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The Travelling Canvas – Holly St Clair

We’re excited to have teamed up with the illustrative power of Holly St Clair for our latest edition of The Travelling Canvas.

Wanting to get to know her better and get the story behind her tote bag design, we slid into her DM’s. Here’s what she had to say!

Awesome Merchandise, The Travelling Canvas, Holly St Clair

For those who don’t know you, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a freelance illustrator based in London, my work is really simple and silly. I don’t take myself very seriously.

What was the inspiration behind your design for The Travelling Canvas?

The design was originally embroidered on some limited edition sweatshirts – those are long gone now, but the design lives on in tote bag form. The big inspiration is that I’m a chronically late person. I’m easily distracted, the wind blows me in all sorts of directions. It’s a really awful contradictory part of my personality, I hate being rushed but I’m always flying about! Then I find it really rude when people aren’t timely and here I am… just living my life like I’ve got all the time in the world. So, I identify with this slow yet grumpy cloud in a lot of ways. If you ever get a text from me saying “I’m on my way”… don’t believe it.

Awesome Merchandise, Holly St Clair, The Travelling Canvas

We think tote bags are awesome, but why do you love totes?

They go with everything and everything goes in them! They’re really unfussy and utilitarian.


Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to design their own tote bag?

Keep it simple! It’s tempting to throw loads of stuff on to a tote because it’s essentially a blank canvas, but if you’re designing for your brand, band, cafe, or whatever remember that most of the people seeing the bag will be looking from afar. Think of it as a walking billboard, you’ve got to be legible and impactful from across a street.


What’s your favourite tote bag you’ve ever owned?

Don’t make me choose! My two absolute favourites are actually my only two coloured totes. I have a bright yellow Phaidon bag, it’s sentimental because a good friend gave it to me for Christmas after I commented on how much I liked hers. My other favourite is this gorgeous blue bag from Kiosk, it just says ‘(Books)’ on it. People comment on it all the time! Kiosk are rad, so whenever I’m out with this bag I’m grateful for any opportunity to big them up.


I also have this tote by Guerilla Girls for The Whitechapel Gallery. It’s designed to double as an emergency gorilla mask. It’s kind of genius, I nicked the idea and put a smiley face on my own version. (Of course.)

Awesome Merchandise, tote bag, The Travelling Canvas

If you could send your tote bag to anyone in the world who would it be and why?

Kim Kardashian. Think of the social media clout I’d get with a post from Kim!


What’s in your bag right now?

Receipts, sweet wrappers, pills, a can of pop and a spare pair of pants. You’ve caught me on a bad day.

See more of Holly’s work here.

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