Ever since I graduated from fashion school, I’ve wanted to create a merchandise line. At the time, I wanted to be a fashion illustrator and sell branded items, like Hello Kitty or Lisa Frank. Of course, I didn’t know how I was going to do that. As I did my research, I discovered how costly it was to design a product range and have it manufactured. I gave up on the idea as I moved onto other things.

©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.

Having made the decision in the last five year, to focus solely on my photography, the idea for a merchandise line rose again. I felt that my images could be more than just artworks hung on a wall. They could become part of everyday items, like bags and home accessories. I saw that the technology for printing mediums had advanced greatly since I last experimented with them as a student. I could print high resolution images on transfer paper and heat press them on to fabric. New ideas were born!

©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.

I bought some transfer paper and the first product I designed was this tote bag. I really just wanted a lightweight tote bag to carry my shopping, or packages I need to bring to the post office. It’s a large size, but it folds up nicely to go inside my purse. It’s made of muslin fabric. Muslin is a staple for any fashion designer. It’s a cotton cloth used to make initial samples of a design to test out the pattern. The fabric is lightweight, but tough wearing. I love the shabby chic vibe of muslin.

Muslin fabric ©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.

I printed my Prince Artifacts photo on the front side of the bag. But then I got some more ideas… I added these strips and arranged them to look like stickers. I was inspired by the way sometimes guitarists like to paste up stickers all over their guitar cases. I designed a piano keyboard pattern on one strip. I was inspired by the way Prince had piano keys incorporated into his decoration at Paisley Park. I designed my own leopard print pattern, emulating the look of washi tape. I was inspired by Prince’s signature leopard print guitar straps. And then I added a strip with the words “Love God” in Prince’s own handwriting, that I traced over from a Christmas card that I saw online. And of course, I added my own brand logo with the textile label.

©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.

The process was several weeks in the making. Initially, I thought about just buying ready made tote bags, but I didn’t find any I liked. They were poor quality and made using cheap labour in foreign countries. They weren’t what I envisioned. So I decided to design and make my own bags. I ended up making three prototypes to get it just right. First, I did a sample to test out the transfer paper on some leftover fabric I already had (from over 15 years ago when I was in fashion school!). Then I ordered more fabric, but it was different from the initial sample. I decided to wash the sample to see how well the artwork would hold up. It shrank. Then I realized that I should have pre-shrunk the fabric.  So then I washed the fabric and I made another sample. My first sample didn’t have the strip of leopard print. That came later when inspiration kept brewing, and one night, I spent hours designing leopard print on my iPad Pro with pencil.

©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.

My experiences have taught me that if an initial idea doesn’t come out the way you hoped it to, don’t give up. Just set it aside. Ideas came return in new ways later on. Keep working towards your goals. I try to spend everyday working little by little towards a goal.


©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.

A Special Offer
I just listed the tote bag in my shop. As a promo offer to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Prince’s passing (April 21), I am offering free custom monogramming when you order this bag. Normally, I would charge an additional $5 for the customization. I will also throw in a freebie, two Cosmic Duo Art Greeting Cards, Comic Day and Cosmic Night, its design was inspired by Paisley Park (the cards are a $14 value). Offer will end on my birthday, May 5, 2020. No promo code needed. See here for details.

©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.


Image above: “Sewing” by Andrea Mai.

©2020 by Andrea Mai. All rights reserved.