American Marquetry Society The History of Marquetry
American Marquetry Society
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Marquetry is the art of creating decorative designs and pictures by skillfully utilizing the grain, figure and colors of thin veneers, and sometimes other materials such as shell or ivory.
While the exact origins of marquetry are unknown, it is believed to have its inception in ancient Egypt where inlays were used in the palace of King Mausolus around 353 BC, located in modern day Turkey.
In addition to this, hieroglyphs and paintings from Ancient Egypt indicate that veneers were cut with bronze adzes and applied to burial caskets.

During this same time period, mosaic work was also widespread.
Thus, it is presumed that it didn't take long for old world craftsmen to also start experimenting with designs formed from different veneers. 


In the 14th Century marquetry was developed in Northern Italy and used as a method of decorating cathedrals. Over the next few centuries, marquetry schools were established in France, Germany and Holland.
During the 16th to 18th Centuries much exquisite work was produced focused primarily on decorating furniture, especially for royalty. 


Eventually, marquetry extended westward from Europe to America and beyond.


Today there are a handful of professional marquetarians, however, it is often the amateur who produces some of the finest work.
Unrestricted by commercial concerns, they are able to develop new techniques which are often labor intensive, advancing this unique art form to new standards. 

The Marquetry Process

The primary material used in marquetry today consists of a variety of natural wood veneers. These veneers come from literally thousands of species of trees from around the world.
Depending on the type of cut used on the tree to produce the veneer, and the color of the wood itself, the appearance of the veneer may vary greatly in both grain and color.

Multi colored and grain specific veneers
veneer samples

Marquetarian Frank Westerlund
cutting the design
The marquetry artist, or marquetarian, selects their veneers based on the right combination of grain, color, and texture needed to create the impression they want to achieve. Next,a pattern is chosen and the individual veneer pieces that will make up the design or picture are cut out using either a knife or a fret saw. Following this, the pieces are glued together and the completed design is mounted onto a rigid base and sanded flat.

Lastly, a finish is applied to protect the wood and the marquetry piece is completed. The infinite variety of veneers, grain, and figuration insures a unique one-of-a-kind product every time.

Marquetry by Gary Myers

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