I came to Canada nearly 40 years ago and in my time here I have been fortunate to have traveled to the west coast a number of times. While visiting Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, I saw many forms of Pacific Northwest Coast Native art and I was eager to learn more about it. I read a number of books including Northwest Coast Indian Art, An Analysis of Form by Bill Holm (1965 and 2015), in which he explained the complex structure of this art form. During later visits I discovered three books on the subject by Karin Clark and Jim Gilbert, published by their company, Raven Publishing Inc. The three books, Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, and Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art: Volumes 1 and 2, explain how this ancient and complex art form developed and can be learned. Since I have been doing marquetry for many years, I was eager to attempt to reproduce some of the NWC designs in wood veneers. In 2015, I completed about a dozen pictures, and, happy with the outcome, I discovered that it is possible to reproduce NWC art designs in the medium of marquetry with dramatic and aesthetically pleasing results.
I have wanted to write a book on marquetry for many years. There are a number of great books available on the subject of marquetry. Marquetry has a long history stretching back several millennia, similar in longevity to the art form of the Pacific Northwest Coast indigenous peoples. I decided to write a book devoted mostly to the actual process of creating pictures in marquetry using a number of designs that Karin Clark provided from her books. As a result, the book will have a short introduction to the NWC art form, history of marquetry, and wood veneers. As with other practical marquetry books, I will include a practice exercise using some of the basic concepts of the NWC art form using the “window” method of cutting veneers with a knife. I would encourage all readers to complete the exercises as these concept shapes are used in all NWC designs. Some of the concept shapes use fine lines, for which several methods are described in the book.
Readers will notice that most of the designs use curvilinear shapes. There are few, if any, rectilinear shapes (square or rectangular). Some shapes have parallel lines (for example the ovoid) and the use of a ruler is recommended to ensure these lines are straight and parallel. There is a strong symmetrical element to many of the shapes and these should be made as accurately as possible in marquetry. When drawing these shapes on paper, the paper is folded in half to ensure the accuracy of the symmetry.
In the original form of NWC art, the main colors used are black, red, blue, yellow and green. The negative or white space is usually the background color. In a lot of NWC designs, this is the wood on which the design is carved or the paper on which the design is drawn. This feature translates well in to marquetry by using the “waster” or background veneer as the white spacer.
If one wishes to learn more about NWC art forms and find more designs, I recommend the books by Jim Gilbert and Karin Clark, Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, and Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art: Volumes 1 and 2. There are hundreds of designs in these books, any of which are suitable for reproduction in marquetry for personal use.