Lison de Caunes is an artist. She is also a pioneer. Straw marquetry is an art form under attack by time. In danger of disappearing, this rarified form of artistic expression is at once old world, satisfyingly artisanal and in dire need of contemporary love. FashionRepublik talks to de Caunes about her love of this age-old art, her grandfather – the famed designer Andre Groult – and her passion for this remarkable, reborn art.
Why did you start working in restoration?
I began with restoration because this is what I was known for! It was not really a decision. Straw marquetry was not fashionable, so I focused on restoration which helped me to increase my understanding of the art. While I was working in restoration, I was also making small pieces for myself and my family.
What sparked your passion for straw marquetry?
Straw marquetry is a childhood memory for me. I first came across the skills and the material in my grandfather’s workshop. But I remember very clearly when I was a child in my house in Brittany, there was a big and beautiful straw marquetry screen that my grandfather had made for the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in 1937. This piece always impressed me, so I decided to restore it after my grandfather died. It was my very first attempt with straw marquetry, and this is what made me really passionate about the material. The original screen is still with me in my workshop today!
When it comes to your craft, what is the most important thing you learned from your grandfather?
Everything, everything from the tools, to the patterns… When I began, I took a lot of my inspiration from his work as well as Jean Michel Frank’s, who has been a really important figure in the revival of straw marquetry.
Tell us about the Guerlain by Peter Marino project.
I worked directly interior designer Peter Marino who was in charge of redesigning the Guerlain boutique. He came to me with several pattern propositions and I made them in straw marquetry as prototypes. He then chose the one he liked the most. It took us around three months to complete.
Tell us about how you collaborate with designers.
Most of the time, designers or interior designers come to us with a project – a table, cabinets, or entire rooms – that they want to be covered in straw. We then work with them to find the best pattern and color. We receive MDF panels or MDF pieces of furniture in our workshop in Paris where everything is made either by me or the artisans who work at the workshops. When the project covers entire walls, the panels are then sent on site, installed, and we then come to do the final touch-ups and finishing.
How long do projects take on average?
Time-wise, it depends on every project, but it takes approximately four days to produce one square meter of the simplest pattern, which is vertical straw. It can go up to one week per square meter for a more complicated pattern. There are not a lot of stages. First, we need to open and flatten the straw, then we glue it on the panels and that’s it! No need to apply any varnish or finish!
What inspired you during your trip to Lebanon?
I fell in love with the Lebanese titles and I can see them on a table and maybe will do it and actually call it Beirut.