A lover of textures and earthbound at heart, Lison de Caunes took a humble material from the fields, rye straw, and made it her own. A passion inherited from her grandfather, decorator André Groult, who during the 1920s restored its former glory to straw marquetry a discipline which goes back to the 17th century. Following in the footsteps of her ancestor, Lison de Caunes has also been instrumental in renewing this forgotten savoir-faire, overlooked since the Art Deco period.

Surrounded from early childhood by the legacy of her grandfather’s creations, Lison de Caunes was naturally drawn to straw marquetry. Through a desire to pursue this craft, when no formal school existed, she became entirely self-taught.

As she «carved up »the models of André Groult, she grew to understand the manufacturing process and in the 80s began restoring straw marquetry objects given to her by antique dealers and collectors. In 1996, Lison de Caunes became Maître d’Art, a title awarded to craftsmen who possess a rare savoir-faire and who commit to passing it on to an apprentice. “It was a turning point for me. My craft would have a future because I would be able to pass it on ».

Lison de Caunes wanted to push the bounderies of her craft and after 20 years spent in restoration, she ventured into creation. She worked with famous architects such as Peter Marino – her first TransAtlanctic order – and big-name luxury brands. Nothing since has brought a halt to her creative momentum: « When I’m offered a project, I always accept; even if that projects seems crazy and I don’t quite know yet how to go about it».

Lison de Caunes sources her raw material from a cereal farmer from Burgundy who grows, harvests, dries and dyes the rye straw. When it arrives at the workshop, the stems are split open in two lengthwise and flattened out into flexible strips. The basic principle of any marquetry consists of an inlay of material placed edge to edge, these strips are then glued and flattened by machine onto the surface to be covered, without any overlap.

One of life’s paradoxes, it is because Lison de Caunes has brought this craft back into the spotlight that she is now facing strong competition from which she must stand out. So she must innovate. She is developing new colours with chemists, exploring new combinations of materials (metal, mother-of-pearl, glass…) and new patterns.«It is an ongoing challenge to keep straw marquetry contemporary. I want to show that it is not frozen in the Art Deco period. I really admire restorers who do not confine themselves to endlessly repeating the same thing but who, on the contrary, invent with their material, broaden their craft through creation».

Occupying a niche market, Lison de Caunes has been enjoying the benefits of her hard work for the past fifteen years. «These crafts require a lot of patience. It takes time to become known and to continually come up with new ideas for architects.». For her, patience came together with passion:«What I like about marquetry is the way the straw captures the light. I try to play on it all the time. And I love the idea that from a very humble product – rye straw that is simply harvested, dried and then cut open – can be made into something luxurious, with a natural sheen, and without any need for varnish. It’s a very straightforward transformation, there’s just the hand of the craftsman who with very little, can enhance this very humble material.».

Inspired by this material from which she extracts all its poetry, Lison de Caunes has received the most prestigious awards. This Maître d’Art is also Membre des Grands Ateliers de France, Membre des Entreprises du Patrimoine Vivant et Chevalière de la Légion d’Honneur.

Located in the heart of the 6th arrondissement in Paris, the Lison de Caunes workshop now employees ten people. A valuable team for the designer who has many projects to fulfill, including the development of her line of contemporary furniture, Lison de Caunes Créations.

text : Ambre Allart
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