Monday, November 10, 2008

Silas Kopf ........a day in marquetry

So Gigi and I took a road trip to East Hampton, MA to visit the famed marquetuer Silas Kopf. The time went to fast.

Silas took us through the making of a tulip that I've weaved in and out of our discussions on what form follows,  materials, creativity,  to what gets you excited, and even touch on searching for what's next.

Silas takes us on a shop tour and introduces us to his right hand and cabinetmaker Tom Coughlin. He discusses a current cabinet in production and we hit on traveling to visit historical objects.

Silas has written a book titled A Marquetry Odyssey, that has a place in the woodworkers library and also the coffee table to enlighten those who visit.

Enjoy.......a podcast doesn't get much better than this!!

Formats available: Quicktime (.mov)


David Pruett said...

Neil -

Well you have done it once again! What an excellent interview with Silas Kopf. I really enjoyed how you wove the progression of the tulip into the course of the video. I really had the feeling of being right in the shop standing next to you and Silas. You hit it on the head when you said "a podcast doesn't get much better than this!!"

Al Navas said...


WONDERFUL - What a treat to watch you interacting with Silas Kopf and his amazing marquetry work!

Thanks for bringing to us the work of the master marqueteur!

Form follows method... Hmmm, words for careful thought...

Mike said...


This is a completely new area of the craft for me and I found the video very interesting. Once again the wheels are turning in my head with what seems like endless design possibilities. I am currently grappling with the idea of incorporating traditional design and technique into a more contemporary piece. Thus, I found it interesting to hear Silas say that one “might not like Louie the 15th furniture…..but it has its own merits….” That phrase sums up the direction that I am heading in my own work.

On the subject of design, I read your comments at the Rough Cut Forum regarding the night stand build. My lack of understanding and experience is evident when I try to objectively approach the subject as you do. Naturally, I understand the concept of functionality but beyond that the design of the piece for me is about subjectivity. In other words, I either like the way it looks or I do not. I understand the mechanical aspects such as joinery, craftsmanship, etc. but I cannot seem to mechanically break down the design itself. Like most things in this world, there is more to “it” then you think. I am learning that there is a “science,” if you will, behind design. I encounter the same dilemma when I visit an art museum/gallery – I read a professional’s critique or description of a painting and it seems almost nonsensical. When I look at a painting I either like or I do not. In the end is it not about the owner’s personal opinion of the piece? I guess I am having trouble applying a set of standards to a piece when I think that art has no standards. Take for example Justin’s Shaker table, I personally like the way it looks – I look at and I say to myself, “I like it.” If the top overhung ten more inches on either end one may say that the proportions are off or another may like the way the top looks with the longer overhang. How can we quantify or standardize proportions if to the individual eye it may be appealing or it may not? Do we apply a statistical approach? In other words, more people like this one over the other so one designed is better than the other.

As you can see I have a long way towards understanding the subject of design. I guess that the first step is to understand that there is a “science” behind design. Now I must learn and understand the science. I know it will make me a better woodworker.


Medford, MA

Douglas C. Bordner said...

Thank you for the heads-up for this wonderful segment with a personal hero of mine. Mr. Kopf is without a doubt a master of modern marquetry and this segment has even more keenly firmed my resolve to get the DVD and ultimately the book. Just watching him fly through the cuts with such skill was a thrill and a greater spur to get busy at the saw over the coming winter. Wonderful to get a glimpse into Silas' mind.

Mark Mazzo said...


Very interesting and inspiring to see Silas in action.

"Form follows method"...that thought was interesting as well. With that, I interpreted Silas to say that the constraints (construction or otherwise) on a piece are the starting point and the design flows from there. Of course, with his chosen method of expression, material also plays a big role in his designs.

Great stuff!

The Craftsman's Path

Claude Stewart said...

Hello Neal;
This was simply amazing to watch. Keep up the good work bringing this class workmanship To us. Claude Stewart

Paul said...


Another excellent piece. I know we didn't get much a chance to talk when I met you and Gigi in Berea in the rain but I wanted to tell you how wonderful this blog is for opening up a whole new perspective on furniture design and production. Keep up the good work. I really look forward to your posts either you making something or your interviews with some of the luminaries in the field. This post with both elements is a real coup.


Joe McDermott said...

A really useful and informative piece on marquetry and Silas Kopf. There is so much more in a video than a text or post. I have added your link to my site as I think this is a really useful archive.
Joe McDermott Fine Woodworking

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