Clos19 talks to Marie Daâge, acclaimed French tableware designer and porcelain artist who accompanied us on our exclusive Paris experience where we celebrated the art of hosting. Marie Dâage is a Paris based porcelain artist who hand paints designs onto plates which she sources from a small pottery workshop in Limoges, a city in west-central France known for its 19th century porcelain. We discuss the inspiration involved in her designs as well as her take on hosting the perfect evening.
How do you define good taste?
There certainly is no single definition of good taste. However, it is crucial, and to me good taste is unexpected yet respects tradition and calls for solid cultural roots. Good taste tells something about you and is border line but does not cross the red line.
What defines French etiquette in particular?
French etiquette certainly is a unique combination of strict rules and a certain distance from these rules. Nonetheless, nobody should feel imprisoned by rules. These rules must be so discrete that guests hardly notice them. It involves sincerity and gentleness in addition to respect for tradition and elegance. The way you dress a table or establish a seating plan as well as the way you welcome and entertain guests must be done serenely and delicately.
What inspires you in your design philosophy?
Everything! My plates reflect my eyes. Everything I observe, in the streets, in a magazine, in a forest, in a museum, up in the sky or under my feet will be transposed on a plate. I am constantly taking pictures and drawing sketches as I go. Then time does its work. I know the precise origin of my designs and how each came about. Creating a colour – typically two new colours a year – however, is completely different. Frankly, I don’t really know how a colour comes to me. When I stop somewhere to admire a colour, it is already on my mind if not on my plates. It is amazing how top designers often come up with the same color schemes at the same time with no deliberate coordination at all.
What does the (your) future taste like?
It tastes like a delicious feast with guests from all over the world around the table sharing their different cultures which they will have preciously cultivated and transmitted.
What does the art of hosting mean to you?
Above all, to me it means guests must feel at ease. You should always do enough to make them feel valued while simultaneously not doing too much so they don't feel uncomfortable. Moreover, it means finding the right balance. The table dressing should be delicate yet immediately spark a collective sense of comfort, cheerfulness and beauty.
What do you first think of when you are hosting a lunch or dinner?
When thinking about organizing a lunch or dinner some of the most important decisions come into play at the very beginning. I will spend the necessary time making sure to invite a combination of friends that will create a cheerful and riveting group. I will make sure that each person will get to see new faces as well as meet old acquaintances. I will arrange such a group where every guest can engage in a compelling discussion or topic of interest. I will let my instinct identify people that will bond over conversation. All of this will create the perfect ambiance for people to be their genuine selves. On the hosting day, a key element is introducing people to one another, always mentioning something that will immediately spark a connection. The rest is important as well but much easier. Setting up a unique table, choosing the appropriate lighting, paying attention to the little details and so forth to create that 'wow' factor when guests enter the dining room.
What is your definition of a great evening? Is there a magical ingredient?
A magical ingredient? a Marie Daâge porcelain dinner service, of course! Well, a great evening combines good laughs, a festive atmosphere, elegance and realizing it is 1am when you thought it was 11pm.
When do you feel the most comfortable when being entertained?
When people are fully present and no one pretends to be something they are not. When everyone comes together unassumingly.
What is your ideal way of enjoying fine dining with the people you love?
In my home country in the Loire Valley, on a warm summer evening, under a starry sky. Accompanied by an aperitif on a terrace lit by candles followed by an elegant and relaxed dinner in the oak wood paneled Louis-Philippe dining room.
When entertaining at home, what is your secret weapon?
My secret weapon is making people feel unique and beautiful by creating a festive and refined atmosphere that is a little surreal and out of this world.