May Happenings

Another month swimming right by, and here we are in the first week of May! Here are our upcoming May events:

Arts in the Park Richmond, May 6-7th – THIS WEEKEND

11:00am to 6pm Saturday, 11am to 5pm Sunday at Byrd Park, Richmond Virginia.

We’ll have our full array of end-grain cutting and serving boards, marquetry pictures and new keepsake boxes, bud vases, clocks, and chess boards! It just might be a good time to pick up a thoughtful gift for Mom… or come by and say hello and see the goods in person.

You can visit the show website here for more information – the show has free parking, and there’s lots to see!

Piccolo Spoleto Craft Fair in Charleston, South Carolina – May 26-28 AND June 2-4

Friday and Saturday 10am to 6pm, Sunday 11am to 5pm

Wragg Square/Meeting House at Charlotte Streets

A new show for us – this is a two weekend craft show that runs concurrently with the significant music festival Spoleto USA. We’re looking forward to meeting new future fans in the Low Country, as well as taking the week in between the events to enjoy Charleston (which just so happens to include our wedding anniversary.) We will have more information on our location in this show when we have it.

You can also visit the show’s website for more details.

 

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Project Update: Oeben Desk

Dave is back today with an update on a piece you may have seen floating around our Instagram – the Oeben Desk, or Secretaire a Cylindre in French. We’ll be using the hashtag #oebendesk to post photo updates of the piece on Instagram but today Dave has a process update.

Oeben reproduction panel | Charlottesville Custom Furniture | French Marquetry Louis XV | See more at www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

Secretaire a Cylindre

In 2015 I went to Normandy with my lovely wife. She got to work, and I played tourist. With Paris only a two hour drive away, the furniture museums beckoned. I went to find a piece worthy of being my furniture life-goal. Something so amazing that when I made my copy of it I could say that I really am a furniture maker and that would have really stretched me to figure out how to make it.

I had expected this piece to be a Ruhlmann piece. His work is exquisite, very fine and very complex. There is a wonderful collection of his pieces at the Musee des Arts Decoratif, and I spent several hours with them, and have several hundred closeup photos from every angle, so that I could in theory make any of them. In the end, that wasn’t what really grabbed me though.

At the Musee Nissim de Camondo, which celebrates furniture of French royalty from 1740-1790, there is a desk by Jean-Francios Oeben. It is a petite roll-top desk in the Louis XV style, completed around 1760. It is sensuous and elegant, and covered in amazing floral marquetry. This is my objective. The case alone is extraordinary – there are no flat surfaces other than the desk writing surface and the top. Everything flows.

Even making a case this complex will be a huge endeavour. Only a furniture maker would even notice the structure though, because the marquetry and veneering for this piece is off the charts. And it is applied to curved surfaces, often compound curves! This was one of the main reasons I went to the American School of French Marquetry in 2016 – to understand how to cut marquetry for curved surfaces. One of the instructors there, Patrice, grimaced when asked: “It will be difficult.”

One of the real challenges for this desk will be developing a working drawing. I generally design my furniture on a napkin, but that won’t do here. I can get the case shape pretty close from photographs but I was very concerned about the marquetry – not every surface is equally visible, so photos of a couple of panels were pretty sparse.

Volume 3 of Masterpieces of Marquetry by Pierre Ramond

Turns out, this is where my furniture library came in really handy: Volume 3 of the Masterpeices of Marquetry by Pierre Ramond contains photos and plans of some of the finest work by Oeben, Jean-Henri Riesener, and Abraham and David Roentgen, the stars of the 18th century European furniture firmament. And there, on pages 33-37, are detailed drawings and photos of every marquetry panel on my desk. Thank you, Pierre. I don’t have to draw them at all, just interpret them – no small task.

This is a multiyear project. My first bite was this spring. There are 12 marquetry panels on this desk. I made one of the medium sized ones, on the left side of the rolltop portion, as you look at it from the front. This is curved panel (later) with a complex flower spray surrounded by an elaborate border. The spray and the border are this year’s exercise.

Painting in wood | Layoung out cut marquetry pieces | See more at www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

The spray has been cut. I used Painting in Wood, a technique taught at ASFM. There are about 25 species of wood in my version. The original used tobacco dyed sycamore as the background – I used walnut burl. My color use was a little more generous than JFO’s, but he would have used more colors if he’d had them.

I’m pleased with it so far. The colors are vibrant but not crazy; the cutting was difficult but not impossible. The biggest challenge was managing the deep inclusions of background into the center of the picture. It took me about 25 hours to cut the pieces, and I had enough wood in the packet to land up with three copies – two that are essentially the same and one slightly less good but probably savable.

My chevalet only has an 18” throat so unless (until?) I make a bigger (and heavier, and more unwieldy) saw, so I am limited in the size of what I can cut. Since the pattern without the border was 17”, I made it without the border, and I plan on inlaying the panel into the border once I get some purpleheart, which should be soon. I may regret this approach, but that’s why you make test pieces. I hope to have the purpleheart within the next few weeks, and have time to work on the border in July?

Paying working supersedes this kind, but it’s been very satisfying to start working on something so grand.

Oeben reproduction panel | Charlottesville Custom Furniture | French Marquetry Louis XV | See more at www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

 


Be sure to follow Dave on Instagram to see more of the piece as it comes together!

margaret heller - Hi Dave, this is ‘flippin’ amazing…..I will follow the story with interest.

What a clever bunny you are.

