The many forms of savoir-faire mastered by the artisans at Rinck make it possible for them to incorporate precious materials when crafting custom furniture and executing outfitting projects. Precious materials such as shagreen, parchment, and semiprecious or ornamental stones – sought after for their rarity or originality, appreciated for a natural beauty that is showcased by the technical expertise of our craftspeople – give a project an added elegance by virtue of their unique qualities.
In 18th-century France, master sheath-maker Jean-Claude Galluchat managed to find the tanning and dyeing technique that allowed him to adorn small objects with the substance, which why it is known today in French as galuchat. The skin’s Eastern origins made it a rare and expensive material and it was thus only used for luxury products, such as jewelry boxes and sewing or writing cases. Madame de Pompadour, the official chief mistress to Louis XV, and Madame Émilie du Châtelet, a French natural philosopher and mathematician, were very fond of shagreen and contributed to its expansion and image as an elegant, sophisticated material.
While public interest in the art of shagreen waned in the 19th century, it saw a resurgence during the Roaring Twenties, when the need for luxury and liberties – generated by the deprivations of war – skyrocketed. The great creative minds in the field of decorative arts featured shagreen on their furniture pieces, or even complete furniture ensembles. For designers and decorators such as Paul Iribe, André Groult, Jules Leleu, and Jean-Michel Frank, it became a favorite material. At this time, shagreen was synonymous with modern elegance, at once chic and streamlined, sophisticated yet simple. It retains this image to this day and merits such veneration, as this art requires exceptional skill and savoir-faire.
A number of steps must be taken to prepare a stingray hide before it can be used to sheath or decorate. These include such things as eliminating dust or traces of algae and flattening the skin by putting it under a press to render it workable. In its natural state, stingray skin is a dull grey-beige, meaning that it is now often dyed for use. Depending on the inspiration of the designer or decorator, shagreen can also be lacquered, left uncoated, or a patina can be created with wax or varnish – it all depends on the finish desired. For illustration purposes, it could be compared to polished marble when a hard, shiny finish is wanted, which is created by sanding. Whatever the choice of finish, there are many delicate and difficult operations to be performed calling for artisanal expertise, and this laboriousness is partly responsible for the material’s cost. Shagreen has long defied fashion trends and is just as appreciated today as it was in eras past. With details of infinite richness and a luster worthy of precious stones, it is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for designers.
Today, technical innovations and research performed by innovatively minded artisans mean that materials such as silicone and elastomer can be used to reproduce the look of shagreen. Applying the same techniques as those used in sculpture, the crafters make a mold to capture the imprint of the skin and then pour in these innovative materials. The result is a kind of sheet that they can work with freely, attaching it to the piece of furniture or wainscoting panels.
Parchment is a leather made from the skin of sheep or goats. Our passionate artisans have specific savoir-faire that reveals its exceptional qualities, seeking as much to tame as to showcase the material. It has a remarkably fine grain and great transparency, with a silky and delicate texture that render it uniquely precious. Its lightly polished surface has a very slight pearlescence, yet it is an extremely sturdy and long-lived material: Unlike paper, which yellows, parchment can retain its natural whitish color for a very long time. Each skin has a unique hide pattern, making parchment a material of choice and a source of inspiration for contemporary designers.
Nevertheless, revealing the many qualities that make it such an exceptional material requires many hours of processing in a multitude of steps. The parchmenter must first clean the hides, then scrape and thin them, and polish and whiten them with a pumice stone. This increasingly rare savoir-faire is practiced by a very small number of farmers, who choose to work these skins so that this precious material is not lost. Once this preparatory work is completed, the artistic use can begin, carried out by artisans who have already finalized the layout plan for the parchment’s placement. This is a demanding and difficult process, because the material is finicky and unpredictable and can only be worked with manually.
Like all leather, parchment can be dyed, but only an experienced and talented craftsperson can bring out its full depth. Depending on the desired effect, the artisan applies a patina to the hide to give it a lived-in quality or soul: a coating can be applied, for instance, to create an aged look, or the appearance of cracked leather.
Parchment is luminous and soft to the touch, and creation of this exceptional material involves many different forms of savoir-faire. These skills, which we apply in our woodworking and interior-outfitting workshops, let us reveal the material’s full splendor, thus preparing it for use in any number of projects.