Taking inspiration from the Surrealist parlour game cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse), where a collection of words or images is collectively assembled, Sydney-based industrial designer Adam Goodrum and French straw marquetry artisan Arthur Seigneur collaborated to create three whimsical pieces. A tallboy, credenza and console, which have been three years in the making, will debut in their ‘Exquisite Corpse’ exhibition at Melbourne’s Tolarno Galleries during Melbourne Design Week.

‘We like to think of the new works as functional art pieces. The Surrealist reference relates to our working process,’ says Goodrum, who co-founded Adam & Arthur with Seigneur in 2015. ‘I come up with the shapes and surface patterns while Arthur applies their finish.’

Seigneur (who honed his straw marquetry skills in Paris with Lison de Caunes, the practitioner largely responsible for the renaissance of the dying 17th Century art form) sources and hand-dyes rye straw from Burgundy, then flattens and deftly splices each stem, affixing the strands to the birch carcasses to realise intricate op-art motifs. The surfaces of the credenza comprise approximately 9,000-10,000 shards of straw. ‘In labour terms, that’s approximately four intensive months,’ says Seigneur. ‘There are no shortcuts.’ Two pieces feature custom hinges and knobs machined from solid brass, ‘like jewellery for the furniture,’ adds Goodrum.

The units are precision-carved by CNC machinery, boasting curved and faceted surfaces that enable light to pool and dart across their contours courtesy of the straw’s natural sheen. Even their undersides, drawers and cavities are covered. Intrepid colour combinations add a dimension of visual intrigue, as do Seigneur’s inclusion of pearlescent white straw elements that accentuate the other hues.

Goodrum says, ‘what’s really refreshing about this collaboration is that I usually deal with budget and design constraints to meet my initial vision, yet Arthur is preoccupied with pushing boundaries with shapes, patterns and colour schemes. He has a crazy drive to achieve new outcomes. We almost take for granted how amicable our relationship is.’ §

A version of this article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Wallpaper* (W*253)