Passage secret - L'atelier. Portrait de Yaël Malignac et Guillaume Descoings en train de défourner des pièces de la collection Ecume.

The Artists

A native of Paris, Yaël has from childhood lived in a world of cultured collectors. Following a baccalaureat in Applied Arts, she went on to study in the Ecole Boulle's "metal engraving" department, where she won recognition for her determination and her dedication to excellence. On leaving college she was employed as a designer in the Lalique crystal works, and she stayed there for four years: then, wishing to lead a life closer to nature, she left the capital whilst remaining in the luxury sector, taking a position with porcelain makers J.L. Coquet at Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, in Vienne.

Guillaume grew up in the Jura countryside. Being inquisitive, good with his hands, cast in a different mould,

he was an awkward fit with the conformity of the education system, and his potential only came into its own in the workshop. After a BEP technical diploma in moulding and casts, he took his baccalaureat in Materials Engineering, which gave him access to the BTS higher technical diploma course in Ceramics at Vierzon. His twin competences of practical know-how and theoretical knowledge of materials makes him a rare pearl in the niche trades within industrial ceramics. His first job was at Les Poteries Malicornaise, near Le Mans, and following that he worked for five years as a technician/trainer at the Institut de la Céramique Française, in Sèvres. But his appetite for practical work was not satisfied; and so he set off to gain experience in various industrial companies, before eventually going to work for J.L. Coquet.

Two creative spirits, two complementary worlds: the meeting between Yaël and Guillaume was an explosive alchemy. The straitjacket of table arts very quickly became too restrictive for the effervescent duo. Before they started smashing plates, they decided to set up their own studio. At last, their liberated sensibilities were free to speak the language of poetry.

Passage secret - l'atelier. L'artisanat d'art c'est la répétition du geste, pour aboutir chaque jour un peu plus son savoir-faire.

Passage Secret's method of working: a three-beat waltz

First beat: the inspiration.

It starts with a spark. The idea may come from their surroundings, from an experiment, or even from a manufacturing flaw. No matter: once the spark is there, Yaël and Guillaume take it up and discuss it. Taking their cue from Mother Nature, the duo is prolific: out of hundreds of little ideas for which the seeds have been sown, a few dozen will prove fertile, and maybe two or three of them will ultimately become artefacts of the year. Some ideas are short-lived and don't survive a day of discussion. Others have merit: they are worth Guillaume testing their technical feasibility, and Yaël studying their aesthetic lines. Their two imaginations work together at length to knead the project and give it form. If it withstands all criticism and constraints, a prototype will be designed. Not until the prototype has been approved, will the studio go ahead and make it.


Passage secret - l'atelier. L'artisanat d'art c'est la répétition du geste, pour aboutir chaque jour un peu plus son savoir-faire.


Second beat: manufacture

Each item will, at a given moment in its genesis, pass through the hands of both Yaël and Guillaume. The pair co-ordinate their work on the mould-making, casting and firing. In the decoration, however, each has their own speciality, according to their inclination or their know-how.

The artists could have chosen manufacturing processes compatible with the "Porcelaine de Limoges" label. But, staying faithful to their environmental principles, they decided to diverge, opting for an electric oven rather than gas and favouring low-temperature firing. Thanks to their highly technical methods, they even limit themselves to one firing, while most artisans have to do two firings. Their next challenge is to use only rainwater in the manufacturing process




Third beat: marketing

Passage Secret's creations meet the highest standards of quality, originality and aesthetics demanded by the professionals: décor consultants and architects are the studio's principal customers. Nonetheless, part of the collection remains accessible to the general public, for instance as a unique gift for a special occasion. Consequently, Passage Secret items are as likely to be found at the major trade fairs such as the Maisons & Objets show in Paris or the Salon International du Patrimoine Culturel at the Carrousel du Louvre, as in the Le Bocal art gallery in Limoges.

But the studio's real added value when compared to ordinary artisans is the personalised service: tell them your wishes, and Yaël and Guillaume will meet your specifications. They are able to take your personality into the equation and bring a personal touch to your interiors.




Yaël and Guillaume draw their initial inspiration from their twin culture: urban and rural, feminine and masculine, poetic and technical. Far from setting these dualities in opposition, they will unite them to make the impossible possible. These unlikely associations will give birth to unusual progeny. Their imagination has no limits, it can defy the laws of physics. Porcelain turns walls to liquid, and splatters; or it becomes supple, it transforms itself into curtains or paper. It becomes light and flies away. Who would have thought that the component in porcelain was not earth, but air?

But that's not their only secret: Yaël and Guillaume have kept their childlike spirit. They marvel at everything, and everything that they find marvellous become a subject: the nature all around the studio, a child's sulk, a news item on the radio, sometimes even a flaw that they find intriguing rather than disappointing... 

Passage Secret's creations are, in their very essence, a message of tolerance and hope for a modern world that is more human, more imaginative and more vibrant.


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