One of the most amazing things about social networking (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) is that it’s now possible to meet creative beings from across the globe (and to get to know about them and their artistry) without ever setting foot in their countries. This is how my connection with passementerie designer Rémy Lemoine began—an avatar of a beautiful tieback on Facebook that caught my attention. While in Paris, I was thrilled to spend time with Rémy. Fellow-writer/blogger Patty Otis Abel and I hopped on a bus with the designer to travel to the Left Bank, where we saw the beautiful straw marqueterie creations at Ateliers Lison de Caunes.
Lison is a third-generation marqueterie artisan who not only repairs furnishings that have felt the wear of time and too many hands but also creates incredible contemporary furnishings using the environmentally-friendly material and techniques that haven’t changed for centuries. Rye straw is shipped in bundles to Lison from Burgundy. Colors are achieved by soaking the thin reeds in watery dyes; then the natural material is sliced open, flattened and glued onto a surface for a shimmering effect and a finish that is incredibly durable. I asked the artisan to demonstrate the technique, which she does in this video. Lison manufactures some of Rémy’s most popular tiebacks, including a marqueterie version of the Sogni, the shape of which came to him in a dream (sogni is the Italian word for “dream”).
About collaborating with Lison, he remarks, “When the best Ouvrier de France [craftswoman] in straw marqueterie demonstrates her love for the matter, she allows us to witness the birth of a brand new challenge, an unprecedented demand on quality, and an implementation of the French savoir faire. She applies the same techniques as wood marqueterie to rye straw, a 17th-century French tradition that gave us cases, chests, boxes and nice pieces of furniture.” Rémy compares the straw marqueterie tradition to the Living Treasures of Japan, which are honored for their preservation of the ancient arts. I couldn’t agree more… I also had the thrill of walking through Patrick Jouin’s exhibition, La Substance du Design, at the Centre Pompidou while I was in town. See what the visionary had to say about his work, the show and the devil on my International Design Examiner page!