Saturday, May 23, 2015

Edwards & Lejeune


Edwards & Lejeune Label


 In the history of furniture making, there are several examples of successful partnerships.  Goddard and Townsend come to mind.  (I am not making a direct comparison.  Please.  I am just pointing them out as one of the most famous examples...)

As some of you may know, I worked for nearly 4 decades absolutely alone.  I built the workshop and furnished it with rare woods and period tools.  I met with the clients, bid the jobs, did the work and delivered it when it was done.  I opened the mail, answered the phone and paid the bills.  It was exhausting but I had the energy so I did it all.

The first thing which changed in this business for me was when I convinced my wife, Kristen, to stop teaching art in High School and come to work with me.  She was able to take over all the office duties and interface with the clients very successfully.  My phone skills were basically, "Hello, I'm busy, what do you want?"  Her phone skills were very advanced and I noticed a real change in the business as the clients were happy and I was able to work at the bench without stopping every 10 minutes to answer the phone.  A real bonus was that I did not have to think about the money flow.  From time to time she would mention that we needed more money, but that was the extent of it.  What a relief.

The second change was when Patrice Lejeune was able to move to San Diego from Paris and work with me on a H1-B visa.   I had some reservations about sharing my work space with another cabinetmaker, but we hit it off immediately.  We went from working together to close friends to actual business partners.  We encourage each other, criticize each other when it is appropriate, and divide the work load according to our specific talents.


Patrice Removing Paper From Marquetry

Over the past decade Patrice and I have completed some wonderful projects.  One of the most successful has been the Treasure Box series.  The Treasure Box Series #1 sold out before we were able to finish them.  The current Treasure Box Series #2 has sold 3 of the 4 boxes and is nearly complete.  That means we only have one left.  They should be done soon, as the only thing left to do is get the leather writing surface embossed with gold and apply the French polish finish.  (Actually there is a bit of ebony and bone trim to do, but that is now much of a problem, considering all the technical problems we have solved to get this far.

UPDATE:  After I posted this I received a call from a past student (of ASFM) and good friend who expressed disappointment at not purchasing a Treasure Box Series #1 before they were gone.  She saw this post and decided that it was time to get one.  So now they are all sold.  Patrice and I are in the process of designing Series #3.  Stay tuned!  We both appreciate the support.

These boxes are a labor of love and a tribute to our passion for creating objects which are authentic to the late 17th period in every detail.  They are, in my humble opinion, some of the best work available anywhere today.  They take nearly 2 years to make, and are certainly  worth much more than we are asking for them.  That is why it is so easy to find people willing to buy them and then wait for us to finish them.

Last week Patrice and I glued the marquetry surfaces to the lid, pressing them in the heated press.  We had to pay close attention to the orientation of the birds, as the bird on the inside of the lid needs to be upright when it is open and the bird on the outside needs to be upright when it is closed.   As we glued 8 birds to 4 lids we were both checking each other to make sure nothing went wrong.  We made a video of the process, which we will post soon.

It was a real pleasure watching Patrice wet the paper on the surface and scrape away the paper and glue to expose the marquetry for the first time.  Since we work from the back of the design, gluing the elements face down on stretched Kraft paper, we never see the finished surface until it is finally glued down to the substrate.  That is our ultimate reward for a job well done.

Removing Wet Paper and Hide Glue From The Marquetry

Here is a close up of the work.  You can see it requires quick work to remove all the paper and glue before the mastic begins to expand or the veneer elements start to lift.  Of course, working with sawn veneers which are 1.5mm thick helps.

Blue Bird of Happiness Surrounded By White Bone Flowers

 Here is the top marquetry surface, cleaned of all the paper and glue.  It needs to be sanded and scraped flat before polishing begins.  However it shows the elements of a careful and professional collaberation between two experienced craftsmen.  It begins to look like another masterpiece will be delivered soon!

Top Surface of Treasure Box Series #2



1 comment:

Chuck said...

Words fail me when contemplating such beauty. And as you know I have seen a lot. But this project absolutely takes my breath away.

Thanks to you both for such a wonderful creation and meticulous workmanship.