My Métier d’Excellence
I’m a Dame de Table at Guerlain. I decorate the Maison’s perfume bottles. I embellish them with different types of ornamentation, including silk or golden threads, or jewels created by artists. This métier encompasses a variety of techniques specific to Guerlain, such as ‘barbichage’ (bearding – the French word for ‘beard’ is ‘barbe’), which consists in brushing a silk thread to give it body. Another technique is ‘baudruchage’, wrapping thread to hermetically seal the top on a bottle. I also make a variety of knots to decorate the bottles, bows or tie knots, or braids.
I trained to become a hairdresser and even worked for a short time as one. By chance I joined Guerlain 28 years ago, when the Maison first came to Orphin, a town southwest of Paris near where I was living. I was offered a position as Dame de Table. I had no idea what that even meant before I began. I learned everything very much hands-on, directly from a woman who had been practicing this métier for many years, and now I’m the one passing on these techniques.
Passing on the métier to new generations
This is absolutely essential for the Dames de Table since there’s no school where you can learn this métier, which is unique and specific to Maison Guerlain. It’s something I’m passionate about since I love to see exquisitely done work. So I’m very pleased when a new arrival succeeds in completing work that meets the standards of the Maison. I also take great pleasure in presenting this métier to the public whenever we do demonstrations, giving people a chance to discover this fabulous savoir-faire.
The most important things you need for this métier
To start with you have to be very good working with your hands, which is what we look for first in selecting people to become Dames de Table. Then you need to be patient, because this is very meticulous work, and if you can’t stay calm for several hours, it’s never going to be right. Lastly, but equally essential, a Dame de Table must be creative. In addition to the classic knots we do, we work a lot with the creative teams to find new beautiful ways to decorate our bottles.
What I love most about my métier
I like complexity, the challenge of decorating a bottle. That’s also why I love working on exceptional pieces, or on a Mitsouko bottle, for example, which requires special dexterity. I also love the idea of perpetuating unique savoir-faire and a heritage that is unique to Guerlain.
In 2018 I received the honorary title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French culture minister. I was tremendously proud since I had literally started from nothing. And I was very moved when I saw my children looking at me with great pride.