Studio Marianne Guély: when luxury paper has the power

Alissa Demorest

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Studio Marianne Guély: when luxury paper has the power


Since we first featured Marianne Guély’s work in Formes de Luxe, her Parisian studio has grown in breadth and expanded its areas of expertise. Most recently, the paper artist and designer’s fascination with the natural world has given life to an ambitious window dressing for Lancôme’s Champs Elysées store.

"Putting nature back into the city is quite a wonderful experience, and working with a maison like Lancôme in this context was an adventure," exclaims Marianne Guély, describing the latest production from her Paris-based studio for the L’Oréal-owned beauty brand. While this isn’t the first time the artist has worked with Lancôme, it’s "certainly the most ambitious project to date," she notes.

The window dressing designed and crafted by Studio Marianne Guély will decorate the flagship for four months ©Lancôme

For the brand's Champs Elysées flagship, the Studio created a series of giant roses—the biggest with a circumference of 1.2 meters—shaped by hand at Guély's workshop in Aubervilliers, to dress the windows on the famed avenue.

The rose petals that make up Lancôme's Champs Elysées window dressing were dyed by hand. ©Lancôme

Each petal was individually hand-dyed to replicate the natural pink shades of a rose as faithfully as possible. "Pink is a very complex and delicate color to develop," Guély explains. "We worked petal by petal with the idea of creating an oeuvre that is both overwhelmingly generous and welcoming to draw the viewer in." Hand dying meant that there was no uniformity of color, reflecting the "delicate nature of the rose, which in nature is ever changing," explains the artist. The nonwoven paper, with its grammage of around 300gsm, is akin to a textile in its suppleness and transparence, Guély says.

Inspiring fragrance creation at Symrise 

Another beauty and nature-related project is in the pipeline this time just off the Champs Elysées– although a bit more confidential. Fragrance house Symrise has commissioned the Studio to create a unique piece that will be a mainstay at the company’s Champs Elysées apartment/lab where it welcomes clients, influencers, and the media. A sculpture mixing cedar wood, alabaster, and paper, the piece is conceived to be "strongly rooted in the imagination" says Guély, with a composition she describes as representing mysterious or endangered plants. The aim here is for the work to create a dialogue with six of Symrise's perfumers. "This composition is meant to inspire the perfumers to each create a fragrance based on the project." The piece will be finished in time for Paris’ Design Days event in September 2023.

When paper takes on music

Earlier this year, Guély was invited by German papermaker Gmund to participate in its annual Unfolded Festival, an "analog design event" celebrating paper, printing and materiality. Rather than be an exhibitor at this edition, she participated in a panel discussion called Analog Culture with Mark Mast, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Bavarian Philharmonic for which she created a unique series: 10 conductor’s batons made from Gmund paper, in a range of pale shades from white to gray, and each with a slightly different form. "As they were made of paper, the idea was that the conductor could autograph each baton after a concert. As far as I know, this hasn’t been done before and it was great fun," Guély enthuses.

Guély created a series of 10 unique conductor's batons made with Gmund paper. ©Nathalie Baetens 

Structuring the approach to luxury packaging

Guély says that her Studio has gained in legitimacy over the past few years; she is selling more pieces to individual collectors and the Studio, on the rue de Provence in central Paris, now has a dedicated boutique space. Developments are in the works for new activities as well, notably an entity specialized in luxury packaging. While the Studio already offers "highly bespoke" packaging solutions, the idea is to launch a stock packaging line initially for fragrance and cosmetics and perhaps high jewelry. "Bringing our paper savoir-faire to the packaging sector is something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time, and I recently met the perfect person with whom to embark on this adventure, and who has a wealth of packaging industry experience," notes Guély. "It’s high time for this kind of initiative given the rejection we are seeing from consumers regarding plastic." The aim is to debut with a collection in 2024.

Guély’s Yin & Yang Egg sculpture for the exhibition Oeuf, curated by Valrhona patisserie chef Frédéric Bau. The piece was build like a nest, using a succession of white and black fine papers. ©Nicolas Brulez

In terms of future creations, Guély has two high jewelry projects in the works as well as a commission for a series of lamps that will be edited by a French company. There is no shortage of work for the Studio in the months and years to come, it seems. "Since the pandemic, we’ve felt a shift, with more appetite from brands when it comes to working with artisans and craftspeople and with noble materials like paper. They are feeling the magic of stepping out of the digital realm and seeing analog come to life!"

Marianne Guély is working on the launch of a stock collection of luxury packaging for 2024. ©Manan Sheth

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