Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Licensing Artist Maia Ferrell and Folk Art, a Family Affair

I created a new banner for the blog that will give a little glimpse of what the style of my artwork will be for licensing... and I completed the first batch of conceptual designs. I started scanning them and tried out a couple of ideas in Photoshop/Illustrator. It seems like it will work well and I am getting excited about my collections!

To share even more excitement I have a very inspiring interview with licensing artist Maia Ferrell. She was an artist and product designer for Natural Life for a few years and had record breaking sales (which is what convinced her to go out on her own) but nothing was under her own name. She considers herself an emerging artist and will be exhibiting in Atlanta this coming January through Painted Planet Licensing, her agent's booth.  Her colorful website is full of joy and catchy patterns for licensing. She also has a beautiful new shop on Etsy.

Maia Ferrell and her Daugher Lucia
1. The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art?  Sure! I grew up in Atlantic Beach, Florida with a wonderful family. Ever since I can remember my mom was pushing me to pursue my artwork and always supported whatever direction I wanted to go in creatively. My childhood was very colorful. Our walls were filled with outsider art, folk art and a lot of my great-grandmothers art. My great-grandmother, Gisella Loeffler, was a famous artist in Taos, New Mexico. 

(image by
She is a huge inspiration to me and I feel like I connect with her creatively through color pallets and folk florals, although I was never lucky enough to meet her. I consider my work mixed-media because it usually combines a few mediums such as watercolor, acrylics, spray paint, pens, markers ... but a definite is always Adobe Illustrator. 

© Maia Ferrell
2. TMFMA:  What is exciting about your creative work? It is exciting to me to think that someone might display my work in their home and love it. Whenever I buy art or look at my great-grandmother's art, there is something inside me that just loves it so much and I just hope that when someone purchases something of mine, they feel that same thing. And it is exciting that I have gotten to this point, it seems like it has been a long road and I know there is still a longer one ahead.

3. TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? Well I suppose I answered that with my great-grandmother but I am very inspired by fabrics and patterns. I get a lot of inspiration from vintage, folk floral patterns. It seems like there is inspiration everywhere these days, so many wonderful artists ... I just never know what is going to inspire me. I could discover one amazing floral fabric and all of a sudden it triggers something and I can create a whole line based off of that. I love it when that happens! I read a lot of blogs, print and pattern is my favorite.

© Maia Ferrell
4. TMFMA: What project are you currently working on?  Currently, I am creating stationery products - greeting cards, boxed notes, invites, etc. I am constantly building my licensing portfolio with different ideas, different themes. That seems to be the most important work I can do, you never know what will catch the eye of someone. 

5. TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. I think it is really hard. I think it is amazing to be able to do what you love! But there is a lot of waiting and a lot of anticipation. You have to have a thick skin, a ton of hope and be willing to adapt your style. But when just one company takes interest in your work, that makes it all worth it. Doing research on different companies to find out who is looking for artists or to find a company where your artwork is a good match is a full-time job in itself.

When I first broke out on my own, I was feeling overwhelmed with building a licensing portfolio and trying to find new companies and building a website ... then I realized it would be much easier if I designated days for artwork and days for research. So usually about 3 days a week I design and then 2 days a week I do research. Everytime I leave the house, I carry my composition book with me. It is filled with company names that I see in stores, boutiques or online. I spend a lot of time in independent bookstores, they usually carry a large amount of stationery products from companies I wasn't aware of. 

© Maia Ferrell

I find Linkedin to be especially useful in researching companies as well. As far as my style of artwork, I look for trend-setting companies that use a lot of color, pattern and also they have to incorporate digital artwork. I try to find out which artists just signed with what companies, so I can figure out what that company was looking for. I try to find and connect with contacts in the industry, even if they are not with a company that would be interested in my work.

It is a pretty small circle, it seems like someone always knows someone that could be of more assistance. Most people are so kind, everyone wants to help. My agent is all over this kind of work, too. She has a lot of contacts and has a lot of meetings with companies ... but I think it is really important to know what is going on in your industry and perhaps I might make a contact somewhere along the way that might be very beneficial to both of us. 

© Maia Ferrell
I am happy I signed with an agent. It is hard to keep up with everything and extremely expensive when you are just starting to get your name out there. I have a 10 month old at home so I am already about to pull my hair out with balancing everything. It is nice knowing that someone is still working on getting my artwork out there when I am not able to. It is also nice to have the support, a friend ... things get frustrating and everything is so up and down, it is nice to have someone to talk to.

If you are just starting out, the first thing I suggest is finding a great web designer and building a fabulous site that showcases your work. Then you can start sending out your link to agents and companies from there and they will know you are professional and serious. 

© Maia Ferrell
6. TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share?  Yes, be willing to wear different hats. A good friend of mine in the industry has taught me this and I am still learning it ... You  have to be willing to have your artwork for you and have your artwork for licensing. As much as you may love some of your work and think it would be so perfect on a certain product, it may not be ... so you have to be willing to accept that and find a different way to get that artwork out in the world, such as Etsy or local art shows. 

7. TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I want to master my craft. I want to be at the stage where there is a consistency or a rhythm. Where I feel confident in what I am producing. I don't feel that yet and I am not sure I ever will but I know if I keep working as much as I can, I am headed in the right direction. 


Elizabeth P said...

I love your new banner Alex! and glad to hear about your new collections! I´m sure they look great! ;)

Great interview! I love Maia art! and I agree with many of her points :)

Laurel Nathanson said...

I love her work too. I love all the tiny little patterns, thanks for another great interview!

Natalie Ryan said...

Great interview Alex! Maia has a lovely illustrative style.