French artist Cécile Marche shares her experience of living in Singapore and how she grew her business here.
3 Aug 2022 / By SGN
When Cécile’s husband was offered the role of COO at Singaporean pharmaceutical firm Hyphens Pharma in 2019, they decided to relocate, taking their two youngest children – sons, now 13 and 16 years old – with them.
Leaving her other three kids and elderly parents behind in France was not an easy decision, and her father unfortunately passed on in November 2020, amid a lockdown. But she knew it was an excellent opportunity for her sons to experience life overseas and be immersed in new cultures, something her older children had gone through a decade ago, when the family was based in the US.
Adjusting to life in Singapore was a breeze, Cécile says. The family had no trouble forming new connections and integrating into the community here, and while there is lots of local food to sample, it’s also easy to find French groceries here, everything from fish to cheese.
Pursuing her lifelong love of art
Though an engineer by training, Cécile decided to turn her lifelong love for painting and drawing into a business, launching LouiseM in 2010 – shortly after moving to the US – because opportunities to make art had arisen and she desired to have more flexible work hours.
LouiseM could be considered her sixth baby, especially since Louise was the name she had in mind for her 4th or 5th child, had they been girls. The business requires as much time and attention as a baby, if not much more, and her children know this, sometimes saying, “We’re not a family of seven. We’re eight!”
“The way I’m doing art is more like an art consultancy,” she explains. “I listen to the client, learn about their experiences and what they hope to capture, before creating a piece of art.”
While she used to customise backsplashes for kitchens in France, she realised that kitchens are rarely the heart of the home in Singapore, so she shifted her focus to making personalised wall hangings (e.g. encapsulating the cherished memories of a family in Singapore) and corporate commissions (e.g. a mural in the lobby that involves the contributions of staff members).
Cécile worked with fashion brand Palem to transform their Singapore boutiques with a hand-drawn mural inspired by local flora and fauna and Palem’s brand colours.
Since being based in Singapore, Cécile has begun drawing inspiration from the city’s nature and architecture and the environments that she encounters. Bike rides in the forest can turn out to be research trips, as she gets inspired by new ideas, takes photographs, and even brings leaves home to practise drawing tropical foliage, which she later incorporates into her art. She also enjoys visiting the Singapore City Gallery to learn more about the city’s architectural landscape and its historical evolution.
There is an unexpected profusion of small galleries in Singapore that many may not know about, Cécile says, and she really delights in discovering new artists in the Gillman Barracks cluster. She often attends art events with fellow artist Hélène Le Chatelier, and she is looking forward to the art scene regaining its dynamism post-pandemic.
Galleries aside, Cécile believes inspiration is everywhere you look in Singapore. It can be found in observations of daily life and diverse cultures. “Walking around People’s Park in Chinatown is inspiring. I don’t necessarily need to go to a gallery to be inspired.”
Building a business in Singapore
For Cécile, getting her business up and running in Singapore has been a pleasantly fast and fuss-free experience. When the city went under COVID lockdown, she quickly developed a line of home decor products, including cushion covers, prints, and wallpaper.
“Because borders were shut, I could not engage suppliers and printers in Malaysia or Indonesia,” she says, “but it was surprisingly easy to manufacture and print locally. I also find that businesses in Singapore move fast – processes here are shorter and less cumbersome.”
“I really like the people in Singapore. They are very open-minded, they welcome what I do, and they enjoy collaboration. There is plenty of room for entrepreneurs here. It’s easy to make connections, and once you make some, those will lead to more and more.”
Cécile created these prints in 2022 to commemorate the Year of the Tiger.
With pandemic-era restrictions largely lifted, Cécile is focusing on building her corporate clientele. “It’s a good time, since people are back to work, to strengthen staff bonds and get them involved in creating a piece of participatory art they can be proud of.”
She’s excited to connect with more clients and companies in Singapore and to use her unique brand of art to inject charm and delight into home, work and shop spaces across the country.
Life in the Garden City
“We have a very nice life in Singapore,” Cécile shares. “The kids have made lots of friends here, and Singapore’s safe environment means you never have to worry about them staying out late.”
The family currently lives in Bukit Timah, a very green and quiet environment that Cécile loves returning to after a busy day. There are many nice restaurants within walking distance in Greenwood, as well as a bakery where they get fresh bread from every day.
“The family experience in Singapore is great. It’s a city with a lot of energy, a lot of connections, and a lot of opportunities.”Cécile Marche, Founder, Atelier LouiseM
On weekends, the Marches spend their time recharging outdoors. The boys enjoy soccer, tennis and swimming at the Swiss Club, and the family has set out on many long cycling expeditions to explore different parts of the island. Cécile also runs an 11-kilometre loop in MacRitchie with friends once a week.