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A Book review by Peter White

By Silas Kopf

Below is the text I used when reviewing this book on the Amazon website, and below that is the actual foreword from the book jacket. On reading this you should get a good idea of what the book is about and obviously my opinion of it.

As marquetarians you might like a little more on the relevance of its contents to practitioners such as yourselves. It is not a ‘how to do it’ book although the appendices on techniques are likely to provide valuable tips and ideas, particularly if you are into saw cutting. The appendices are not the only place you will glean information on tackling difficult hurdles to be overcome, as Silas is constantly pointing out ways in which he has resolved difficulties, within the chapters on the making of his various pieces

I was once told that true originators are the rarest of animals and that even the great masters copied and were, at the very least, greatly influenced by others who had gone before them. Silas details all of his influences throughout the book, but in his own creations you detect little more than an absorption of these influences. You sense that he is an originator in his own right.

As I viewed each of his pieces I had to dismiss the tendency to question whether or not I would like them in my own home. They should not be viewed in that way.

The craftsmanship is there to be admired as well as an illustration of the way in which the artistic boundaries have been pushed forward. This is art/furniture, they are display pieces designed to evoke debate as much as they are practical pieces of furniture. Most have been put on show at exhibitions and many are commissioned pieces. The out and out quirkiness of some of the marquetry applied to the otherwise soberly designed and fully functional cabinets, chests and tables, is a clear pointer to the fact that the man has an outrageous sense of humour.

By his own admission Silas acknowledges the value of discovering Bill Lincoln’s first book on marquetry ‘The Art and Practice of Marquetry’. From this he gleaned the fundamental differences between inlay and marquetry and his eyes were opened to techniques which were to start him of on his road of discovery. If you own Bill Lincoln’s  ‘Marquetry Manual’ you might recall seeing photographs in the Gallery and reading a brief paragraph about Silas and maybe, like me, you were captivated by the images of his amazing trompe-l’oeil cabinets. Many more such works can be found in this book, reproduced in colour plates of the highest quality As you will gather from the book’s foreword below, much of its content is devoted to the evolutionary history of marquetry. This I didn’t find heavy going in any way and was often surprised by what came to light about those early master craftsmen.
Gian screw press
Giant Screw Press

We might think that techniques such as fragmentation, sliverisation and reverse window marquetry are modern ideas, but no, they were being done five and six centuries ago!

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone, whatever their level of experience. One of the author’s prime goals is to inspire individuals to ‘design and produce their own work more confidently’. I have no doubt he will achieve this – this book has certainly fired me up already!



Neatly interwoven with chapters on the evolutionary history of inlay and marquetry, Silas Kopf takes us on a fascinating journey of how his own work has evolved. His influences are concisely documented and it is intriguing to see how they have been absorbed into his many and varied masterpieces.

In the finest of colour plates, the reproductions of historically significant works as well as a comprehensive catalogue of Silas' own work, are simply magnificent. Whether your interest is in the history of wood as a form of decoration through the ages, or how one master craftsman soaked up this history and developed into a major figure in the making of 'art furniture' as it can only be described, it is all here in abundance.

With a thirst for knowledge and desire to learn, Silas took every opportunity to travel and work with major figures in furniture making as well as study at the famous l'Ecole Boulle in Paris. Clearly happy to tell us of the help he's had along the way, the revealing story he tells of his own development makes the reading even more enjoyable.

On top of all this, there are appendices on technique which, I'm sure any reader will find of great interest, whether a practitioner or not.

How appropriate for this to be called an 'Odyssey', it certainly is the most adventurous of journeys. A must buy - and a super read.


Foreword from book jacket

Human eye
A Human Eye

Renowned for over thirty years as a master of marquetry, the art and craft of creating “pictures in wood,” Silas Kopf takes us on a fascinating journey into its history and recounts his personal evolution as a craftsman.

He offers us an accessible and thorough account of the practice of marquetry, ranging from ancient Egypt to the present. He lingers over the extraordinary objects produced during the Italian Renaissance and by the great French cab­inetmakers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Examples of marquetry from Germany, England, Holland, Austria, and America are examined in depth.

Kopf recounts his early interest in woodworking, his desire to learn from a master, and resulting opportunity to work with Wendell Castle, a major figure in the American art-furniture movement.

His lifelong quest for inspiration led him to the hundreds of objects that are illustrated and put into historical context here.

This volume represents the rare combination of a detailed account of the path of an artist and craftsman and a sub­stantial and lively history of the great artisans and objects of marquetry he discovered on that path. Kopf is a knowl­edgeable and sure guide in this rarefied world.

Extensively illustrated with historical examples as well as Kopf’s own work, and accompanied by numerous appen­dices on technique, this book will appeal to cabinetmakers, collectors, historians, and lovers of fine craftsmanship.


A Marquetry Odyssey

Publishers – Hudson Hills Press

ISBN 978-1-55595-287-7

Price – (lowest found on Amazon Market Place - £23.88 plus p&p – The Book Depositary)

Probably can be found elsewhere so research before purchasing

Wine cupboard
Wine Cabinet Trompe L'oeil
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