as stand-alone art pieces, during this five day class. These are some pics of the projects that were done during this week, over the fall of 2015.
This marquetry class in Georgia was held at a rather unique woodworking store, called Peachtree Woodworking Supply Inc. It has an online presence, an outlet for selling quality tools and supplies for the novice to experienced woodworker. A roomy and well laid out classroom, with a media center that worked very well. The owners support the local club and promote the use of the classroom for demonstrations and seminars, much like the one I conducted. The astonishing thing I have noticed over the years that the students seem to progress faster, creating better designs and doing more complex and projects that you will see in the following pics. I do not think it is because I am doing anything really different, other than distilling the technique down, focusing on the people that need the most guidance, but everybody seems to get it, and it shows. The expectations are higher the more I teach, both from student in regards to the teacher, as well as from teacher to student. The rough belt sanding of the finished veneer is quite fun, sort of like carving with dynamite. It goes quickly, and we only suffered one burn-through, that we were able to fix. All in all, it went well, and I have yet again made more competition for myself, a seemingly a favorite pastime of mine.
Here is a nice note from a student that said it all form his perspective…
Thank you very much for all your efforts (both in preparation and from 8-5 each day!) in putting together a wonderful learning experience for us at the GWA Marquetry class in Atlanta. I feel as though I’ve passed through a portal into a new world. All the promise I hoped for leading up to the class was realized by the end of the week. Going forward, I feel very confident I will truly elevate my work to the level I dream it can be.
My biggest impression from the class was the space to complete two panels. The first panel – one to break the ice and just get going – was incredibly liberating for me. It’s informing to sit and watch DVDs, but pushed to use that knowledge in class was the kick in the pants I needed. My second attempt of the portrait of my great-grandfather turned into a design exercise which has prompted lots of contemplation. I think about the complexity of Silas’ faces (which my second panel failed to emulate) and contrast that complexity with a vision of simplicity and efficiency I strive for in my work. I see the distance I have yet to travel, but I’m excited to head there by learning how to render a portrait with an elegance of my own. Stay tuned for updates.
Again- thanks much for a great week, for “filling the gaps” of questions prompted by the DVDs, and for demonstrably caring about your students’ progress.
Few know what goes into the months of planning for a class of this nature, and as it begins to take shape, I ask: Can it be actually be done? Will there be enough time? How hard should I push? The material and cut list fluctuate depending upon how many students are there, which impacts what I need to ship, what special tools or supplies will I need at the school. What are the contingency plans in case one of the student projects goes poorly, oh, finish the blueprints, make them readable and run off full size copies…and then on to logistics?
Student introduction and class prep list are done and sent off, the actual curved cabinet project I did as a prototype is finished, photographed and pics emailed to the schools website, and I follow up a blog on my website. Airline tickets are purchased, teaching crates with return labels are sent ahead, various student requests for tools are thrown in at the last minute, Proofread EVERYTHING. And… all of this? All for a class at the South West School of Fine Woodwork? What am I thinking? Is this really worth all the hassle?
I arrive into PHX from SBA to see Raul’s smiling face, ready to whisk me away to the school, to prepare for the upcoming week. The school is located in an industrial area of Phoenix, close to the airport, dusty razor wire over a chain link fence, with a tin shed roof for a cover. It is a ghostly Luthiers hangout, an seemingly unlikely place for a woodworking school. Behind the woodpile, and scattered guitar making gear, an occasional Luthier can be spotted carrying something on some mission or another. I enter the SWCFC classroom and immediately noticing the nice work benches, the second new Sawstop, better lighting than last time, a better machine layout, a kick ass swamp cooler that keeps us from suffering too much, and well kept hand tools adorn the new inner wall since the last time I was here. I suspect these all belong to Raul, the consummate craftsman. My crates are here and happily intact (believe me, I have seen Fed Ex and UPS do some nasty things to my boxes ! ) All the preparations are done and material sized and ready to be used. New vacuum bags in the next room, shiny hand planes near a dusty pile of veneer. A little more cleaning, and the benches will be ready to be occupied in the morning.
The class went well, although most did not complete their project of building a curved door cabinet with veneer. As you can see, many incorporated marquetry into their designs, which extended the time needed to complete it in the six days we had, but everyone got close enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with enough momentum for the cabinet to be completed back at their own workshop. All in all, it was successful, and everyone had a great time. I enjoy these classes, to see the lights come on when people ‘get it’ and having the opportunity to share some of the knowledge I have gathered over a lifetime as a woodworker. Great class!
I returned to this well known woodworking school in the heart of Indiana, after taking a sabbatical from teaching in 2013. I have been doing 1, 2 and 5-day classes there for about 16 years, (sometimes twice a year.) The school has grown considerably since I started, and Marc continues to add more buildings for classes, finding new instructors, upgrading equipment and improving the facility to become the first class school that it is today. He brings in national and international instructors that are experts in their fields, and schedules between 140 to 160 classes per year. It is a well-oiled and maintained machine. I enjoy the ‘Picture and Pizza’ night, where I get to see examples from other instructors and see what other skills are being taught, and the opportunity to see other instructors teaching style.
This veneering class had 15 students and we had the class split into three loosely formed groups. Decorative veneering, Marquetry and Veneering furniture components. The challenge for this class was learning how to repair veneer that had de-laminations bubbles on almost everybody’s first project, due an unusual bleached and dyed elm veneer that we used. One student that had taken my class before finished several projects of advanced work, and we used Gorilla glue for laminating much of the veneer work to the cores. All of the students got to see most facets of veneering skills, production work, designing marquetry patterns, chessboards, parquetry, and using veneer in furniture.