- Article by Marcus Piper
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Blending furniture, craft and graphic design, Arthur Seigneur is a rare talent in an even rarer field, bringing a youthful spirit to the age-old process of marqueterie de paille – straw marquetry.
You are working in a rare field and have trained with rarer people; what is the most important thing you have learned so far?
My dad, who is a master engraver, is a part of an association called ‘Les Grands Ateliers de France’, which [brings together] some of the finest and rarest craftsman in France. I have been lucky to be surrounded by such talented and creative-minded people. I knew that I wanted to do something with my hands, so the decision was easy to make. I spent most of my youth exploring shops, listening to artisans’ stories and watching their dexterity at work.
At the age of 18, I decided to leave France and travel the world to practise my trade as a cabinetmaker, and I worked with various artisans from all over the globe. In whichever country I was, all my mentors taught me the same thing: passion, patience, precision and perseverance.
How do you blend traditional ‘craftsmanship’ and contemporary design without diluting either?
Not diluting either is the aim and, luckily, this has not been my biggest challenge when working with [straw]. Knowing the material and in particular how the light works with it and the time spent drawing the design is, I guess, where I strike this balance. Straw is a natural material and the practice of straw marquetry is entirely handmade, using only hand tools.
Straw marquetry has been around since the 17th century and was revived during the art deco period. Two designers, Jean-Michel Frank and André Groult, were the ones who totally changed the technique and made it [more appropriate for their time]. Currently, we are living in a time where we don’t have a definite style as such, we have more of a fashion. I try to separate myself from fashion and improve the technique and try to find new patterns that will define my proper style. The main effect I try to reproduce is an optical illusion, and straw [is the best material when it comes to playing] with space and volume.
You are working on a range of projects with a broad group of people – how important is collaboration to you, your process and your future?
For me, collaboration with someone is an evolution in my practice and technique. Everybody has a different background that builds them as a person. Even if we have similar tastes, we will always have a different view on things and that is where it becomes really interesting.
The best collaboration is when I work with someone who has a little knowledge of my material, as they won’t be restricted by any of the technical parts of the job. And if they are stubborn, it’s even better, as it will push my limits and maybe help me to find new ways of doing things. I could also say that what attracts me the most in collaborating is the challenge – getting to share ideas with others and allowing me to be more open in my work.
What is the most exciting thing about the Australian creative industry compared to other countries?
When I first arrived in Australia in 2015, I didn’t know anyone in the creative industry. Australia was like a blank page to me. I soon opened my studio in Alexandria and started to contact designers, interior decorators, architects, galleries and makers to introduce my work and build my network. Out of all the people I have met, almost everybody has been really friendly and helpful to each other. Compared to other countries, I felt really welcomed into the creative industry here and it is a real pleasure to be part of this creative journey alongside wonderful and talented people.
Arthur Seigneur was nominated by MEZZANINE and featured in the Top 20 under 40 published in issue #7, which is available digitally through Zinio.
Want to read a profile on another creative? Check out our interview with Kati Williams and Rory Morgan of Mast Furniture here.