Sunday, June 19, 2011

Art Licensing - The Surtex and Licensing International Expo Shows

I became interested in art licensing a couple of years ago after reading several blog articles about it. The more I read about it the more I thought it could be an interesting avenue for my designs and artwork. One valuable resource I came across was a book called Art Licensing 101, a well written introduction to the field by Michael Woodward.

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center New York, NY
In the meantime I did local fairs and sold to local stores; I also opened up a couple of on-line shops and happily sold my cards, stationary, children's books and prints. But at one point I really started asking myself whether I should seek other opportunities through licensing or go wholesale instead. After researching the wholesale world I kept being drawn back to art licensing. So I started networking a little and had some brief email conversations with artists Kate Harper and Patty Gay. They both suggested to at least read up on it and to go to an art licensing show – Surtex was a favorite.

I then joined LinkedIn and found very useful information about art licensing through professionals who have been working in this field for many years and have successfully made a mark in the business. My decision to walk the Surtex/National Stationary Show in New York, and the Licensing International Expo show in Las Vegas finally cleared up the big question for me: should I pursue art licensing or go wholesale?

Surtex/NSS shows
The answer was much clearer once I went through both shows and talked to a number of newly exhibiting artists as well as professional artists who've been exhibiting for many years. I am pretty convinced now that for me, some of my art is definitely worth putting forward for licensing - while other aspects of my art would be a better fit for producing myself and pursuing wholesale opportunities. Essentially, for me, the answer was why not both!

Another equally valuable aspect of walking the shows was that I was able to put my finger on the pulse of what is happening - what colors, subjects/themes, patterns, and styles are growing trends, where there was a lot of interest and energy, and who was setting those trends. Again, talking with artists and manufacturers and getting their insights and perspectives was priceless - although of course opinions vary (everything from that the whole field of art licensing is dying and doomed to that it is alive and healthy!) it was all still incredibly enriching for me to swim in the current for those few days and help me sort out my own thoughts.

Here's is a link to a very good blog interview with an Art Licensing Agent published Artsy Shark that brings home my point!

LIMA show, Las Vegas
In short, it seemed very clear after the shows that there are categories of art that can and should be licensed and some others that should be organized into a direct wholesale/retail business instead, especially after seeing the NSS next to Surtex.

This whole field of art licensing is rather complex and unique; although it offers huge opportunities, it needs to be worked like any new art form in order for an artist to get a grip on what to do. As many of the pros will tell you, it doesn't just happen overnight.

Just as importantly, though, was the opportunity at the shows to meet many fabulous artists. The ability to talk about and share stories and perspectives on art and the creativity that drives artists is always inspiring for me - and I'm going to share some of their views on art  and art licensing in the coming weeks. I hope and believe their experiences will be also very helpful to those who are considering to join in or have just started their own adventure :)
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