Under the name Andrea Alice, Andrea creates sumptuous florals and botanical prints with gothic undertones in a rich palette. We discuss Andrea’s fascination with the natural world, getting to grips with digital design and her journey as a print designer.
What is your studio name and location?
Andrea Muller, and at the moment my "studio" is our dining room table, at my home in Wellington, New Zealand.
Where did you study?
Massey University, Wellington. Bachelor of Design majoring in Graphic Design.
Describe your design process
I always have heaps of print ideas in my head, so usually when I start a design I have already been thinking about it for a while. I will start with an initial sketch in Photoshop to plan out the repeat. During this phase there is a lot of copy/paste/delete/repeat until I get a pattern that flows and looks balanced. I like patterns that look organic, where you need to stare at it for a while to see where it repeats. Once I am happy with the layout I start drawing the elements in more detail. Usually I work in shades of grey, keeping each shade on a separate layer. I add colour once I've finished the drawing.
Surprisingly, I actually hate the part where I choose colours for my prints. I often struggle to find colour schemes that work - it takes me so many hours and I get really frustrated. Often I give up at that point, so I have a lot of unreleased designs sitting on my computer purely because I couldn't decide on colours. I'm working on forcing myself to push through that phase of the process!
While I am working on the design I will be thinking about what types of products I it would suit best. By the time I've got a finished set of colourways ready to print onto fabric I usually have at least one project I intend to make using that print.
What is your favourite part of the design process from inspiration, research, to the final printed fabric/product?
My favourite part is definitely seeing the fabric when it arrives. After staring at a design on a screen for months it is satisfying to finally see it in real life.
Who do you design for? Who is your muse?
I design for "myself if I was always on holiday". My prints are what I would wear if my life consisted of spending every day at the beach and every evening at a party. In reality, most of the time I buy very functional necessities, wear a lot of black and clothes that will keep me warm in the Wellington wind!
What first sparked your interest in print design?
I have always loved sewing and collecting fabrics. My Granny and Grandma both had great collections of fabrics and printed dresses, a lot of which they passed down to me. At university I took a few screen printing classes and loved them, but I wasn't sure how I could make it into a career. After I finished university and was working as a Graphic Designer I just started making patterns in my spare time for the fun of it, and it grew from there.
Describe your style in 5 words
Vibrant, organic, detail, texture, depth
What is your favourite medium to work in and why?
Currently I am enjoying the challenge of creating hand-painted looking textures digitally. I use my Wacom tablet and Photoshop brushes to try and achieve texture and depth like you would get from a layered painting. I sometimes create my own Photoshop brush sets by scanning in genuine hand-painted textures. I prefer to use that technique because it gives me a flexible tool I can use again in the future. When I find the time I'd like to make my brush sets available for other designers to download. Another reason I prefer to work digitally is because it makes it easier to keep my colours on separate layers so that I can adjust them individually.
What / who are your major influences?
Nature is my number one influence. It provides us with a never-ending source of beauty, detail, colour, textures. I love finding out the stories behind the different species I illustrate: Are they endangered? What unique characteristics do they have? I always find out the specific genus and species of plants I illustrate and research them - perhaps this comes as a result of being the daughter of two scientists! However I do often create colour schemes of certain species that don't exist in real life - so it's a bit of a mingling of accuracy and creativity!
Best exhibition/museum/research trip/inspirational place
My husband is from North Queensland, Australia, so I have been there to visit his home a number of times. I absolutely love all the tropical leaves and flowers, the bright colours, the rainforest, the ocean, the coral reef. It beautiful in a completely different way to New Zealand. New Zealand plants have a lot of dull greens, and small leaves - in the tropics everything is huge and bright.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished a Christmas print featuring Pohutukawa flowers (red flowers that come out in December in New Zealand). Christmas is in the middle of summer here, and it can be really hard to find Christmas designs that don't feature winter elements! However most of my customers are located in the Northern Hemisphere, so I need to cater to them too. This year I challenged myself to create a Christmas print that would suit New Zealanders, but still appeal to those in the Northern Hemisphere. I think I achieved it with the combination of the Pohutukawa flowers, Holly leaves and stars.
Favourite music when designing
There is a guy who sings out on the street in town and I can hear it clearly from our house. Not my favourite, but he is what I listen to most often. His go-to hits include Achy Breaky Heart, Rhinestone Cowboy, and Viva Las Vegas. It drives me a little insane, but in his defence he does have a good voice.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
My dream is to one day make a living off designing fabric prints. At the moment I have a part time Graphic Design job to pay the bills, and I design fabrics in my spare time.
What has been your career highlight so far?
One highlight was getting to see one of my prints walk down the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week. Being a freelancer can sometimes be lonely and isolating, so getting to work for another designer to help achieve her vision for her collection was a fun challenge. Being in Auckland surrounded by other designers and the whole buzz of Fashion Week was a refreshing break from working by myself all day!
Your biggest challenge you have faced as a designer
Having the confidence to charge clients what I'm worth. Each print I create usually takes me many, many hours of work, spread over several months from the research phase through to final production and colour proofing. I would say about 90% of inquiries I get don't go ahead because people aren't willing to pay for my work, which is disheartening and it can be tempting to give in to their demands. However, the fashion industry is being held accountable more and more in recent years for exploitation of workers around the world. If I allow myself to get paid the equivalent of 50c an hour then I am enabling the cycle of devaluing to continue.
Do you have any tips for new designers starting out?
Create the type of work that you want to do more of. When I first started my career I was designing a lot of websites - which was fine, but not really my main passion. The more websites I built, the more people would ask me to make more websites! Eventually I realised no one was going to hire me to do the type of work I wanted to do unless they could see examples of me doing it already. That's when I decided to design my first independent fabric collection.