Lison de Kaunes and the rebirth of thatch inlay art

Appointed Master of Arts in 1998 and awarded the Legion of Honor in 2010, artist Leeson de Caunes has dedicated himself to straw inlay art for over 40 years. Thanks to his know-how and passion, this poor inlay art is now experiencing a renaissance.

Objects, furniture, walls, Lison de Caunes decorates all forms with straw covers, creating real works of art. For the first time in the 1980s, straw art went out of use. However, this technique has been around since the 17th century and reached its peak during the Art Deco period, especially thanks to the work of decorator André Groult, grandfather of Lison de Caunes. In the second part of our “Master of the Art” series, discover how his successor has renewed the art through these centuries.


A unique family tradition

Behind the window of his studio, Leeson de Kaunes concentrates on his work. He carefully applies thin strips of straw to a large egg (a creation to join his multicolored series: “Les Œufs”), while his sixteen employees are busy working on prestigious commissions, this time for the showcases of the house of Cartier. On the wall, her grandfather, André Groult, watches over her from a slightly yellowed black-and-white photograph. From the 1920s, this great decorator and furniture designer imparted to him the taste of this art. Passionate since the age of thirteen, Leeson De Kaunes observed him, then helped him in his studio. After his death, he perfected himself by restoring, disassembling and reassembling his works to understand the intricacies of this neglected art of inlay. He grew up surrounded by these family heirlooms and likes to hunt around to enrich his collection.

A straw inlaid panel made with laser mother-of-pearl by finemarg in the Lison de Caunes workshop for the Cartier store in Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. ©Cartier.

From the fields of Burgundy to the workshop of Paris

Straw inlay was a highly prized French specialty in the 18th and 19th centuries. Fashioned during the Art Deco era in the 1920s, then forgotten, it enjoyed a new lease of life in the hands of Lison de Kaunes more than forty years ago. Biting the quiet little street of the 7th arrondissement, where it has gradually built a nest, the Parisian studio welcomes more and more spectacular projects and its team has grown. A graduate in gilt binding and cabinetmaking, he strokes the straw with the tools of the book. It is always supplied with rye straw by a grain producer in Burgundy, two meters of straw that is particularly well preserved thanks to its silica content, which gives it a glossy appearance. The grain manufacturer dyed it about sixty different colors before it was delivered to the workshop.

Lison de Kaunes works with a scalpel in his studio.  Seminars.  © Alice Thomas

Lison de Caunes works on a piece in his studio using a scalpel. © Alice Thomas

Sublimated humble material

Lison de Caunes combines straw with other materials, such as precious stones, mother-of-pearl, gold leaf… And collaborates with great artists. Currently in fashion are embossed straws (provides a relief effect). He explores endless options, creates geometric patterns, plants, paints them before presenting them to clients or creates them for unique works. Filled with orders for major brands spreading the word.

Designed by Peter Marino on the mezzanine floor of the Guerlain boutique at 68 avenue des Champs Elysée, this space is made entirely of straw inlays.  © Manolo Yllera

Designed by Peter Marino on the mezzanine floor of the Guerlain boutique at 68 avenue des Champs Elysée, this space is made entirely of straw inlays. © Manolo Yllera

The light on the straw is incredible, it looks like it’s varnished, but I assure you it’s not. It is the method of sticking the straw, the pattern, the design that offers these sparkles. The advantage of this material is that rendering is immediate. If you want to learn the technique of straw inlay, know that the first six courses of 2023 are filled in less than ten minutes. A popular process today, of course.

A straw inlaid panel made in the Lison de Caunes workshops with laser mother-of-pearl inlay for the Cartier store in Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris.  © Cartier

A straw inlaid panel made in the Lison de Caunes workshops with laser mother-of-pearl inlay for the Cartier store in Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris. © Cartier


Today it is becoming an old craft rare trade ! Connaissance des Arts has been championing these often misunderstood professions for ten years, at the intersection of hand and mind, arts and crafts and creativity. Now it becomes necessary to mobilize so that artists are recognized as real creators and that the means necessary for the transmission and perpetuation of their know-how.

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