Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Marquetry for All Ages
When I decided to start my school it seemed a natural progression for me. After all, I had been fairly successful over the years making marquetry furniture, and had spent several years in Paris and visiting other marquetry shops around Europe. It was the natural thing to do. I even asked my mentor, Dr. Pierre Ramond, if he thought it was a good idea. As he was retiring in 2000, and leaving the school in Paris which he had helped make famous, he was enthusiastic about me continuing to teach his methods in America.
In fact, in Volume II of his "Masterpieces of Marquetry" book, he featured me on page 62 with a photo and the statement: "The perpetual transfer of techniques between continents can be illustrated by Patrick Edward's equipment. this cabinetmaker-marqueteur from San Diego, California, traveled to France and bought a framed jigsaw built at the beginning of the twentieth century, which had belonged to a worker who was active before 1950 in Paul Spindler's famous workshop at Ottrot (Alsace). After a training period of several months at the Ecole Boulle, this American craftsman built his personal donkey as well as a model for his hometown museum, where he is in charge of furniture restoration."
That was published in 1996, several years before he retired and I was encouraged to start the American School of French Marquetry. I still remember my surprise at visiting my friends working in the conservation department of Musee des Art Deco, in Paris, when I returned to Paris on a trip from San Diego. It was just after the book had appeared and I had not yet seen a copy. They all applauded me when I walked into the shop, and I wondered what I had done to deserve such attention. Then they showed me the page.
Now I have my own school, and I remain faithful to the methods and exercises that Pierre used to teach me. When a student takes a class he is learning exactly the same beginning etudes as I did at ecole Boulle the first year. It is the same process that the French developed at the end of the 17th century and the same process they still use today.
The real problem I have is that people sometimes see my work and think it is too complicated or difficult. They often are intimidated into thinking they don't have the ability or patience to execute such designs. However, I have my first marquetry project still hanging on the wall and, when they see that, they aren't so impressed anymore. We all must start at the beginning.
At least if you start with the traditional French process, you have a good chance of producing work which others will be amazed at, and wonder how you did it. Remember when you first learned to drive a car? I am sure you were timid and concerned that you would hit the nearest object. You couldn't see beyond the hood ornament, and afraid to go fast. After driving for some time, now I am sure you don't even think about it. All it takes is practice.
The photo with this post is a family who attended one of my early classes in the school. Both the parents and their son took the same class, and they were a lot of fun. They all were able to do the work perfectly. It was a wonderful experience to see a family sharing the same learning experiences and bonding around a "lost art."
It gives me hope and pride that I can inspire some young enthusiast who may, someday, win the McArthur genius award.