Craftsman John hopes to inspire next generation

A marquetry kit produced by John Mathews.  INLT 13-682-CON
A marquetry kit produced by John Mathews. INLT 13-682-CON

A former Larne councillor has embarked on a crusade to introduce a new generation of people to the craft of marquetry.

John Mathews, who served as an Alliance representative on Larne Borough Council, has been practicing this hobby for almost 50 years, ever since his mother bought him a marquetry kit when he was a young boy.

Having founded the Cove Workshop in Islandmagee back in the 1978, John has become recognised as one of Northern Ireland’s leading cabinet makers, designing and handcrafting unique and iconic furniture for private, commercial and ceremonial commissions.

And, as he prepares to retire from his career as a lay-magistrate this month, John has decided to focus his skills on a new project which he feels passionately about.

The 69-year-old said: “Times have changed; as the likes of IKEA become more and more popular, people don’t see high-quality furniture as an investment anymore.

“On top of that, young people these days are very skilled when it comes to computers and technology, but few are practicing crafts anymore.

“I want to introduce them to the craft of marquetry and help them get as much enjoyment out of it as I did in my youth, and still do to this day.”

Marquetry is the art of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures

And John has come up with a unique way to attract new people to this particular craft – by marketing these kits as tourist products.

“To my knowledge the tourism aspect has not been done before when it comes to marquetry kits,” John added.

“The National Trust has been very supportive and there are four variations are currently available; the Giant’s Causeway, RMS Titanic, Stonehenge and Eilean Donan Castle.

“Another innovative feature of these kits is that they come with a demonstration DVD, in which I walk people through the process. The kits are also geared towards beginners who have a basic level of craft skill, so the patterns are simplified and the veneers are relatively easy to cut.

“Due to airport restrictions, modelling knives and glue are not included with these kits.”

John has already sold about 360 kits to suppliers. They are available for purchase online at, priced at £23. Kits are also available for £18 in the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.

“It is my hope that these kits will be the gateway to bringing this fascinating pastime to a wider audience,” John concluded.