During a recent trip to Santa Barbara, California, I was greeted with gloriously floral fresh ocean air, delicious tacos, and a marquetry focused woodshop that is now turning out wooden apparel! My dear old friend, Michael Cullen, and I were going to visit Paul Schurch, another woodworker and new friend. Paul is well-known for his immaculate marquetry, but he has recently been diving into the realm of fashion.
Exquisitely crafted and designed wooden dresses are what Paul has been focusing on lately. This clothing is made from incredibly thin cloth-backed veneer that is cut out into small shapes. Then the small pieces are sewn together in a way that allows movement, kind of like scales.
Paul has won several national awards for this innovative use of wood, including the Grand Prize at the 2017 Craftys in New York and first place in Wearable Expressions at the Palo Verdes Art Center in Caifornia. It’s very cool! I’ve always wanted to wear wood more than just in jewelry, but of course it’s totally impractical until you combine it with another flexible material.
Paul’s shop was primarily stocked with veneering equipment, including a Kirchfeld press that can apply 120 tons of total pressure. There was a beautiful Martin panel saw with a digital gauge that was dialed in to be exact up to a very small fraction of an inch. The tool in the shop that I found to be funny was a sewing dummy. That was definitely the first time I’ve seen one of those in a woodshop!
Paul teaches marquetry classes internationally, and he is a master furnituremaker. He showed us some of his earlier work that he still had in the shop, including a gorgeous flip-top dining table, a spinning cabinet and a pair of side tables. He said he has almost always made multiples of the same design so that the cost could be kept down. Once you’ve made one, you can easily make eight!
As well as teaching and making, Paul has a business selling kits for creating marquetry. I recommend studying with Paul, if you ever get the chance. He is very sweet, very busy, and incredibly knowledgeable. In all of the work I looked at while visiting his studio, I did not see one mistake! I don’t do marquetry, but if I did, I’d want to learn from master marqueter Paul Schurch!