Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Art of Intarsia

detail of Monticello Intarsia by Mike Mathieu

Fine Wood Art member Mike Mathieu is a master of the Art of Intarsia. Wanting to know more about the subject, I asked a series of questions to help illuminate others on this fascinating art form.

Just what is Intarsia?

Intarsia is a centuries old art form that uses different colored woods to create pictures. By using the different grains and natural colors plus the different thicknesses, a 3D mosaic is created unlike any other type of woodworking. The simpler description is “painting with wood”.

What are the main tools used to create Intarsia Art?

The basic tools required to create Intarsia are a scroll saw, and different types of sanding and shaping tools.

What first drew you to using this technique to create your art, boxes and urns?

I began creating Intarsia in 1992 after reading an article in Wood Magazine by Judy Gayle Roberts about how to make 3D pictures using only the natural colors and grains of different woods. I began by doing a couple of the free patterns that were offered in the magazine and went on to creating my own patterns. I began collecting as many different woods as I could find to use in my art and put together my Intarsia Project Kits which were sold through a few woodworking catalogs. My kits included all the woods, patterns and instructions to complete the projects. To this date I have sold more than 15000 project kits to woodworkers all over the world. It gives other woodworkers a chance to try Intarsia without the expense of buying so many different woods. The Boxes and Urns were done to make use of thinner pieces of wood and to make functional art while maintaining the beauty of the art form.

What do you most enjoy about creating your Intarsia art?

The challenge of creating Intarsia begins with an idea or a photo that the client gives to me. I enjoy designing the pattern and picking out the different woods that will make the Intarsia come to life. I incorporate as much detail as I can in the form of carving and utilizing the good contrasts and textures of the different woods.

Do you have any recommendations for woodworkers that want to try Intarsia?

Intarsia is something that is very labor intensive and does require lots of patience. To someone that is just beginning I would suggest that they read as much as they can about the art form, learn to use the scroll saw proficiently, try a few simple patterns, and have fun. Just like all woodworking it is very satisfying to stand back when the project is complete and say-“This was fun, I learned a lot, let’s do it again only better."

More of Mike's work can be viewed in his gallery-

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