Creating Masterpieces with Straw Marquetry

Image courtesy of Lison
Image courtesy of Lison de Caunes’

Lison de Caunes’ glossy, colorful art pieces, intricately carved trinket boxes and cigar cases, even tables and wall panels appear to be created out of some type of polished, precious wood inlaid with subtle sunburst patterns. But in fact, the material at play is surprisingly pedestrian: simple straw, transformed by de Caunes into a work of artisanal beauty.

Called straw marquetry, the technique originates in 17th century France, when it was considered the ‘poor-man’s’ version of popular wood marquetry. To resemble wood veneer, wheat, oat, or rye straw are split, soaked, and flattened. The resulting strips, in shades ranging from pale blond to dark brown, are laid out and glued down into the desired design; a laborious, time-consuming process that requires extensive skill and patience.

Seemingly a lost art until recently, straw marquetry was revived, almost single-handedly, by Ms. De Caunes, whose grandfather passed on his passion for the craft. De Caunes attended art school to study bookbinding and gilding, taking classes in cabinet-making and wood marquetry. In the 1980s, she began restoring antique objects and furniture, later progressing to designing all-new modern variations.

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Image courtesy of Lison de Caunes’
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Image courtesy of Lison de Caunes’

De Caunes’ work quickly caught the interest designers, both French and foreign. Her stunning pieces appeared in world-renowned interiors, including mural panels in Guerlain’s flagship Champs-Elysees boutique, the Four Seasons in New York, and the window displays at Hermes Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré shop. Today, she works with designers and decorators on a variety of private and commercial projects, from restorations to custom contemporary creations, to memorable objects such as cigar boxes she made for Davidoff. De Caunes has authored two books on the topic, and is considered a Maître d’Art and an authority on the rare technique.

On October 5, Morgane Jouffre, a representative for Par Excellence, a New York-based design firm specializing in French luxury crafting, will attend the Magnifissance French Savoir-Faire soiree honoring French artisanship. Jouffre will share Ms. De Caunes’ work, speaking about her exclusive technique and the art of straw marquetry. She will also present a selection of De Caunes’ objects, allowing guests the rare opportunity to see, touch, and experience these one-of-a-kind masterpieces.