The Straw Shop would like to introduce you to a different kind of straw artist. She doesn’t employ straw marquetry, encrustation, or applique. This is three dimensional French straw artist Nathalie Seiller Dejean.
Born in Paris she graduated from the prestigious Beaux Arts School with a degree in drawing. Her goal was to become an illustrator and she succeeded professionally as a press illustrator in major French newspapers such as Le Monde and Le Temps. She became known as a political illustrator for Le Monde. She also worked for fashion publications like Cosmopolitan magazine and Le Monde.
She moved from Paris to Geneva to assist her then husband in his antiques business where her illustration career was put on hold. Nathalie is a creative person who has found many creative outlets away from her trained profession.She has found artistic success with custom shoes, and silk scarfs so is it really not surprising to learn, “It all started with straw trimmings unearthed at the Geneva flea market: lace, old ribbons, flowers, etc.,” explains Nathalie Seiller Dejean. That simple discovery would lead her artistic talents into an entirely new direction. A straw direction.
Nathalie was fortunate to have spent 18 years in a country with a rich straw history. During her time there, she met the few crafts people who still practice the art in Switzerland, scoured flea markets and collected pieces, attended classes and workshops, visited exhibitions and viewed museum collections of straw work. In addition to the pieces she’s collected, she explains, “As far as raw straw is concerned, I learned how to make it by myself from books.” studying and practicing the two reference books on the subject by Veronica Main MBE and Barbara Fitch. After hours of experimentation and learning about the materials and how to recreate the designs herself, Nathalie began fashioning head jewelry, in the form of tiaras, hair clips, headbands and flowers to be worn on the head or adorning the wearer’s hair. In 2005, her new artistic expression materialized in unique forms of wearable art she called “Rumpelstiltskin Tiaras”. She has had her straw tiaras noticed. For nearly a decade, Barneys of New York highlighted them in their bridal wear selection.
Nathalie’s creations are individual pieces of art which often utilize several elements, depending on the design or theme she is fashioning.
Eventually moving back to Paris, Nathalie’s unique pieces began to appeal to trend-setting boutiques and shops, art galleries and French fashion designers who commissioned her tiaras for their fashion shows. She’s had several boutiques feature her work .
She’s also had the opportunity to showcase her creations in London as well as France. As recently as 2021, Ulla Johnson, a New York designer, commissioned her creations for Johnson’s SS21 Fashion show.
As to the materials themselves, she remarks, ““On the other hand, I have all the micro-elements done for me because they require infinite patience, which I don’t have!” She meticulously sorts the pieces in her collection in order to create her tiaras. “I work the straw / inventing new techniques/making the old ones when needed.” When it comes to dying the straw she replies, “In order to bring life back into the various creations making use of old elements coupled with new elements, I first prepare the work, sometimes dying it with tea, and using heat to remove its shiny patina”. Nathalie explains, ““Without these chromatic vibrations obtained thanks to ‘home-made’ dyes made from tea, all life would be lost. I don’t use any other color except deep and intense black, which as a former illustrator I just love.”
Of her straw finds, she remarks, “Some pieces still look so fresh, like they were made yesterday.” Some pieces, with the exception of the straw sequins, were made yesterday by Nathalie. As seen in the following gallery of images, Nathalie generously shares a few pieces she has made:
The following gallery of images show a few her artful creations. Nathalie’s use of various straw elements showcases the diversity of pieces to be inspired by.
Her style is quite unique. Her collection is immense after years of hunting the pieces down. As Nathalie explains, “I have been working on straw for more than 25 years and exclusively on it for 4 years because I am dedicating all my attention to it – I am keen on making it visible.”
Nathalie Seiller Dejean is the only artist The Straw Shop is aware of utilizing straw in this manner. Her straw art is a welcomed addition to The Straw Shop and she to our Artist Page. The Straw Shop encourages you to seek out Nathalie Seiller Dejean and support her work so straw art may become more visible. Some of her designs may be found here.