The ancient art of marquetry is revived by a gifted artisan.
Written by Judith H. Dobrzynski
Produced by Doris Athineos
Silas Kopf, dressed in worn jeans and a work shirt, hovers over a cluttered work table and traces the contours of a tiny eye—no more than a quarter of an inch across—onto six pieces of wood veneer of various hues. In seconds, he cuts them out with a string saw, beveling them so they fit together perfectly. Cemented with a touch of glue, they will form the nucleus of a colorful parrot he’s creating from dozens and dozens of wooden pieces. Along with another parrot, both set amid marquetry branches, it will eventually grace the front of a cabinet designed to hold oversize illustrated books about birds.
If you think marquetry is a dead art, a relic of the Renaissance, you haven’t met Kopf. For more than 25 years, he has been turning out hand-cut marquetry marvels, some laced with humor, others as elegant as a classic commode, and still other trompe l’oeil tableaux so realistic they demand a double take. “I don’t think anyone else in marquetry has his accuracy or range of colors,” says Wendell Castle, the 80-year-old wood master who is known as the father of the art furniture movement.
The story continues on the following slides. Shown above is Kopf’s “Cat Desk,” where the shadows of the “open” desk play a trick on viewers.