If the origin of straw marquetry is very debated, it is likely that the Silk Road may have served as a vector for importing this savoir-faire from the Far East to Europe. It was developed during the 17th century and used by religious, sailors and convicts. It gave birth to a very rich craft in France, but also in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Rediscovered in the 1920’s thanks to the decorators André Groult and Jean-Michel Franck, straw marquetry is a technique that is even more appreciated in these times, as it allows to embellish with refinement the most varied objects (boxes, furniture, paintings, screens or decorative panels). However, it was not before the 1980s that Lison de Caunes made a major contribution to the return of straw marquetry in contemporary decoration. Today, it is estimated that there are less than a dozen professionals specialized in this rare savoir-faire.
Nowadays, the preferred material is rye straw, cultivated by a single cereal farmer in Burgundy, who uses it for these passionate craftsmen. It allows a silky touch, infinite reflections and has the privilege of being natural, abundant and cheap. The straw has a silica varnish which brings water resistance. This solid material is resistant to heat and water but is sensitive to sunlight when it has been coloured.
Straw marquetry can be qualified as a true handmade art craft because, apart from the folding knife and scissors, the scalpel, a brush and glue, this technique does not require the intervention of any machine. It offers immense possibilities to allow innovation and does not require great means.
This is the case of Atelier Paelis which creates custom-made projects. Manon Bouvier (named Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2019) and her team strive to create new patterns, use current colours, while seeking new uses for this savoir-faire in order to offer a new dimension to the discipline with original creations.