Delphine Robins is self-taught in straw marquetry and one of only 120 skilled practitioners in the world

Lustre and beauty of a delicate art

IT IS a craft that can trace its origins back to the 17th century, and became a foundation of one of the most famous movements in the history of modern art. But the expertise needed to master straw marquetry is now practised by a dwindling number of crafts people across the globe. However, one of just 120 people around the world skilled at marquetry is now hoping to open up the art to a far wider audience. Delphine Robins works in an attic workroom in Scarborough stocked full of rye and makes a host of items from trays and panels to jewellery boxes and bookcases from the reeds. The French-born artisan is self-taught, and was inspired by a television documentary she watched seven years ago.“I had just put my son to bed, zapped on the television and this documentary was on a channel I did not know,” she said. “I sat down and said ‘Wow! I watched it on repeat the next day, searched the internet for information and off I went. It really is a passion and it has never left me.”

The designs are amazing in their variety, beauty and inventiveness.

Mrs Robins now wants to share her passion with others who want to learn the art of marquetry, and will be hosting a series of workshops in Scarborough from next week. Straw marquetry appeared in the 17th century and subsequently became hugely popular among creators of the Art Deco period, one of modern art’s most revered movements. Marquetry is a craft which takes time, patience and precision to perfect – and requires few materials and utensils. Rye, which is supplied by three outlets in the Czech Republic, France and the USA, is used in the art, along with tools including a bone knife, a scalpel and a specialist hammer to flatten the reed.

The straw can be dyed using an array of natural pigments to transform the natural golden hues into a spectrum of shades, ready for the creative process. Straw’s natural colour includes diffused and delicate shades that lend themselves to the overall sheen and lustre that appear in Mrs Robin’s refined designs. Mrs Robins, who lives in Scarborough with her husband David, a retired English teacher, said: “I use the traditional methods of transforming straw into an astonishing, shiny and luminous material, like a ribbon to create exceptional furniture and objects.“Straw is a natural raw material and creates pure patterns for interior decorators and individuals. The resulting designs are amazing in their variety, beauty and inventiveness.”Mrs Robins will be hosting workshops at Woodend in the Crescent, Scarborough, each Monday from next week until July 19. There will be two sessions on each Monday running from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm. Places can be booked by calling 07548 798023 or emailing

Photos by Richard Ponter

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