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Student Puts Artistic Talent in the Bag

“You made that? Could I buy one?”

Notre Dame student Anne Molnar sits at a desk in the College’s art room, excitedly showing off one of her newest creations. It is a tote bag, made of a shiny coated canvas. There is a whirling, whimsical drawing of black lines on a white background covering the entire surface. The lines curve to and fro to form the shape of pulled taffy.

Anne Molnar with some of her self-designed handbags. As she flips it over to show the pattern on the underside of the black and white tote (a stylized flame pattern also in black and white), Malinda Smyth, professor of photography at Notre Dame College, pauses astonished at the sight of the unique bag.

“How much for one?”

Molnar, a graphic communications major, recently launched her own line of handmade totes, clutches and wallets titled FXB after her home, Foxberry Ranch. She showed Smyth a few examples of the distinctive graphic accessories.

Smyth’s reaction seems to be the norm. “Everyone I have come in contact with likes the bags,” Molnar says. “They ask where I got it, and I tell them that my mom and I make them, and they are shocked.”

The idea struck her while taking Reed Simon’s basic design course last semester. “I would send her [her mother] e-mails with pictures of projects I was working on and everything went from there,” Molnar says.

Molnar and her mother crafted each individual bag in their home in Wheeling, W.Va. They use Molnar’s black and white graphic illustrations and have them printed on sturdy coated canvas. The canvas is then shipped back to their home where it is cut and pieced together. Molnar and her mom are also beginning to line the totes with red and white polka-dotted cotton material.

The illustrations Molnar uses for her bags are based on exercises the basic design class does every year. They are studies of line theory, positive and negative space, and stylized pattern. Molnar went above and beyond the average student and took her art to the next level, a wearable one. FXB was born.

Rachel Morris, director of the art department and Molnar’s academic advisor, encouraged Molnar to pursue her ideas. “The ideas had really clicked for her,” Morris said. “She took the application and applied it to something else. I was very impressed with her follow through.”

Anne Molnar shows off one of her handbags.After taking the class in the fall, Molnar collaborated with her mother to create a unique accessory that exhibits her art.

“The original bag that we came up with was a clutch, ‘Beau’,” Molnar said, “We then thought of more things that we could do.”

FXB now sells wallets, totes and eyeglass cases, in addition to the clutches, all with her signature eye-catching monochromatic, stark graphics.

Each different style of accessory is named after one of her many pets. The wallet, “Jager,” is named after her miniature wirehaired dachshund, whereas the tote is named after her horse, Dieter.

The FXB bags run from $15 to $65. They are currently not available in any stores, but Molnar’s wish is to change that soon and eventually sell them in major, widely-recognized stores. For now her focus is to build the brand and get the name out.

“There is a store in Pittsburg we have been in contact with about selling our bags,” Molnar says. “In September, there is a Jazz Festival in Wheeling, W.Va., and we are going to be a vendor there.”

Morris has nothing but admiration for the young entrepreneur. “I like to encourage how art can fit into the real world,” says the professor, who animatedly supports Molnar in her endeavors. “I have one!”

At the moment, Molnar is selling mainly by word of mouth. She also created a Facebook page, which has both expanded her sales and been a vital marketing tool. Frequent updates help to keep customers in touch with the growing brand. A website is also underway.

Molnar is determined and passionate about her budding brand. As she excitedly details each bag while she scrolls through multiple pictures on the Facebook page, it seems the future holds endless possibilities for FXB.

In the near future, Molnar will exhibit one of her bags in Notre Dame’s All Student Art Show, which opens in the College’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday, April 8, at 5 p.m.

By Karolyn Power, sophomore graphic design major at Notre Dame College.