Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don't You Loose Pieces?

The craft of marquetry does not travel well. By that I mean that, during my career I have demonstrated in public at woodworking shows, SAPFM conferences, school classrooms and, for three years, in the Getty museum galleries. What a chore!

You need to move the chevalet, all the hand tools and materials, set up the glue pot, assemble the picking machine, and not drop the trays which are full of pieces. Any unnecessary movement of the trays means that time must be spent putting all the pieces back in order. That can easily take hours...

At the workshop in ecole Boulle there is a wall cabinet which holds all the trays of work for the students. Each student is provided with a tray or trays according to his project, and the position of his trays within the cabinet is decided by the teacher. You do not put your tray back in a different slot. There is no messing around with the trays; too much is at stake.

I noticed that, like all students where there is a close friendship bond, there is a certain amount of humor and jokes. It happens from time to time that one student will do something to another student to create a moment of laughter. This is really because the work is serious and challenging and it makes the working environment more enjoyable when people have fun.

However, it is never fun to mess with a student's tray. You do not touch it. If it is in your way, you find the owner and ask him to move it. Too much is at stake.

I was at school for so long that I took this rule as absolute and obvious to all. Unfortunately, not all Americans understand this idea. Years ago, when I was demonstrating at the Novi convention center in Detroit (I think?) I had all my work and materials spread out on the tables for the public to see. I was working for several days on my chevalet, making a project, and putting the parts in the tray on the table as I cut them out. I encouraged the visitors to handle much of the material and tools which I used to show the process, but I had a small "do not touch" sign next to the tray of parts.

When my back was turned a kid about 10 years old, standing with his father, used his hands to stir up the parts in the tray, breaking many of them, and spilling them on the floor. What I said next caused all the people within a 50 foot radius to stop talking and stare. It was not nice. The father covered his kids ears and quickly disappeared into the startled crowd. It was several minutes before I regained my composure, and I never was able to complete the project, which had taken 3 days to cut.

Now that I have my own school, the American School of French Marquetry, I never need to travel. Everything has its place, and the space is wonderful to work in. I am a lucky camper.

You are all invited to visit when you are in San Diego. Anytime...just don't touch the trays!

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