Miller & Rhoads bag lady…literally

Elilzabeth Warren September 3, 2013

Pat Cully’s product line includes tote bags and note cards featuring pen and ink illustrations that capture the region’s history and charm. Lighthouses. Covered Bridges. And a department store.

When Cully placed the first order for the bag imprinted with an image more commercial than quaint, she doubted she would need more than 25. “But my printer said they would sell like hotcakes. Get at least 100.” She did. And they did sell and continue to sell—and evoke memories for anyone who smiles at the bag’s tag line: “In my dreams I still shop at Miller & Rhoads.”

The drawing is from 1985, when Cully illustrated the Richmond-based chain’s flagship store for its 100th anniversary.  It’s a building she knows inside and out. From the 1960s until 1990, when it closed, Cully worked in the store’s advertising department as a finishing artist. She drew the sofas, china, pots and pans, and other home furnishings that appeared in ads and catalogs. “Many times I’d go down on the floor and sketch a mattress or rug.” Cully drew everything from kitchen blenders to handmade carpets. “I’m very detail oriented.” It’s the reason she doesn’t work with watercolor. “I have a hard time doing ‘loose.’”

She credits collaboration with a friend, Tony Turner, for the Miller & Rhoads tote. He owned a home décor store with a tearoom and a loyal Miller & Rhoads following. A few years ago, he held a tea and decorated the room with Cully’s drawings, including the store. There was so much interest that they began brainstorming “how we could keep Miller & Rhoads alive.” They decided on the tote bag and Turner came up with the line “In my dreams I still shop at Miller & Rhoads.”

Pat ready for biz at an outdoor market

Pat ready for biz at an outdoor market

Today, Cully still draws the details. She turns builders’ technical blueprints into inviting illustrations of homes for sale. And she continues to sketch regional landmarks, including custom pieces for cities such as Fredericksburg and Petersburg. She works from her home studio, where, just a few steps away in her basement she stores drawings from the days of Miller & Rhoads.

One of her illustrations for M&R

One of her illustrations for M&R

You can see Cully’s work on her website but IT’S WHOLESALE ONLY, so visit one of these shops for your own bag: Very Richmond Gallery and Gifts, The Virginia Shop at the Library of Virginia and the state capitol, the Pusey Museum Shop at the Virginia Historical Society and Virginia Diner Shoppes.



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