Jeux de Fond (playful ground)

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Aaron Radelow marquetry

The loose translation for juex de fond is playful ground. A decorated surface creating some type of illusion, forcing the viewer to do a double-take or to mesmerize them. The photograph above is an example of jeux de fond marquetry I made from 2 mm thick sawn satinwood veneer.

By simply flipping the lozenges every other row, I create the above pattern, which works best on a vertical surface.

Along with the above pattern, I have also created numerous table tops with a cube pattern. Visually speaking, everything we see (in this world) boils down to two things: shape and color.

Take a look around you, anything you focus on is a shape, and color(s). Of course, we see shapes and colors due to light — so a light direction, or source, is the integral component.

Light is creating the above allusion by how the wood grain is reflecting the light back to our eyes. Furthermore, a faux light source can be created with carefully arranged woods and or wood grains, as with the cubes.

Aaron Radelow marquetry cubes

Cubes are made by placing three lozenges (cut 60 degrees) together to create a 3-D effect, in one dimension. A cube’s top consists of the lightest color of the three. The two lozenges that makeup the sides are slightly darker, one more so than the other.

It is this that gives the allusion that there is a light source coming from the upper left or right, historically the light is from the above left.

Jean-Henri Riesener was born near Essen on July 4, 1734. At a young age he moved to France and there began his schooling; he became a furniture making icon. The reason I bring him up is because of his heavy use of jeux de fond.

Many of his complex pieces incorporate cubes or the alternating lozenge pattern. One other visual trick he used, which is simple, was to give a panel the allusion of being recessed.

Imagine a slab-type cabinet door. Three or four inches in from the door’s edge is an inlay, say about 1/8” wide. The left and top inlays are black — ebony; the bottom and right inlays are very light — holly. This gives the impression that there is a light source emanating from the top left, creating the allusion that the infield is dropping back into the door; especially when the frame and field veneers are different species.

So sky’s the limit here. Different color woods, different grains, and design patterns can be incorporated into new furniture pieces for a unique and striking look. Furthermore, the above can be applied to an existing furniture piece to change or upgrade it without building something entirely from scratch; a fresh finish, some marquetry, and you have a new showpiece!

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