My Entry Into Marquetry

My Entry into Marquetry 1993 Private Collection

My Entry into Marquetry

An Artist’s Awakening From the Sewell’s Point Entry Door – Stuart , FL. – 1993

This was my Very First Marquetry Project!  I had been commissioned to design a carved door to complement the profuse tropical landscape of my clients’ home, but while they loved my design, my price to create it as a high-relief carving was outside of their budget. They had already paid me for the design and were considering sending it to Indonesia or Mexico, where some very capable carvers work for pennies per day, but graciously agreed to give me a couple weeks to come up with a more affordable alternative.

I had seen marquetry ( as inlay, in imported furniture ), and felt that if I could educate myself to learn the technique I would be able to do the job in this medium for a much lower price. But unlike every other discipline I’d learned over twenty years of woodworking, I could not locate anyone who was familiar with this one. Thankfully, my local library had three books on the subject and, after discarding those described methods which required major tool construction, and experimenting with some of the others’ techniques, I presented my clients with a small representative sample, ( and a manageable price ), got the job, and completed it within two months.

I went on to create decorative inlays for the custom furniture industry, in addition to my employment as a Cabinetmaker, until the summer of 2008, when unemployment gave me pause to consider combining my given artistic talent with this acquired skill.

This door was “pure” Marquetry, being composed entirely of natural wood veneers, with no applied or infused coloration in its composition, and while I began using commercially dyed veneers in my furniture inlays soon after, it wasn’t until I made my first marquetry artworks in 2008, that I began incorporating papers and accentuating with pencils, inks and paints.

Since I had been unable to locate any marquetry practitioners when I started out, I was surprised to encounter a number of “experts” when I started displaying my work at art shows.  And even more surprised to find that most of them were not actually experts, but Collectors, who couldn’t tell the difference between laser-cut, (which leaves a discernible black edge between all the parts), and hand-cut work, and scorned mine for my use of non-traditional accoutrements !

Have I mentioned that Picasso and Escher are the two artists I most admire?  My admiration is not just for their unsurpassed quality and body of work or, that rarest of artistic occurrences, the success they enjoyed during their lifetimes; they both took traditional media and expanded it! They made it their own!

I honestly have no aspirations to any such Greatness and, far from being offended by any expert opinion, I must adhere to the attitude of Modigliani: if you don’t like what I’ve presented, (or feel that the price is too high), then you’re free to do it yourself !

If my work puzzles your eyes, conjures your favorite music, engenders a question, makes you laugh aloud, or takes you somewhere else, foreign or familiar, then I am satisfied. And if you should like it well enough to want it in your home, you’ll be providing me with both the means and the motivation to do More!

I Can’t actually stop, though an occasional sale Does make it easier to continue…

Kenneth A. (Tabe)


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