What is Intarsia?
Intarsia (ĭntär'sēə) is an early Italian Art form of wood inlay. The term is specifically applied to a type of inlaying probably developed in Siena, Italy, in the 13th century and derived from Middle Eastern inlays of ivory upon wood. This art was widely practiced in Italy from c.1400 to c.1600. Intarsia work was also practiced to a more restricted degree elsewhere in Western Europe. Designs included pictorial scenes and conventionalized scrolls, arabesques, and geometric forms. The demand for intarsia declined thereafter, although some works were still produced. After about 1620, marquetry (flat inlay) tended to replace intarsia in sophisticated work.
Today, intarsia is created by selecting different types of wood, using its natural grain patterns and colors to create the different colors in the pattern. Each piece of wood is then individually cut , shaped, and sanded before fitting them together like a jig-saw puzzle and gluing them to a piece of 1/4 inch plywood backing cut to the shape of the final product. Sometimes, additional pieces of plywood are used to raise areas of the pattern to create more depth. Once together, a final layer of finish is applied and the project is complete.
Over the years it has evolved into a more sculptural style of wood crafted art. Each Intarsia Artist has his or her own technique and approach to the art. I believe there is no right or wrong way to create intarsia, just different styles. Don't be hampered by the "rules" of intarsia, there are none. Feel free to change the patterns, add exotic woods or other materials such as glass, stone or plastic. Use stains, paints, oils or dyes to enhance your colors to achieve the look you want. Add as much depth as possible to your art piece, make it jump out at you. I have seen some wonderful versions of my pattern designs, some with feathers, glass and color dyes used. In other words, the pattern is just a starting point, a guide for your own special brand of artistic creativity; make it into your masterpiece of intarsia art.