The Artist

[Michael Retter] [Michael and Hasmah Retter]

Michael Retter first started marquetry as a pastime while at sea as a Marine Engineer in the late 1950’s. As with a lot of us, other priorities in life took over. Then in 1975, Michael returned to marquetry and he devoted more and more time to developing his skills and markets until in 1984 he was able to start thinking about marquetry as a profession. During these years he secured a number of small commissions, putting in about 30 hours per week.

Michael’s largest commission to date was in 1988 for the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. It was his persistence over 2 years that eventually secured what was officially called a commission to fabricate marquetry to the design of the chosen designer, for the building. The first part of the commission was very large and involved the making of about 56 monochrome frieze panels for the Cabinet Ante-room. A second commission followed immediately to make a ceiling marque. Michael says that this was a most difficult job as the area was 2.5 meters by 6.5 meters and was divided into 20 smaller panels, each panel being joined and installed as a suspended ceiling. The two commissions together lasted a full year and took Michael almost 3000 hours.

Several more commissions followed including 20 more panels measuring 1.4 meters by 1.5 meters, marquetry on the Speaker’s chair and one for the Australian Coat of Arms.

Since then Michael has developed his work to the extent that he supplies many galleries with pictures on a regular basis. He focuses primarily on Australian flora, with which his wife, Husmah, helps by drawing the many plant species from live samples. Plus, he takes on commissions from all around the world. One of his more recent ones was for a Japanese client. The project included a set of eight panels named the "Four Seasons", each panel being around 1200mm by 900mm. The panels hang in a new Citizens’ Leisure and Cultural Center in Utsunomiya City, 100km north of Tokyo.

Another project was for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra in their new DFAT complex. Michael supplied nine small marquetry insets for the VIP dining table and sideboard, plus a set of 15 panels each 900mm square, covering the end wall of the same room.

Michael is working on a series of pieces for a joint exhibition this month September 97. Included in these pieces are box lids for Roger Gifkins who is making the boxes for the exhibition. He is also doing some chessboards and pictures, the subject of two of them being the Eucalyptus Leaves and Bamboo.

Michael says that he is a ‘binge’ worker in that he works long and hard for many months, then takes a couple of months off to travel. By long and hard he means 75 to 80 hours per week. Some of these hours are spent in his workshop. You can see from the scope and quality of his work how the years of experience shows through. He is rewarded for the long hours of dedication by producing such exquisite pieces of art. Please take a look at the few samples of his work here or to contact Mike, mail to: