12 February 2020
Straw, without a hint of nostalgia
With her head jewelry, Nathalie Seiller Dejean revisits the straw work that was so fashionable in the 19th century.
By Sandrine Merle.
Long, dried stalks of grain, can be used to make many more accessories than just hats. Nathalie Seiller Dejean creates head jewelry, tiaras, headbands and flowers to be attached to the hair. The dried stalks of cereal gleaned from the fields evoke lace and crochet. The delicate flowers and seeds bursting forth form a divine halo.
A Swiss tradition
“It all started with straw trimmings unearthed at the Geneva flea market: lace, old ribbons, flowers, etc.,” explains Nathalie Seiller Dejean. She discovered that Switzerland had a long tradition dating back to the 19th century, with its own dedicated museum in the canton of Aargau. It’s a material that whisks her back to her childhood days: “My family used to go to Zermatt every summer. As a child I was bored with adults, so I spent my time picking flowers, braiding them and putting them on the heads of grown-ups, including my grandfather. He was always happy to play along.”
Working with straw
It is mainly in Switzerland that Nathalie Seiller-Dejean hunts down her raw or already braided straw, which she then cuts. Her preference is for pretty old ribbons, whose delicacy and preciousness is reminiscent of ladies’ work. “As far as raw straw is concerned, I learned how to make it by myself from books.” She first prepares it to make it more rigid and then works it with heat to remove its shiny patina. “On the other hand, I have all the micro-elements done for me because they require infinite patience, which I don’t have!”
The poetry of color
The beauty of her adornments which have been exhibited in France in the windows of Poilâne bakeries or at the IBU gallery, lies in the nuances, the infinite variations on the theme of gold. “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.”
All that remains is to reread “Rumpelstiltskin” by the Brothers Grimm, where you can find the words: “Ah!” sighed the girl, “I must spin straw into gold…”
Pictures © Noelle Hoeppe
Nathalie Seiller Dejean pieces are available at Cutter Brooks
“Coiffes et Parures” at Éditions Palette…