June 24, 2010

Rocks made out of wood: Sue Mersman

Blog, this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Lakefront Festival of the Arts.  It was downright incredible to see how much talent was showcased at the event this year.  I loved about 90% of what I laid eyes on.

Among my favorite pieces at this invitation-only art show was the work you see above by marquetry artist Sue Mersman. Had I a bunch of cookie jar money I surely would have bought it. (Unfortunately, our cookie jar Professor Snowcaps has nothing in him but cookies.) Just observe, Blog, how Sue has created a picture of rocks completely out of wood. How much does that blow your mind?

So, Sue Mersman, who lives in Wetmore, Kansas, has been creating wood marquetry pieces for over 30 years. Each piece is handmade and can utilize as many as 250 individual pieces of wood, handsawed and flawlessly assembled. Sue uses 185 different kinds of wood from all over the world in her work. She creates these pictures using only the wood’s natural grain and coloring. In other words, no dyes, paints or stains—only the color nature gave them!

From Sue’s website at http://www.suemersman.com/ I learned that marquetry is decorative inlaid work that incorporates materials like wood, ivory, or metal. It was invented by the ancient Egyptians and reached the peak of its popularity during Renaissance times, when it was used for everything from boxes to furniture to wall murals.

Sue is self-taught and learned solely from books, having started by tackling small projects like belt buckles and ornaments. And over three decades of practice she has cultivated the expertise you see in these examples of her work. I marvel at the combination of skill and knowledge required to produce these gorgeous pieces.

Hooray for you, Sue, and hooray for the MAM for including you in their Lakefront show. My eyeballs and artistic soul rejoiced in encountering your work!


  1. wow, those are incredible! It's amazing how wood can look like so many things.

    It reminds me of an exhibit I saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC-- it may have been marquetry- it was a room with wood on the walls, put together in such as way that it looked carved and 3-D but was not. Totally sweet.

  2. Ooh, that would be fantastic! I'd love to see that.