The Message

“The medium is the message.” – Marshall McLuhan

For a long time, I have struggled to explain my art. Art teachers, professors, colleagues, friends and family often ask me about my pieces. The various questions usually come down to one central idea: Why did you make it? What does it tell me about you as an artist? As a person? Art is a very personal experience that has helped me through highs and lows. That makes answering the question very difficult: it’s not simply an answer; it’s a window into who I am and what makes me ‘me,’ including some of the parts that I don’t want to think about myself, much less share with others.
I think that is one of the things that really drew me to marquetry. Marquetry presents an image – one that I have imagined, drawn, and transferred into wood. That’s the image people see, people focus on. Some like the flowers, or the animals. Others like the portraits. Or the style. They focus on the content of the image. It’s flattering, but it’s not really the art.
Marquetry is a very humbling art. The best marquetry is not the most detailed, or the most expensive. It does not have laser-cut precision and speed. The best marquetry is a showcase of its medium: wood. Each piece of wood that a marquetry artist uses is as unique as a snowflake. It has personality. Some crumble, some crack, some break my blade as I cut it. Each grain has its own pattern, each piece its own texture. The colour will shift depending on the lighting and the finish. The wood, the medium, is really the message in marquetry.
The art is not in creating a “pretty picture.” Rather, it is letting the wood speak for itself. Each piece, large or small, offers a unique story. The best marquetry lets the wood tell its own story in its own way. The blemishes and imperfections of the grain give character and honesty to the piece. That is the beauty of working with a living medium. It already has a voice. My job is to simply let it be heard.