Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Professional Approach to a New Design Field: Art Licensing

There are many approaches you can take when entering into a new design field, or any field for that matter. One can go about doing it in any old way and end up with a result - though it may not be the result you intend. I have been pondering about that for myself and I've concluded that a professional approach to any endeavor is the best way to go. Why not win at it? But more importantly, what does it mean to take a professional approach? Indeed, what does it mean to be a professional? A great example for me is how artist Regina Chiu has decided to approach art licensing. She shares her views on what it means to approach a new endeavor in a professional way in this very informative interview.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? First, I want to thank you for featuring me in a post for your site. I feel honored to be included among the other established and successful artists and designers you have interviewed.

© Regina Chiu - BB&B
I started off as a fine art painter in school. When I moved to NYC after graduation, I wasn’t sure what I would do. I had a nice job working in a high end poster gallery called Poster Originals, Ltd. On Madison Ave. for a few years. They printed posters for the National Gallery, MOMA, as well as printed limited edition silk screens and posters of major artists like Willem DeKooning, Will Barnet, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana just to name a few. I became very good at recognizing specific artists' work on site and it's also where I fell in love with Wolf Kahn – well, his paintings, anyway.  

© Regina Chiu - Stark Carpet
After that I landed a job at Stark Carpet, a custom carpet and rug manufacturer to the trade. I knew less than nothing about design, but I could paint. The Art Director who hired me told me, "I can teach you about design, but I can't teach you how to paint. That you already know how to do, the rest is easy." I eventually became one of the more requested artists to design the more complicated custom Aubussons and Savonneries. I did other types of wovens for the home interior market for several years, but I was getting bored and needed a new challenge.

I eventually became the Art Director at PTS America, a dinnerware manufacturer selling the brands 222 Fifth, Westbury Court and Coventry.  The job eventually morphed into an 'on contract' position that allowed me to work from home.  I've created dinnerware for Home Goods, Target, TJ Maxx, Ross Simons and Macy's.  I’ve had my designs in Pier 1, Bloomingdales, Bed Bath & Beyond, Horchow and Z Gallerie

© Regina Chiu - Home Goods
I've also had the good fortune of creating art for Crane & Co. for stationery and desktop collections. While working at PTS I completed the Botanical Illustration Certificate program at the New York Botanical Gardens some years ago. This has had a huge influence on my fine art, but also improved my skill level immensely.

At the moment I am working towards creating designs that I hope will land some licensing deals. I am also trying to pursue my own art and illustration work, separate from design.
TMFMA:  What is exciting about your creative work? I've always done some freelance work throughout the years, but recently it's become my full time job. Although it is a bit scary and daunting, especially when I look at all the talent that is out there, I can't help but feel excited about the possibilities. I am confident that my experience and skill level will get me where I want to go and I look forward to sitting down each morning and getting to work creating something new.
© Regina Chiu for TJ Maxx
TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? I have been drawing for as long as I can remember; a theme, I am sure, that is repeated amongst creative people. However, I remember winning a drawing contest in the third grade and having my drawing featured in the local paper – a star is born. Ok, maybe that is taking things a bit too far, but it certainly lit the fire. Equally, I will never forget the chance that David Setlow gave me at Stark Carpet when he hired me. I don't know what I would be doing now if he hadn’t taken a chance on me.

As for inspiration, I find it everywhere. No detail is too small or insignificant when it comes to design. It can be a painting, an ad in a magazine, a pattern I see in nature. I just never know what and when an idea will hit me so I try to keep a sketchbook with me to write down my ideas or make a quick sketch.  I found that when I wasn't as diligent about doing this I wasn't as creative or I would forget what I saw or the idea that I had.
© Regina Chiu - Crane & Co.
TMFMA: What project are you currently working on?  Project 'ME.' In other words, defining and developing a body of work that will hopefully lead to some licensing deals. While I am best known for my botanical illustrations, I don't have a look' per se. I am trying to figure out if it is better for me to be as diverse as I am or if having a certain look that is recognizable is best. I imagine for branding purposes, being recognized is a good thing, but I haven't decided if being a brand is what I want (It's so nice to dream).

I guess it would be fair to say I am also working on getting designs together for the NY Tabletop show in October. This is my comfort zone, so it feels like home (no pun intended) when I am creating for this category.
© Regina Chiu - Crane & Co.
TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an aspiring art licensing artist. My experience in licensing comes from the licensee side of things. In dinnerware we licensed artists to do collections or licensed from Art Reps who had an artist we were interested in. Recently, I have been taking a lot of workshops and seminars on licensing from the artist perspective. Some copyright workshops on the side haven't hurt either!

I've only recently landed a very small license deal with Ann Scott Designs for a line of botanical stationery and have another pending license deal for the same. I'm not sure this field was so much a choice as a natural progression for me. As a designer who has been working in the industry for a long time, it was an untapped resource for me.  I know it's going to be a tough row to hoe, but I am up for the challenge.

© Regina Chiu - Ann Scott Designs
I haven't decided on trade shows yet. I am talking to a fellow designer about this so it is still an unknown. It is a huge investment so if I am going to do it, I want to be prepared with a sufficient amount of work.
TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I'm not much of a long term planner. I try to set reasonable short term goals; if something is too big or too far away, I become distracted or disinterested because it seems less attainable. At the moment the goal is putting together work for the NY Tabletop show in October while at the same time creating work for other surface design categories with the hope of landing a licensing deal.....or two....

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Below are more lovely images and links for Regina's designs and products. You can also find her on Linkedin and she has her own blog, too.

Regina's Target Damask has been in the top 10 best selling patterns 
for the last 3-4 years, holding the #1 spot several time. 


Regina said...

Thank you Alex for giving me space on your blog! It was a pleasure working with you!

Unknown said...

You're very welcome Regina! My pleasure to meet you :)

Tanja said...

Excellent interview! I was intrigued to realize that I recognized some of the designs credited to the first photo, the beautiful bird plates (have the mugs, too) are ones that we picked up at TJ Max a couple of years ago. :)

JenCreates098 said...

Wow! You are so talented! That's why I love's being a voyeur in so many interesting people's lives!

Natalie Ryan said...

Another lovely interview - great stuff Alex! I love Regina's botanical designs and her ceramics are designed with such flair.