Parquetry central table

Parquetry central table

Artist: Inmates of Tucker Unit
Type: walnut, pine, oak, ebony
Year: 1925-1930
Size/Dimensions: 30 ¾ x 32 ¼ x 30 in.
Origin: Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council Grant Purchase
Accession Number: 2008.30

This mosaic-style, or parquetry, table was handmade in the Tucker Unit, a maximum-security prison and farm. Parquetry is a geometric mosaic of wood pieces inlaid for decorative effect; parquetry is mainly used as veneer patterns on furniture and block patterns for flooring. The patterns of parquet flooring are entirely geometrical and angular, usually utilizing squares, triangles, and lozenges (diamond shapes), while curved and natural shapes constitute marquetry. The table was a gift to Tucker Unit’s Assistant Warden Mitchell in 1930 when he retired from the Arkansas penal system. In the 1930s efforts to reform Federal prisons hinged upon having a system of inmate work programs. Inmate idleness was a serious threat for prison administrators. In order to keep inmates busy, prison administrators would often create work assignments. Many inmates gained skills such as wood-working in such work programs.
In order to keep inmates busy and to build new skillsets, prison administrators would often create work assignments like this intricate wooden parquetry table. Parquetry is a geometric mosaic composed of decorative inlaid wood pieces. This table was handmade by unknown Arkansas prisoners sometime between 1925 and 1930; it was given as a gift to Assistant Warden Mitchell in 1930 upon his retirement from the Arkansas penal system. Collection of Historic Arkansas Museum (2008.30). Historically, state prisons in Arkansas offered workshops such as carpentry and blacksmithing, in which prisoners were trained to produce items for sale to the public. The entire exterior surface of this table features an intricate parquetry mosaic, a geometric formation of various wood species applied for decorative effect.

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Parquetry central table