Straw is something of so little value. And then again, that simple, dry stem, found on every cereal field, has been used for centuries to make strong, useful objects. The rye one is especially beautiful, with a hollow inside and warm colour. Clémence Bourneuf uses it in her embroidered creations and it shines like gold.
Interview by Claire de Pourtalès
Ongoing work © Estampille
Préparations © Estampille
Clémence was born in a little village with a very ancient name: Malicorne. It is situated in the heart of the Sarthe region, a few kilometers from Le Mans (France). The place holds the label of Town and art crafts. For the last 300 years, thanks to an especially good soil found there, Marlicorne has been associated with earthenware of high quality. They have a decor of small holes that gives the impression they are made of lace.
After attending a fashion school that didn’t suit here (“Way too intellectual for me!”), Clémence went to the Lycee Jamain to register for a course in embroidery. A former embroidery designer from Lesage House came to live in Malicorne and provided some help too with the basics of this craft.
In order to finish her course, she had to mount a creative project. With her grand-father, she made a machine that changes metallic threads into Purl threads (used in Goldwork technique). The young woman loves to play with raw materials and their abilities to be transformed. For two years, she worked on creating her business, Estampille. Two tough years where she had to learn to create a website, work on social medias, meet people who could help her. Estampille works in two directions: one is jewelry that provides a more or less constant revenue, the other is the creation of furniture, settings, etc.
Ginkgo leaf on chain © Estampille
Rye straw © Estampille
At the heart of Estampille, is the humble straw. The rye straw is both supple and strong, very constant with a warm golden colour. Its composition is so uniform that you can neatly open the whole tube with your fingernail. Those are all the qualities that Clémence values and uses in her art.
Stitched straw decor © Estampille
In the 17th century, stitchers would use rye straw instead of gold threads to create beautiful pieces. Clémence associates it with a large variety of stitches, other threads and delicate patterns. Her art is made of weaving, canvas and openwork embroidery. Both jewels and decors are fine, subtle, exquisite.
She works with a supplier who can dye the straw in over 40 shades. She loves playing with them, trying associations: “The rye straw is my friend!”
On the slate © Estampille
Decor with straw and various threads © Estampille
Today, she wants to create more art embroidery pieces, associated with custom-made furniture or unique decors. One of her last work took 6 months to be made. Each time she meets with a new craft person and their specific technique, Clémence imagines new ways for the matters to be associated.
Depending on the project in mind, she starts by drawing her ideas. She thinks about the samplers she will need, try some ideas: “It is when I experiment that I find my ways.” She often plunges her samplers into water to test their resistance… and sometimes has to find a new way when the threads are not as tightly woven as predicted!
When asked how such a young woman can be at the helm of her own business – particularly a very time-consuming one – she reveals that she got help from her boy-friend, a IT-lover who could help with the website (but it was still 8 months of hard work!), and her father who taught her the art of marketing and how to meet the right people. “I have to force myself to be a good sell-woman!” She might feel a certain frustration when she is away from her workshop, but she acknowledges also that those encounters are often very useful and creative.
Cuffs © Estampille
Clémence Bourneuf © Estampille
The next step will be to have a larger workshop where she can teach one or two trainees. She also wants to obtain the precious label “Art workshop of France”, which will allow her to be well-referenced and get help to participate at professional fairs. “But above all, it is a seal of quality.”
Decor © Estampille
This custom-made universe can be difficult as she cannot openly speak about what she is making while it is not finished. She chose the name Estampille – French for Trademark – and yet she doesn’t mark her pieces with her stamp! But her work is so unique that it bears her name anyway!
The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire