Clos19 talks to Marie Daâge, the acclaimed French tableware designer and porcelain artist who accompanied us during our exclusive Paris experience, where we celebrated the art of hosting. Marie Dâage is a Paris-based porcelain artist who hand paints her 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 behind her designs as well as delve into her thoughts about hosting a perfect evening.
How do you define “good taste?”
I don't think there is a 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 says something about you and perhaps challenges limits, but doesn't cross any lines.
What defines French etiquette in particular?
French etiquette certainly encompasses a unique combination of strict rules, but at the same time, it implies a certain distance from these rules. Nobody should feel confined by them. They must be so discreet that guests hardly notice them. It involves sincerity and mindfulness, in addition to respect for tradition and elegance. The way you dress a table or create seating arrangements as well as the way you welcome and entertain guests must be done serenely and delicately.
What inspires you when it comes to 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 make its way onto 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 one of them came about. Creating a color – typically two new colors a year – however, is completely different. Frankly, I don’t really know how a color comes to me. When I stop somewhere to admire a color, it is already on my mind, if not on my plates. It amazes me how top designers often come up with the same color schemes simultaneously with no deliberate coordination between them.
What does the (your) future taste like?
It tastes like a delicious feast with guests from all over the world sitting around the table sharing their different cultures, all of 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 also not doing too much that they feel uncomfortable. Moreover, it means finding the right balance. The table decor 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 make sure to spend all the time I need to think of a combination of friends that will create a lively and riveting group. I make sure that each person gets to see new faces as well as meet old acquaintances. I arrange a group where every guest can engage in a compelling discussion or topic of interest. I also 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 day of the event, a key element is introducing people to one another, and 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 for the first time.
What is your definition of a great evening? Is there a magic ingredient?
A magic ingredient? A Marie Daâge porcelain dinner service, of course! Well, a great evening combines good laughs, a festive atmosphere, elegance and realizing it is 1 in the morning when you thought it was closer to midnight.
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's 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.