Of Marquetry, Masonry, and MeSilas Kopf has done a number of marquetry self-portraits in furniture. In these two, he's taking a rather claustrophobic view of the world.
When Silas Kopf graduated from Princeton in 1972, he received an undergraduate degree in architecture. But the prospect of working in that field at a time of bland corporate design seemed suffocating. Almost by chance, Kopf discovered furniture making of a particularly expressive kind: He met Wendell Castle, who was then building flamboyant sculptural stack-laminated pieces, and after some pestering, he got a job with Castle and stayed two years. In search of a signature style of his own, Kopf taught himself marquetry by reading books and experimenting. Later he traveled to Italy, where he found a wellspring of inspiration in the work of Antonio Barili, a master of intarsia. In one intarsia panel from 1504, Barili depicted himself at work. Kopf, who admits to having “a bit of a claustrophobic streak,” adopted Barili’s trope of a craftsman’s self-portrait, bricking himself into a 1988 marquetry cabinet. Kopf has since gone on to do a dozen or more marquetry self-portraits in furniture; for the most recent one, completed in 2023, he built himself another faux-masonry redoubt, this time using some 40 species of veneer to imitate rough-cut stone. The cabinet itself is evidence he’s still hard at work, but judging from the portrait it seems he’s breathing a little easier.
Photos: Dave Ryan
From Fine Woodworking #308