Entering the Grand Lobby of the new Queen Elizabeth, the first thing people will see is the centerpiece at the heart of the ship. The artwork spans two and a half decks and shows the port bow of the original Queen Elizabeth as seen from sea level. The piece was executed using the technique of marquetry inlay in nine differ types of wood veneers. Cunard Line commissioned master wood craftsman David Linley to have his London-based company, called LINLEY (sic), design the unique piece.
David Linley specializes in the design and creation of fine furniture and marquetry, and his renowned work, including one of a kind inlaid wooden furniture, can be found on some of the finest yachts in the world, and has also graced the homes of such notables as Oprah Winfrey, Carolina Herrera, Jo Malone and Elton John. While Linley no longer works as a craftsman, he oversees the business and craftsmen that work on projects, such as the Queen Elizabeth.
LINLEY designed and produced the unique marquetry panel for the backdrop to the sweeping staircase descending into the Grand Lobby of the Queen Elizabeth, which was constructed by UK craftsmen.
The panel, which has an Art Deco feel, is comprised of nine sections. It was fitted together and then installed into the arch between the two staircases. The 18-foot, six-inch (5.6 meters) high marquetry panel was then transported to the shipyard where the installation was completed.
“The inspiration came from the ship itself, and we combined a map of the world, and the waves to show its worldwide importance and international clientele,” explained Linley. “There are a variety of veneers including sycamore, maple, walnut and Macassar ebony. The marquetry is laser cut and applied to the front of the panel and then laid in a press and finished with a durable lacquer.”
A Meeting Point
Linley said he also feels where it is located “has to be very much a meeting point.” He explained: “It is very important that you invoke a feeling and a sense of occasion and also a sense of history, because of all the Cunard ships that have come before, which have set the standard for elegance and sophistication in travel.
“So we very much looked at it as a place where there will be treasured memories. A lot of people will be photographed there for their wedding anniversary or birthdays.
“We chose very British woods really, but also from all the way around the world. So hopefully, it is about travel and it is about where things come from,” he continued.
“It took at least a year from the first design to completion, which is not uncommon for this kind of project. It is not just the work itself, but also where the wood comes from, and the amount of the time we need to book in the workshop to make the piece. So it is a long process, not just for Cunard and LINLEY, but also for me and my director of production, John Wilsher and my designer, Mark Blanchard, chatting about it that has never really stopped.”
When asked about the challenges of such a project, Linley responded, “The making of it is quite complicated because it is so big, in fact, the biggest thing we have ever made. And secondly, it is going to be at sea, so we had to work out the constraints of weight and what you adhere the veneer to is very important.
Those are the basic constrictions; the weight, the glue, the polish, the finish and the size, and how you translate the design at that scale to make sure it is in proportion, because when you blow up the small drawing into a large drawing, you are not always going to end up with something directly relevant to the small scale.
“A lot of things you don’t see,” he said. “So the preparation of the base material and making sure that we find the right base material on the market, that is as light as possible, that won’t fade and will look wonderful for as long as possible and also the finish, which must adhere to all the latest legislation. So there are a lot of rules to comply with,” Linley noted.
A Continuing Tradition
But challenges were obviously overcome and well worth the effort. Said Linley with pride about the project: “I think it is the continuing tradition, which is quite outstanding, and also very innovative of Cunard. LINLEY is enormously grateful. I’m honored to have been allowed this opportunity to create such an extraordinary object for a beautiful backboard and hope that the artwork is in keeping with the tradition of the liners and that people enjoy it for years to come.
“There is an enduring tradition of British craftsmanship. If I can in some small way ensure its continued legacy I should be very proud indeed,” Linley added.
From the Fall 2010 edition of the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine. Click here to subscribe.