Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Student Becomes Teacher



Paul Miller and his Work


I look back on my career and realize how fortunate I have been to have met and studied under great teachers.  Not only in my physics career at UCSD but in my other studies in American Decorative Arts and related European Decorative Arts.  On both sides of the country and both sides of the ocean I have spent time with great scholars, many of whom are no longer with us.

Pierre Ramond, in particular, realized that even though I was an average worker in the field of marquetry, I had a certain talent to communicate ideas and concepts which gave me the ability to educate others.  That is why he pushed me into getting my workshop accredited by ecole Boulle and positioned to receive his students as interns for different stages of work.

Fortunately, Pierre gave me the idea to create the American School of French Marquetry so that when he retired from ecole Boulle I was able to offer his teaching process to the public.  This is significant, since as far as I can determine, there is no other school where historic French marquetry methods are taught using the "chevalet de marqueterie."

In the last 15 years, since ASFM has been operating, we have seen an amazing number of talented students pass through our doors.  Professionals and amateurs of all ages show up and spend time cutting small pieces of woods on the chevalets.  It is always a pleasure to see the results at the end of the week, when the paper is removed and the work is finally exposed.

I really enjoy teaching.  It is exciting to meet new people and be able to answer their questions.  I feel that my years of stuffing information into my brain is worth while when I can then "download" it into other inquisitive minds.  The popular idea of "play it forward" is how I perceive my job as teacher.

Thus, it is very satisfying when I hear from a person who I might have influenced in some positive way.  A good example of this is Paul Miller, who lives in the North West corner of the states.

There are a lot of professions which use wood as a medium.  People build houses, furniture, instruments, airplanes, boats, cars, tools and sculpture, to name the most obvious.  Each of these trades requires study, skill and experience to do properly.  It is not common for a specialist in one field to be able to transfer to another, but it does happen.

Paul Miller builds boats.  That is a simple statement of fact.  However, it is safe to say he is a master of boat building, judging from what I saw on his videos.  Some of you will appreciate the skill and technical difficulties involved in making a boat not only functional but at the same time a thing of beauty.  This is what Paul does.

When he came to my school just a few years ago he wanted to learn how to make marquetry.  He had never seen the tools or the French process or heard of sawn veneers.  I introduced him to the methods, showed him some books and told him to buy as much sawn veneers as he could afford, before they disappeared.

He went to Paris and broke the bank.  He set up a chevalet in both his homes and started cutting.  He created a web page on Lumberjocks called the "Chevy Club" and attracted a large following of woodworkers who were new to the "sport."  As much as I have worked to introduce the tool to Americans, he has done more.

He was fascinated with the jewel cabinet I post as the masthead of this blog.  He decided to make a version of his own and communicated on a regular basis with my partner, Patrice Lejeune, to work out the issues.  His efforts were also well documented on the Lumberjocks page.  You need to check it out.

When he finished, he hired a photographer to take his photo with the box, in exactly the same pose as I did with my work.  This photo he sent to me in a private email message, with the subject "For your eyes only."  Apparently he was not sure how I would react.  His concern was that I would somehow be insulted that he had copied me?  I am the last person on earth who wants to be placed on a pedestal.  I am just a guy who loves what he does.  That's it.  I am not even the best at what I do.  I know many others who are more skillful in this trade.  I just have a lot of passion for marquetry and furniture, good wood and old tools.  It keeps me going.

I am very flattered by his photo.  I am pleased that he has taken my advice and followed his muse.

It validates my life.

Patrick Edwards and his Work

6 comments:

shipwright said...

Thank you Patrick
If I made your day, then that made mine.

You and Patrice have helped me establish my post retirement identity. Men tend to relate to what they do and when they retire they often suffer a loss of this identity.
I used to be "the guy that builds boats". Now, thanks to you, I am "the guy that does that marquetry". Anything is better than "that guy who golfs all the time". :-)

Siavosh said...

This is a wonderful story and exchange, thanks for sharing to both.

Jeremy Pringle said...

Great work Paul!!

Anonymous said...

Hello Pat,

There is another wre they teach marquetry with the chevalet ,in ├ęcole d'ameublement de parios, la bonne graine. there is another one in the region were pierre was born to.

Filip Tanghe

W. Patrick Edwards said...

I stand corrected. Although the marquetry atelier at ecole Boulle teaches with nearly a dozen traditional chevalets, there is also the school you mention in Paris and another in Ravel. In fact, finding a school which offers teaching using the chevalet is rare.

Thank you, Filip. I always look forward to your posts on Facebook and your comments here. Someday I will visit you and your family in Belgium.

Anonymous said...

Patrick,

Are you going to ask for a cease and desist order? He's infringed on your signature look! Clearly another marqueteur is trying to undermine your bread and butter.

Nah! That's just a wank from New Jersey talking.

Dan