|The Design Department of ASFM|
I received an interesting email recently from another furniture maker who asked me where I got the designs for my work. He said that he was an amateur and had made some pieces "in the style" of a current studio artist. That artist had threatened him with legal action and he had to take down pictures of his work from his website to avoid trouble.
That reminded me of another incident which happened a few years ago. One of the students who had taken classes from me at ASFM had gone on to produce some amazing work. His favorite style was Ruhlman, and he made a magnificent sideboard, which was influenced by that great French artist. This student was impressed with some photos I had taken of myself standing next to my work, and decided to do the same, but dressed in a tuxedo. He printed up some postcards and was immediately served with a legal "cease and desist" letter from some attorney in New Jersey. This student lives in Southern California. The attorney was representing a well known marquetry artist who has made his living with Ruhlman copies, and, in this letter, claimed to have "trademarked" the image of an artist in a tuxedo standing next to his work. Wow.
When I searched his website, I found that he preferred jeans and shirts, like all of us guys, and no photo of him in a tuxedo could be seen. In any event, be careful not to dress too fancy when you get your photo taken.
All of this leads me to try to bring some perspective to the issue of design. We all know Sam Maloof made an iconic rocking chair. Honestly, how many hundreds of furniture makers have copied his rocker? There are several issues to consider. Sam was a professional, and master of promotion. Most of the copies are by amateurs, who just aspire to create something "Maloofian." No one seriously would value a copy of a Maloof rocker as much as the original.
The irate artist in New Jersey who made his living with Ruhlman copies has no reason to be concerned with another artist in California who also was inspired to do the same. What is that about "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?"
As to my career, I can say that I have made exactly one original design in my life. That was the RockeTable, which I have never sold and have only made the single prototype. All the other pieces in my portfolio are either exact copies or strongly inspired by "dead" cabinetmakers who lived in other countries centuries ago. So far, their attorneys have not contacted me, thank goodness.
As to the marquetry designs for the late 17th century clocks, I have two sources to access, which are "public domain." The first is the excellent three volume set by Pierre Ramond, "Masterpieces of Marquetry," which has dozens of precise drawings of antique furniture. I have made lots of copies of these designs in a range of proportions of enlargement. I can select an element, like a flower or leaf, from this stack of drawings and place it in exactly the position I want to create a new design. The design is new, but the elements are old. I suspect period designers did the same, as many of the elements have a similar form, from one piece to another.
The second source of design is from the many pieces of period marquetry I have restored and conserved. I take thermal fax paper and make rubbings of the marquetry, which works really well, and also use tracing paper to copy elements for my archive. Some of the flowers are simply amazing, and may contain as many as 50 pieces of wood, just for one flower.
So, nothing I do is original except that I sign my work and brand it. Go ahead and feel free to copy any thing I have made. Fine with me, as long as you don't sign my name on it.
|Toothing The Groundwork|
Over the weekend I took a toothing plane and surfaced all the oak material for the clock. Then I selected some nice yew wood oyster sawn veneers, which I purchased in 1994 from Patrick George, to decorate the sides of the case. I prepared them, glued them to Kraft paper and cut the joints for them to fit together.
|Back of Panel with Mastic|
I also took some hot water and diluted the hot protein glue, then added some very fine hand sanded Cuban mahogany wood dust to make a mastic. I prefer mahogany for the mastic, as it is a fine powder and doesn't swell up in the wet glue, like some woods. It also has a very nice dark brown color.
Finally, I have all the panels ready to glue down, which I did in the press today.
|Panels Ready for Glue|
As to the copying of designs, even Chippendale stole from others!