First of all, I am not “an artist” by any means, but have always been a hands on person who likes to make things, and have been working with wood for 40 years off and on as a hobby or out of necessity. I have had no formal training, but since joining the Warragul Woodworkers Club about 4 years ago, I have received a lot of help and advice from some very knowledgeable people about box making and anything to do with wood. I have made all sorts of boxes in a lot of different styles, wooden toys and cars, serving trays, and lately I have been learning about Intarsia, which is a process fitting different pieces of wood in various shapes, colours and thicknesses together to form a picture of a selected subject. The club had a visit from an overseas Intarsia specialist who did a demonstration of the process and I found it fascinating.
Most items on The Wall are Intarsia. Intarsia uses varied colours, sizes, and species of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture with an illusion of depth. Intarsia is created through the selection of different types of wood, using their grain pattern and colouring to create variations in the pattern. I spend a fair amount of time selecting the type of wood for each piece, to see what works in a particular part of the finished picture. After selecting the specific woods for the pattern, I transfer the pattern usually with carbon paper to the wood and cut and shape and sand finish each piece. Some pieces of the pattern may be thicker or thinner than others to create more depth in the finished subject. This typically creates a three-dimensional effect. The completed individual pieces fit together like a jig-saw puzzle, glued to a wooden backer-board cut to the outline of the pattern, or mounted in a frame to hang on a wall. The finishes are mostly Danish oil or similar, and some also have a Polyurethane gloss added.
Most Intarsia pieces are natural wood colours, but the pieces can also be painted if I want specific colours for a subject. I did a largish project featuring 4 of Disney’s favourite cartoon characters, cut and shaped in the usual way, then painted the correct colours before being assembled to create the finished picture, and mounted in a hand made frame.
I get a lot of ideas from Pinterest, whether it be a box, toy or an Intarsia project. I then transfer the drawing to the desired wooden pieces and start cutting. I spend a fair amount of time picking the type(s) of wood to use and cutting to size.
I have had some success with items I have entered at the Warragul Rotary Club Art Shows, winning Best Other 3D in 2018 with a Blackwood jewellery box, and a Highly Commended in 2019 for a Wine box. Regardless of whether I am making a box, toy or an Intarsia piece, the thing that is very hard to learn is the patience required to make pieces fit nicely and to get the finished degree of quality. It is very satisfying when it all comes together and the bit of extra time spent is always worth it. I don’t really have a favourite piece, as I get a bit attached to them all, but recently I have made a 12 cylinder hotrod that is a favourite.
I am happy to keep testing myself in each new project, and try to do each one a bit different or better. I especially enjoy the camaraderie of my Woodie mates, as a lot of the things I do are done both at the club and at home.