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Extraordinary Straw Marqueter, Arthur Seigneur

Studio Visit

This morning we meet an artistic furniture maker unlike any other we’ve profiled… and one with more patience than we could ever imagine possible!

Introducing Arthur Seigneur, a French cabinet maker who found his way to Sydney, where he now practices painstaking straw marquetry – a European tradition going back to the 16th century.

12th October, 2017

Straw marqueter Arthur Seigneur. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Arthur’s straw supplies, which he uses to create his extraordinary furniture and art pieces. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Arthur working on an art piece in his Sydney studio. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The former cabinet maker is meticulous about his incredibly labour-intensive art. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Workshop details. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Arthur first flattens his dyed straw and then, following a detailed plan he has prepared, inlays the materials, strand by strand. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Though he focussed on furniture in the past, today Arthur also works on a number of art pieces. Photo – courtesy of the maker.

His striking furniture pieces typically take between one and three weeks to complete, working eight to 16 hour days! Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

A work in progress. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Mesmerising furniture pieces by Arthur. Photo – courtesy of the designer.

A chair from the craftsman’s portfolio of earlier projects. Photo – courtesy of the designer.

Tools of the little-practiced trade. Photo – courtesy of the designer.

Elle Murrell
Thursday 12th October 2017

‘What excites me most is to practice a craft with so much history, which only a handful of people do in the world.’ – Arthur Seigneur.

Arthur Seigner is an incredible marqueter… not to be confused with ‘marketer’ – the exceptional craftsman is way too modest for that title. ­Born and raised in Paris, Arthur began as an apprentice in fine furniture making at the CFA de la Bonne Graine, specialising in wooden marquetry and industrial drawing. The skills he learned over four years of dedicated study and practice were put to good use two years later, when he taught himself (!!) the art of straw marquetry.

At 18, Arthur left home to travel the world and practice his trade, working in London and Oxford, UK, as well as Valencia, Spain, before departing Europe. Passing through New Orleans on a holiday, he fell in love with ‘the culture and energy of the place’, and so decided to stay longer, taking up work as a cabinet maker.

One day, he was encouraged by his boss to make a personal piece for a furniture exhibition. ‘I had been interested in straw marquetry and wanting to practice it for a number of years, but the right time had not arisen until then,’ recalls Arthur. ‘It was difficult because I had to teach myself the technique while creating the piece. But after it was done, I decided I wanted to leave cabinet making and try and support myself through this craft.’

And this Arthur did, when his USA J-1 visa came to an end, and he returned to France, honing his straw marquetry skills further under the guidance of Lison de Caunes, an artist renowned for her use of this rare tehnique. He then moved to Sydney in early 2015.

‘Marquetry dates back to the 16th century, where it was first practiced by Florentine Italian stone masons,’ begins Arthur in his history/summary. ‘After spreading to Belgium, it was taken up by the French, and was used to fit out Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV!’. The craft came back into fashion in the Art deco era, and Arthur believes it’s having its second revival today. ‘Straw marquetry is now becoming more present in the design world, however there are still only a handful of professionals practicing it. So far, I haven’t heard of anybody else doing it in Australia,’ he explains.

The 27-year-old creates from his workshop in Alexandria, first opening and flattening each piece of dyed staw into fine strips, then inlaying them by hand, edge-to-edge on paper or wood, until an entire surface is covered. ‘The planning and drawing of the pattern alone can take hours to execute,’ tells Arthur, who is adamant about the value of detailed preparation. He will work on pieces (like those pictured) for up to three weeks, between eight to 16 hours per day!

Over the last two years, the craftsman has been melding the traditional style of straw maquetry with his deep love of shape, geometric form, optical illusions and op-art. ‘The most recent pieces I have made have been more expressions of art, moving away from furniture into sculpture and art,’ he explains. ‘I am a curious person and always looking for new inspiration.’

Recently, large-scale wall commissions have provided Arthur with the opportunity to push his skills, patterns and designs, which he hopes continues into the future. ‘What excites me most is to practice such an old craft with so much history, which only a handful of people do in the world,’ he says. ‘I may be staring at the same straw and doing the same repetitive task for many hours, and it can be daunting knowing how labor intensive this work is, but it is my art and meditation.’

Find out more about Arthur Seigner or get in touch via his website, here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net