In our Crafts Up Close series of articles we look at some of the traditional techniques that are used in our wastepaper baskets and other pieces.
Marquetry is a traditional furniture decoration technique that involves applying small pieces of veneer in different materials to a base to form patterns or designs. As well as embellishing larger pieces of furniture, marquetry can be used on smaller boxes, bowls and other decorative objects.
Because materials with a sheen finish such as mother of pearl and polished woods and metals are used, the overall effect of marquetry is a luxurious veneer. It’s a technique that dates back to ancient Egypt, but as time has gone on, the materials used have become thinner and more intricate.
Boulle is a form of marquetry pioneered by French cabinetmaker André Charles Boulle in the early 18th Century. Boulle developed a highly skilled technique of inlaying brass onto a tortoiseshell background in elaborate patters of scrolls, curls and flowers to create a highly opulent veneered effect. Boulle’s technique involved cutting the brass and tortoiseshell together in sheets so that the detailed designs fitted perfectly. He added brass feet and edging to embellish his furniture.
Boulle was employed by the French monarchy to create extravagant furniture and decoration for their royal palaces at the height of their opulence. He made large pieces like bureaux and armoires and smaller pieces such as clock cases and lights.
Boulle’s work and that of his four sons and the other craftsmen of the time they influenced is now highly desirable and valuable. In 2010, a boulle-work wastepaper bin discovered in a local home in Dorchester sold at auction for over £4,000.
In Britain, marquetry techniques can be seen in Tunbridge wares, small wooden boxes intricately decorated with geometric designs created from thin strips of different coloured woods.
Such skilled traditional craftsmanship accumulates value over time, especially in an age where most furniture is now mass-produced. This is why we sought out skilled craftspeople to make our own range of inlay pieces, like our mother of pearl inlay wastepaper basket and tissue box cover which use squares of gleaming mother of pearl to create a mosaic effect, and our bone inlay wastepaper basket and tissue box cover, which use pieces of inlayed waterbuffalo horn.