All photos by Barbara
Merci-Handmade Vintage encompasses artsy style and originality in the form of satchels, photography and jewelry for both women and men. No two pieces are exactly the same. Everything is made from recyclable materials and costs no more than $75.00. Barbara Pate, the creator/designer/artist/manager, works from her house on a vintage card table until the early hours of the morning with fabrics and leathers strewn on the floor. Pate is the brand. Merci-Handmade Vintage embodies Pate's character, inspiration and love for bohemian and all things Indian-inspired. Her public relations strategy is good business and word of mouth. Now the artist and free spirit is moving from Starkville, Miss., to Austin, Texas, for expansion and new business opportunities. Pate speaks of the stories that become ingrained in each Merci product upon purchase. Possibly even more amazing is how well her products hint at her own.
Tell us how Merci-Handmade Vintage came about. PATE: Merci means thank you. I have been very blessed and cannot wait to see where this takes me. It started with a leather bracelet three years ago. It stemmed from me not being able to find any jewelry I liked and from a friend's request. Curiosity drives me to see what different products I can create. As a designer, I try to maintain simplicity and originality.
I think we should be saying "merci" to you. How challenging is single-handedly running your own business? PATE: I work a 40-hour week and do this on the side. I try to meet customer demands. I want to dothis full time because it is my passion. It doesn't feel like a job. The final product is always an exciting surprise.
What is your design background and photographic inspiration? PATE: I have a graphic design degree. I envision items before they collaborate into artwork. Germany is the setting for many of my photographs. I love landscape, portrait photography, capturing experiences and black and white effects. My photos are done digitally and with specialized textures to achieve a vintage feel.
Your handmade bags were a big hit at Starkville's 2012 Cotton District Arts Festival. One was in the shape of a dress and another had twig-like straps. It is no surprise that when customers buy one, they come back for more. Tell us about your bags and design process. PATE: They are very eclectic. A bag may take one or three hours. I do not sketch anything out. It is very spur of the moment. I create my own fabric by cutting up and reconstructing other materials. Details of the bags, like the buttons, closures and zippers, are adjusted according to customer preference. Custom designs are done regularly. Customers deserve durable, yet unique products. The older something gets, the more story it has. The love of a certain thing comes with age. It takes on another story after it leaves my hands.
It is amazing that you can create such products without sketching and meticulous planning. The satchels and other products have a wonderful texture and artistic look to them. What materials are used? PATE: The materials have their own personality, and each bag has a theme of its own that cannot be reproduced. I like materials that make a bold statement and that shine through as artwork. I often incorporate drawings and engravings onto the leather canvas on the backs of some bags. For jewelry, I do burlap, hemp, suede, leather, textile material, metal and copper. Products are often a collaboration of different fibers.
Your products are one-of-a-kind. I love that when people purchase from Merci they have something unique and that they won't see someone else carrying or wearing. How can people purchase you products? PATE: I don't want to take Merci away from Starkville. I have an opportunity to sell at another store-Revolution-in Starkville and possibly in Tupelo, Miss., as well. I have sold at festivals, markets and events in the past three years. I hope to expand in Austin and am working on setting up an Etsy website. Anyone can buy Merci-Handmade Vintage at the official site: www.merci-handmadevintage.com.