Silas Kopf (b. 1949)
The craft of marquetry is alive and well today. Though most contemporary practitioners of the art are in Europe, there are a few Americans who have achieved mastery in this difficult technique. Among these, Silas Kopf stands as the most accomplished and imaginative. Partly trained at the École Boulle in Paris, where he gained an appreciation of the grand French inlay tradition, Kopf uses his skills to create furniture in a range of styles. Many of his pieces feature realistic depictions of flowers or animals; the varied shades and colors are those of the natural wood veneers he uses. Sometimes Kopf pursues more conceptual ends: the self-portrait cabinet Bricolage is a witty interplay between surface and illusory volume, while the façade of Argus (a name taken from a hundred-eyed god of Greek mythology) presents a faceted reflection of the viewer’s own gaze.

Kopf is a studio furniture maker, meaning that he works with a few assistants in an atelier, rather than as an employee in a factory. Studio furniture like his can best be understood as a blend of several different artistic categories. It is often compared to contemporary sculpture because of its creativity and intellectual ambition. But studio furniture also draws from antiques, adapting the complexity of courtly furniture to the small shop organization of early American production. Kopf’s studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, is not far from Lombard’s hometown of Sutton, and despite the two hundred years of history that separate the two men, there are more similarities than differences in their inventive approach to making furniture.