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The Beauty of Straw Marquetry

Lison de Caunes, one of France’s honoured Maitres d’Art creates luxury décor with a material once known as ‘the gold of the poor’.

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“When I began this work, I was the only one. There was no school teaching this technique. I was really the only one.”
—Lison de Caunes, straw marquetry artist

Lison de Caunes practically brings to life the fairy-tale idea of spinning straw into gold. She takes the humble medium of straw and makes it into immensely valuable, brilliantly shining works of art.

De Caunes is often amazed by this feat herself.

Bushels of rye straw harvested in Burgundy, France, arrive at her workshop in Paris. It’s a strong and hearty straw that allows de Caunes to dye it, bend it, and cut it as she practices the ancient art of straw marquetry.

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De Caunes uses the art of straw marquetry to create various objets d’art. Photos by Gilles Trillard

Straw marquetry is thought to have originated in the East. It became popular in Europe in the 17th century but was nearly lost until de Caunes revived it.

“When I began this work, I was the only one [doing it]. There was no school teaching this technique. I was really the only one,” she says.

Her daughter, Pauline Goldszal, helps tell her mother’s story in English. “She feels like she has achieved her goal of perpetuating the work and making it alive again,” Goldszal says. “Today, a lot of people want to work with straw marquetry. It has become very fashionable again, and it’s really because of her.”

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Having trained artisans in this lost art, de Caunes now trusts much of the work to them while she focuses on the fine details and flourishes of her workshop’s creations. Left: Photo by Matthieu Salvaing; right: Courtesy of Lison de Caunes

De Caunes has covered whole walls and rooms in gold-hued straw. Unlike the grain of wood, which curves and varies, the grain in a strip of straw is dead-straight and mesmerizing when arranged in rows and patterns. Like rays emanating from the sun, the strips of straw have a look that’s linear and geometric, yet organic. They also shimmer and shine. “Everybody thinks it’s varnish, but it’s not,” de Caunes says. “With light, it changes and vibrates.”

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 118

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