Love…Maggie xx

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April Happenings

Oeben reproduction panel |Charlottesville Custom Furniture | French Marquetry Louis XV |  See more at www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

And here we are already in April!  Jenn here, ready to fill you in on what’s happening this month which is….very little.  Which we are grateful for.

April 24th weekend Dave will be teaching a Marquetry Introduction course at Nova Labs.  We would normally be shouting this to the universe except half the spots are already full, and the other half are only open to members of the Washington Woodworker’s Guild.  However, if you’re a WWG member and need more info on how to sign up, please feel free to shoot Dave an email.

Based on this level of interest, there may well be more classes like it in the future, so stay tuned!

Next Month

Coming up in early May, we’ll be showing at Arts in the Park Richmond on May 6th and 7th!  We’re fully restocked on chopping boards, marquetry pictures, keepsake boxes, and new chess boards!  We also have our very popular bud vases perfect for Mother’s Day (hint, hint.)

That’s all for today! Have an excellent Monday!

 

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Gallery Piece: Tabriz Wine Table

Custom wine table | marquetry pattern inspired by Tabriz carpet | Ribbon mahogany side table | Elegant living room custom furniture | See more at Heller and Heller Furniture www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

 

Today we are revisiting one of our first custom pieces – a wine sideboard table, designed house part of an extensive wine collection while working harmoniously with the client’s existing mahogany furniture and beautiful Tabriz carpet. The resulting piece is blend of styles that works perfectly in the client’s home.

Custom wine table | marquetry pattern inspired by Tabriz carpet | Ribbon mahogany side table | Elegant living room custom furniture | See more at Heller and Heller Furniture www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

The deep ribbon mahogany veneer of the table stood let the piece become a focal point of the room against the deep marine wall color, and you can see in the photos how the marquetry pattern emulates the rug’s overall motif.

Custom wine table | marquetry pattern inspired by Tabriz carpet | Ribbon mahogany side table | Elegant living room custom furniture | See more at Heller and Heller Furniture www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

For extra emphasis on the lattice design of the wine bins, the gold federal knobs add a pop of detail in the lower section of the cabinet, and coordinate with the formal drop-pull handles.

Custom wine table | marquetry pattern inspired by Tabriz carpet | Ribbon mahogany side table | Elegant living room custom furniture | See more at Heller and Heller Furniture www.hellerandhellerfurniture.com

Thanks for stopping by today – look for more gallery features here on the journal in the coming months!

Reminder: we will be at the Dulles Expo Center this weekend beginning Friday March 24. We will have chopping boards, decorative keepsake boxes, marquetry pictures, and more – including our new line of wooden bud vases. Be sure to stop by and see us, and pick up a special gift or treat for yourself!

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Museum Review: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia

 

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts | Photograph by Bilyana Dimitrova

We like museums. In particular, I like museums with excellent Decorative Arts collections. This tends to not be what other people look at – I haven’t seen the Mona Lisa in my last half dozen visits to the Louvre, but always see the furniture, for example. Last year I did review some of the finer museums in Paris, but I’m way behind. We’ve seen a bunch since then (in Paris and elsewhere)! In an effort to potentially help out a Decorative Arts sort looking for a museum to visit, I will occasionally note ones that we’ve visited and liked, and what we liked about it.

I’m going to start with the local high point – the VMFA in Richmond. Its heart is several really substantial private collections that were donated to the Museum, which have been supplemented by acquisitions to round them out. It has some really odd stuff, but also some very fine and focused items.

Let’s start with the Faberge exhibit, just returned from a long circuit around the country and China. Lillian Thomas Pratt purchased these in the 1920’s and 30’s, buying them from dealers as they were smuggled out of the USSR. The workmanship is extraordinary. Five of the 52 made are in the collection. This is supplemented by a solid collection of enameled items made by Faberge that Russian royalty had owned. You can check out their Faberge items here.

Ruhlman corner cabinet | Virginia Museum of Fine Arts VMFA | Photo by Heller and Heller Furniutre

The Lewis collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco objects is the main reason that we keep returning to the VMFA. The Art Nouveau jewelry, silverware, and furniture is really fine. The Art Deco furniture is also quite good, though I do not like how some of it is displayed. It is too far and dark in the display areas to really see the most intricate pieces. It’s fine if you just want to see it, but it’s not good if you really want to appreciate the details. By comparison, in the Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris you could get close enough lick the pieces, though I don’t recommend it. Lesser museums treat furniture like its jewelry, rather than something made out of wood that was designed to be used. Enough whining, but don’t expect to see everything clearly, or bring binoculars.

Art Nouveau Furniture | Virginia Museum of Fine Arts VMFA | Photo by Heller and Heller Furniutre

There is also a good Arts and Crafts collection – mostly American but a few English and Secession pieces. Furniture, pottery, silver and some textile pieces, along with some Tiffany windows and lamps.

Decorative arts museum | Virginia Museum of Fine Arts VMFA | Photo by Heller and Heller Furniutre

You can see their general Decorative Arts into the American + European Design collection.

There is a very small collection of fine 18th century American furniture, as well, though I couldn’t find a reference to it in the VFMA website.

It also has a very nice restaurant overlooking the grounds, and has had some interesting travelling exhibits since we’ve been visiting. It’s a great place to visit if you have a couple of hours free while in the Richmond area, and is worth a trip if you like Art Nouveau.

Just a quick reminder – there’s still time to sign up for Dave’s veneering course at Waterford coming up April 1-2 if you’re interested! Get more detail about the course here.

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