A local, world-renowned artist is bringing his unique style of work to the People’s Gallery in Stalybridge for the next two months.
Ian Smith specialises in marquetry, where pieces of coloured wood, such as veneer, are used to form the pattern or picture. Ian was first introduced to the by his uncle at the age of twelve.
During a career in education, Ian sold a few pieces while doing marquetry part-time. He decided to take the artwork full-time eight years ago and has since sold his work all over the world.
Described as ‘heritage skills with a contemporary twist’, Ian finds inspiration for his work in everyday life around him. Lots of his pieces are of Manchester, Tameside and places he’s visited on his travels.
“I have my own style,” Ian said. “A lot of people who do marquetry do what I call ‘chocolate box’ stuff. It’s pretty, half-timbered houses or horses’ heads.
“I like to do people and cars. If you go to Italy, there are cathedrals in Italy where marquetry artwork from 500 years ago is still there, but the colour has all gone. I’ve come up with a way of preserving the colour for hopefully hundreds of years, because that is how long I want it to last. I want people to be look back at my work and say, ‘Oh so in those days, people clothes like that and the buses were like that,’ like a piece of history.”
He continued: “My particular style developed about six years ago. I was doing lots of pictures based on photographs but I decided that to get what I really wanted; I had to become a better photographer. So I started doing a lot of work on photography and how I could turn that to best effect in marquetry.”
While some artists use new technologies in their work, Ian cuts all his pieces by hand, with some taking up to five weeks to complete. He said: “It’s all hand-crafted. There are some people now who use lasers to cut their work. It might take me five weeks whereas a laser could take half an hour but it wouldn’t look the same; it would look machine cut. You wouldn’t get the effect that I want. Lasers have their place but it’s not my preferred style.”
Ian is the People’s Gallery ‘Artist of the Month’ for June and July. It’s important to him that his art is open to all, with the Melbourne Street gallery providing the perfect venue.
“The People’s Gallery is a great place because people can just open the door and come in,” he said. “They don’t have to buy a ticket or make an appointment, they can just come in and that is what art is about; it should be accessible and that’s what I want mine to be.
“I’m always saying to people, “You can touch it, you know!” It’s about bringing art to people and showing them that what see in their everyday lives is art.”
Ian’s work is available to see and buy at the People’s Gallery until July 31st. Ian is happy to meet with people to discuss his work.