Arts & Crafts

Nelly Saunier, former resident of Villa Kujoyama, is exhibiting at Espace Richaud in Versailles

In thirty years, the scope of my work has completely changed: it is essential for me not to repeat myself, to innovate, in order to always surprise the audience.

For the past thirty years, Nelly Saunier has been working as a feather artist, a rare craft for which she was named Master of Art in 2008. Through numerous collaborations with famous haute couture houses such as Chanel, Givenchy, and Louboutin, she has made it a point to create unique works, exceptional in delicacy and innovation. She is currently presenting a new project for the exhibition "Sous le soleil des savoir-faire," taking place at the Espace Richaud in Versailles with the support of the Institut français. 

Updated on 19/06/2024

2 min

Born on May 8, 1964, in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Nelly Saunier is a French feather artist. She discovered the profession of feather artisan at the age of 14. She attended Octave Feuillet High School in Paris to train in feather art techniques before joining the textile design department at the École nationale supérieure des arts appliqués et des métiers d'art Olivier de Serres. At the beginning of her career, she collaborated with haute couture houses such as Chanel, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Isabel Marant, as well as Louboutin and Jean-Paul Gaultier. 

Simultaneously, she worked with renowned designers, creating costumes for cinema and pieces for major fine jewelry houses such as Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, and Chopard. Her feather sculptures have been regularly exhibited in museums and contemporary art venues in France and around the world. In 2017, she established herself as one of the fifteen exceptional French craftsmen chosen for the Wonder Lab exhibition of Living National Treasures at the National Museum of Tokyo in Japan. 

The craft of a feather artist, as practiced by Nelly Saunier, is an ancient activity, with the first master feather artisans dating back to 1599 during the reign of Henri IV. She undertakes all stages of her profession, from purchasing feathers to incorporating birds in certain creations, to understand each feather, its function, and its plasticity. Mastery of the material and techniques, whether sewing, gluing, or mounting, is integral to her expertise. 

In all her work, Nelly Saunier is committed to revealing the beauty of the material while creating decorative pieces and enchanting adornments. She designs pieces that reflect her personal universe, a world where she can play with nature, texture, and the symbolism of feathers as both ornament and protection. All her works combine ancient techniques, inventiveness, and modernity to create exquisite art pieces. 

Winner of the Liliane Bettencourt Prize for the Intelligence of the Hand, Nelly Saunier was named Master of Art by the Ministry of Culture in 2008 and Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2012. Three years later, she was awarded the Villa Kujoyama residency in Kyoto. She is currently participating in the exhibition "Sous le soleil des savoir-faire," held at the Espace Richaud in Versailles with the support of the Institut français.

Presented from June 19 to September 22, 2024, the exhibition "Sous le soleil des savoir-faire: les Maîtres d'art à Versailles" showcases 100 creations by 33 Masters of Art or their students. It highlights the exceptional richness and diversity of these crafts. Additionally, the city of Versailles and the Campus Versailles are offering a week of master classes and introductory workshops from June 24 to 28, including a session titled "Poetry and Lightness of the Feather" with Nelly Saunier. 

  • 1982


    Nelly Saunier obtained her CAP (Certificat d'Aptitude Professionnelle) in feather artistry.

  • 2002


    She won the Innovation Talent Award at the Summit of Luxury and Creation.

  • 2008


    She was named Master of Art.

  • 2012


    Nelly Saunier was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.

  • 2015


    Residency at the Villa Kujoyama, in Japan.

The Villa Kujoyama

Villa Kujoyama is an artistic establishment within the cultural cooperation network of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. Managed by the Institut français of Japan, it operates in coordination with the Institut français and benefits from the support of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, its main patron. 

Find out more 

L'institut français, LAB