“Some old things are lovely, warm still with life … of the forgotten men who made them.”
D.H. Lawrence…(1885-1930) English novelist, poet, essayist.
Custom Inlay Designs
Custom inlay designs are found throughout the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (Duomo) in Florence, Italy. As a woodworker who enjoys creating various forms of wood inlay, I felt the urgency to capture the custom inlay designs that this spectacular church offers. The photograph clearly reveals a well thought out and beautifully balanced marble inlay pattern. The contrasting marble colors and varying geometric shapes invite one eye’s to pan across the design to understand the simple complexities of this elegant inlay border. As a trained woodworker, I find myself also listening to the thoughts of the skilled craftsmen who created these custom inlay designs back in the 1870’s. Perhaps these artisans were somehow inspired by other men such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo who had lived in Florence centuries ago.
Custom inlay designs such as this example reveal years of training and experience. As much as I enjoy the finished product, I would have loved to have witnessed seeing the various colors of marble as they were pulled from their quarries. Moreover, it would have been a joy to see how the apprentices worked alongside the journeyman while learning the craft. One can only imagine how the individual pieces of inlay were cut and fit. As we can see in the photo, all inlays were cut precisely for perfectly tight fitting joints.
Arts and Crafts Woodworking
Arts and crafts woodworking draws from countless ideas and influences from the past. For example, we can see how a woodworker named Gustav Stickley was influenced by the British arts and crafts movement while he visited England. It was this exposure to the English crafts movement that fired Stickley’s imagination. Obviously, we as woodworkers draw inspirations and influences from woodworking magazines, woodworking forums, and numerous books on the craft. However, if we keep our eyes and ears open as Gustav Stickley did, we can find woodworking ideas and inspirations where we least expect it.
Custom inlay designs on the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore send a convincing message of pride in craftsmanship. Decorative inlays such as this example take plenty of time and patience. Yet it requires more than that to do a job like this well. It takes love of the craft. It is more than likely that the best marble inlay craftsmen in Florence were working on this project. Keep in mind that this is the face of the Cathedral and at eye level where every detail can be viewed and appreciated well beyond the lifetime of the craftsman.
Arts and Crafts woodworking in my shop takes on a new meaning after visiting Italy. My thoughts and ideas for wood inlay have shed their old limitations. I now look forward with enthusiasm to creating new hardwood inlays based upon the custom inlay designs from the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening for inlay advice from the men who worked the craft from years gone by.
Let’s install Wood Inlay Bandings
Ripping Thin Strips of Wood Inlay on the Band Saw
Making Wood Inlay on the Bandsaw
Let’s Build a Bandsaw Miter Sled