Hello, readers! This week we’re sharing the vintage-inspired surface designs and handmade work of Kansas City maker Cece Merkle of Plūme by Cece. Working as an art director at Hallmark by day, Cece is dedicated to late nights in her studio and quiet moments on the weekends when her toddler is napping to create her signature faux collars and unique home goods including pillows and art prints. In her own words, Cece started Plūme by Cece, “…as I was creating fabric statement pieces to wear with my own outfits. It grew from my love of vintage florals, color, shape, pattern and design.” She turns to her creative friends, her husband and family as her greatest encouragement and support team. Keep reading to find out why her fans and customer base keep Cece even more inspired.
My day starts with…
“I am a night owl so my ‘making’ starts after my toddler goes to bed. I work full-time as an art director at Hallmark during the week so late nights and weekend naptime are the magic hours for me and my side business.”
I fell in love with making goods…
“When my co-workers and friends started meeting up for “art night” at a friend’s studio. The first time I got back on the sewing machine (as an adult) I screamed while pushing down the peddle and turning the fabric. Then I realized I had sewn my first set of Spoonflower fabric pieces backward! After a little practice, I was back at it and was making enough faux collars to participate in local maker events.”
When I’m in my studio…
“I love painting and sewing in the sunlight or in the quiet of the night. I get in the zone and surprisingly, I rarely listen to music. I like the quiet and soaking up the time to think about anything and everything while keeping my hands busy with making. My close friends know my studio as the ‘Plūme room’ and they also know it is usually a mess with fabric scraps, fiberfill and fringe everywhere, which shows it is a well-loved space.”
Who or what influences or inspires your work and why?
“I am most inspired by vintage pieces and retro stylings. If I’m feeling stuck, I love wandering local antique shops to spot vintage inspiration; designs on scarves or upholstery, or even a retro dishwasher. I love Pinterest scavenger hunts, too. I’m a huge fan and follower of other artists—my current favorites are Penelope Dullagan and Tara Lilly, and Adelina Lirius.”
What’s in your toolbox as a maker?
“I am a ‘lefty’, a Gemini, a designer and a thinker. I like to push myself to try new things and I’m a little overly ‘fearless’ when it comes to change and trying new materials. I tend not to read recipes when I cook and I’m the same way as a creative. Luckily, I have a foundation with my BA in design but anything new I prefer to embrace with a curious and determined amateur approach.”
My proudest accomplishment over the last year was…
“Potty training my two-year-old and sewing the yellow curtains in my studio. I have been dreaming about making curtains and after several crazy busy months, I finally found time to make a repeat pattern of one of my favorite collar designs. Believe it or not, after 5 years of using Spoonflower fabric I have only recently started turning my artwork into repeat patterns. In fact, I just made my designs public this May!”
What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“My collars and polka dot pants! I love pattern mixing and statement pieces. I named my side business, Plūme because a ‘plume’ by definition is ‘a large feather worn for ornament’. I loved wearing statement necklaces but I prefer to work with fabric so faux collars became my statement. I enjoyed wearing them myself and realized other people would too.”
Before starting a small business, I wish someone had told me…
“Do it because you love it, get lost in it. Don’t worry about other people liking it or buying what you make. I remind myself of this all the time. I love giving back by offering giveaways, donating my work for local charity auctions, and sending extra goodies with my orders. My favorite experiences have been seeing repeat orders and meeting ‘fans’ at my pop-up sales. I’ve been called the ‘pillow girl’ and the ‘collar girl’ and I’m happy to hear it every time.”
How does Spoonflower meet your business needs?
“I’ve been using Spoonflower for five years and love the vibrant and consistent colors and the range of fabric options. I’m excited to make my textile designs public in my Spoonflower studio so other makers can experience using my patterns. Trusting that Spoonflower will be delivering quality printed fabric with my artwork brings me joy.”
What has been an important resource for you as a small business owner and why?
“My most important resource are my friends who are makers too! I’ve read books, listened to podcasts but nothing gives me more energy than getting together with my favorite creative friends to make our goods together. They cheered me on when I had sewn my first collar samples and continue to give me inspiration and encouragement to keep going and share my work.”
My favorite Spoonflower textile to work with is…
“Linen Cotton Canvas Ultra. It has been my go-to ever since my first Spoonflower order! I wanted a thick fabric with a little grain, and it turned out to be perfect for all my pillows and the color is always consistent. My latest favorite is the Kona® Cotton Ultra for my collars as it also has a vibrant color which is so important for my designs.”
Self-described slight insomniac and hoarder of fabric scraps, Cece Merkle likes to keep her hands busy and her eyes open to new things. Cece grew up on the east coast and studied graphic design at Tyler School of Art. She moved to the midwest to design greeting cards 11 years ago and happily calls Kansas City, Missouri home where she lives with her husband and young son. You can find more of her work at www.plumebycece.com and on IG @plume.by.cece.