Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Technology, Humor and Cards: Artist Kate Harper

I had the great opportunity to show some of my new licensing collections to my local licensing group. It was my "debut" to this design industry and it was a thrill! The group is a fantastic one that was originally founded by artist Kate Harper – the group is called Bay Area Licensing Artists and its new blog was recently launched to help promote its artists. 

Kate has been very inspirational to many other artists. She has been sharing so many precious licensing tips, including a very comprehensive list of manufacturers she herself created. I am very happy today to host this great and informative interview with her.

Artist Kate Harper
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself
I like to create designs that make people laugh. I believe that if we surround ourselves with humor, it brings us closer to others and our experience of daily life becomes more inspired. For over a decade I published my own line of humorous greeting cards and serviced national accounts such as Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods Markets and Papyrus. Now I currently license my designs with Recycled Paper Greetings, Leanin' Tree, American Greetings, Trader Joe's, Amber Lotus and several other companies.

I live in Berkeley, California and have a Master's Degree in Art Therapy. Before entering the design world, I taught "outsider art" at the local City College and Adult School.


© Kate Harper
TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? A writer friend of mine told me once, If I only had $50 in my bank account, that I should spend it on art supplies. I took her advice.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? What excites me at the moment is not what the gift market is ready for yet: Tech humor and the changes in culture, street art stenciling and using odd words in my art. It's the kind of thing I would buy, but bigger companies are hesitant to take a chance on edgy concepts. Perhaps later they will come around.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I do things like put a blob of acrylic paint on a piece of plastic and then stick things in it, like yarn, rocks or onion sacks. From there I stamp those textures onto white paper and scan them into my computer. I like textures more than anything -- especially where edges are undefined.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? What inspires me is to be around a creative person who is living the life they were meant to live. Being a witness in those moments makes me feel that I am exactly at the right place at the right time. When I see people drawn to their own vision, it effects me greatly.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? Approximately 4 years. Before that I ran a greeting card publishing business for about 15 years. I didn't realize I could do art licensing for royalties. Once I learned that, I approached one large corporation about licensing my line and they accepted it right away. After that, I decided to close my business since it was growing too large and I didn't want to relocate or manage staff.

TMFMA: Tell us about your creative process in creating art for licensing combined with words. I tend to start with words. I write my own words and also buy professional writer's and kids' words. Once I get the words, I draw around them.

TMFMA: What do you think makes words and images together so powerful? Well I don't know that they are powerful (LOL) but I can only hope they are! People tell me it is humor mixed with bright colors. I like to use colors that don't normally do together also, like lime green and burnt orange.

© Kate Harper
TMFMA: Tell us about a recent project where you used words and images to create your art. I'm currently working with an iPod app publisher who is expanding their current app to include a greeting card feature. I created 72 cards for their app in about two weeks. This was challenging not only because of the short time to make all new cards, but also because they had never worked in the greeting card business before and I had to help them learn all about the industry quickly, down to the basics such as envelope size standards.

It was one of the few times in my licensing career where it turned out to be easier for me to make the decisions on what kind of art a company should license from me, rather than having them be the ones to decide on design, sentiment and occasion.

TMFMA: If you were to mentor a new artist into licensing, what would you have her do as first thing? I think it's critically important to develop the kind of art you really enjoy doing, something you really get a buzz from and makes you feel like you are at home in your own body. After that, the art can be adapted to a product.

© Kate Harper
TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I still feel so new to this career, that once I think I know what is happening, then the opposite happens. My personal opinion is to look in the direction of tech. That is where the world is right now. Recently I bought a Kindle Touch for $99, yet the only flimsy skins (rubber cover) I could find started at $20! Interestingly, all of these skins had art on them. Common sense tells me these skins can be made very inexpensively, and yet people are buying them for this steep price. In my mind, that's the future.

Available as an e-book at Amazon
TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? Each one is so different. All I can say is they all want something safe, and that will sell. I think humor and pets are always a good theme.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Read my "Getting Started in Art Licensing article" on my blog.

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? It's important to read, utilize and participate to the professional Art Licensing online groupsand it's also important to be action oriented, such as what you did when you made our first Licensing group blog/website! It's 4 years overdue!


Kate Harper Art Licensing | Gift Design with a Sense of Humor



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