Chow Hon Lam is better known as Flying Mouse or even Flying Mouse 365. The name Flying Mouse comes from Mighty Mouse because Hon was a big fan when he was a kid, as he explains below. The 365 was added to Flying Mouse when back in 2010, he set himself the challenge of creating a new design every day for a year.
Hon started his very successful t-shirt career on Threadless, winning various accolades and awards as well as being printed many times. He has also had t-shirts printed by t-shirt giants, shirt.woot! and TeeFury. And his client list contains even bigger internationally recognized names like Nike and the Dave Matthews Band. He specializes in taking everyday items and making us look at them from a different angle. Hon has a very interesting design process which he shares with us below so stop wasting time on this introduction and star reading what Flying Mouse has to say.
Flying Mouse Interview
Your name is Chow Hon Lam. Which part is your family name and which your given name?
Chow is my family name, Hon Lam is my given name.
Can you tell us about the origin of the name Flying Mouse?
The name of Flying Mouse was inspired by one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Mighty Mouse. He is a mouse that can fly and has superpowers. This cartoon brought me some good times when I was a kid. I hope my design can bring some good times to other people too. The reason I use Flying Mouse instead of Mighty Mouse is because of copyright issues.
I see that you are from Kuala Lumpur, a place I visited a few years back. Is that where you are now?
Yes, I born in Kuala Lumpur. Currently, I’m living in this city too.
Do you think you could live in a cold climate?
I think yes, I would just need some time to get used to it.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like TV shows and movies a lot, they provide a lot of inspiration for my designs. Besides that, I do enjoy nice food and good times with friends and family.
About the Artist
Have you had any formal art training?
No, I’m a self-taught artist. I couldn’t afford to study in art school. My first job was a part-time final art artist in a small design house, my design journey started there.
I know you have worked with some big names like Nike, AirAsia Airlines, Lotus F1, MARTELL VSOP, WeChat, and Dave Matthews Band. Can we see some examples of that work?
I read somewhere that you were inspired by everything around you.
I believe everything has it’s very own story, a cup of tea, a watermelon, a pussy cat, a cloud, or even a chair.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
Yeah, everything around can inspire me. The first thing I do to create a new design is find a theme for it. It can be an object, human, animal, or anything. For example, if I want to use a watermelon, to come up with an idea, I will start with some questions to myself:
- What will happen with a watermelon?
- What does a watermelon like?
- What is a watermelon scared of?
- What will a watermelon do if it started thinking and walking like us?
- Who and what will usually be around a watermelon?
- What thing can interact with a watermelon and have the chemistry to make a funny story?
It is like creating a story for a watermelon, a story that people have never heard before. Only a unique story can impress people.
After the idea, the next step will be doing some image research online. This part is very important to me. I want to create a story that people have never heard or seen before, but I don’t want to draw something that people don’t understand or have never seen before.
Then I will start with a sketch, line art, and coloring. Usually, all my drawing progress will be done on a computer, including sketching.
What is your favorite non-digital medium?
I seldom use non-digital media, If I do, I think I will choose black and white detail line work just using Artline.
About the Tees
You broke records and are one of the most printed artists on Threadless. Do you still remember your first t-shirt contest win? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
The feeling of my first win on Threadless was like I just couldn’t believe it, because, at that time, I had never heard of or joined a contest like that before. It was a very new thing for me. For a moment, I suspected it wasn’t real. Lol.
Recently Threadless changed their business model, pretty much removing large prize contests and paying out per sale royalties instead. What do you think of this new system?
The winner of the prize contest impressed people a lot because it only had 6 winners with 6 new designs a week. With the new program, it may have 60, or maybe 600 new designs a week. It is challenging to stand out compared to before.
The good thing is designers can upload their work on a professional leading brand like Threadless to sell their shirts, and earn some royalties without handling the fulfillment work by themselves. So the designer can focus on designing only.
Do you still submit designs to Threadless?
No, not anymore.
Have you tried the daily t-shirt stores like TeeFury?
I tried submitting to TeeFury before and got printed once or twice only. Maybe, my style is not really what they want.
Of the t-shirts that you designed which is your favorite?
My favorite design is Dragon Flavor. I personally enjoyed doing the noodle part of this design.
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
Yes, I have. But a lot of the time, I like to wear t-shirts by other designers.
About Flying Mouse 365 Store
I think it was back in 2009, that you set yourself the challenge of creating 365 designs in a year. A lot were submitted to Threadless but mid-way you opened your own store. Did you complete the challenge?
It was in year 2010. Yeah, I continued and completed the challenge in my own store.
How many items do you have in the store?
Currently, the store has about 120 items, each week I will try to release 3 – 9 new items.
What can we expect from Flying Mouse 365 in the near future?
I’m doing more designs besides the 365 designs, they can be a stand-alone design, or a series, like my Part Time Job series.
About the World
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
Been to some countries before. But so far don’t have any favorite exotic location.
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
Japan, personally like the culture there, and I like Japanese food a lot.
About Other Designers
Which tee designer(s) do you admire the most?
Olly Moss. I always enjoy his ideas and the clean execution of his work.
Have you done any collaborations for t-shirts? If so, who and what did you design? If not, who would you like to collaborate with?
Yes, I did a collaboration before with a Singapore artist, Xiaobaosg. It won a Threadless contest.
Who would you like to see featured on the Shirt List next?
ilovedoodle – I love his sense of humor.
About Tee Design
What design trends have made you go WTF?
I think is a design done with fully Photoshop effect, it can be very beautiful, but no “soul”.
Any advice for other designers/artists?
Work hard, and believe in your own designs. If possible, post your work to as many places as you can to get more exposure.
Photoshop or Illustrator?
Both, but most of the time I using Illustrator.
Who’s your favorite superhero and why?
Batman, because he is rich, so no need to work. lol