Monday, November 7, 2011

Are You Organized for Art Licensing? An Interview with Artist Carolyn Gavin

This past week I listened in to a great free webinar by Teliha Draheim of Image West Design on how to sell commercial art. And I also got to participate in a local art licensing meeting which shared artwork reviews and other useful ideas. My next couple of months will be very busy completing my portfolio and basic collections that I will then present to the group for the January meeting critique - very exciting!

This week I'd like to introduce an artist from Canada who has been very busy creating art for licensing and her own wholesale stationary business. 

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself. Hello, I'm Carolyn Gavin. I'm the principal designer for ecojot. We're based out of Toronto, Canada and create gorgeous stationery using 100% recycled materials only. We also have a donation program where we donate books and pencils to kids in need around the world. We have just been to Haiti for a week where we gave away 22,000 workbooks, as part of the schoolbag - the schoolbag on Facebook. An amazing, rewarding and emotionally grueling trip for my partners who went. 

Artist Carolyn Gavin with her bulldog Ziggy

I also have an agent Lilla Rogers and she handles all my freelance and licensing projects.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I get to create exactly what I want (generally) and see it printed on our stationery. It's great when I see someone using one of our books.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I grew up in a hot country with lots of color, texture and pattern around me. I think that is what's in my soul and is reflected in my work. Nowdays I try and travel as much as I can and experience other cultures which influence my work. I love central America - the exotic colors and patterns from Belize, Guatamala and Mexico. I love African fabrics and Indian patterns and colors.

© Carolyn Gavin
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I've recently gone back to painting again which I love and started off doing – I use gouache and acrylics mainly. I also like pen and ink. Digital is also what I know and have been using for a long time. Programs like Illustrator and Photoshop are quite amazing!

TMFMA: Can you share a favorite technique you routinely use in your art work? I paint, then scan in and then combine paint with digital. I like the look.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I was lucky enough to get signed by Lilla Rogers Studio more than 3 years ago. She takes only a few submissions a year, so I feel special that way. This has enabled me to create incredible fabric and scrapbooking collections as well as editorials and one of my favourites...packaging design. I also like the fact that the designs are used on other materials besides paper.

© Carolyn Gavin
It was totally by chance that I hooked up with my agent. As they say timing is everything. I happened to meet her at Surtex while I was doing the National Stationery Show. I had no portfolio but just an ecojot catalogue (I guess that's a portfolio of sorts). Anyhow, the timing was obviously right and she signed me up right away after that show. She also must have felt that my look was right for her at the time. I felt REALLY lucky to be signed by Lilla – I guess it could have happened the traditional way where I would have sent her my work. I must say I hadn't even considered an agent at that point. I had been working in the gift and design industry for over 20 years, so I guess I had reached a point where my work was ready for market even though I didn't know it or consciously seek out ways of expanding it. 

© Carolyn Gavin
Lilla Rogers Studio gets over 1000 submissions a year, so in doing that you really have to stand out and have something special and something that strikes a cord for them. Something they NEED at the time. They have nearly 40 artists signed with them and each one seems to offer something unique to the fold.

© Carolyn Gavin
Before signing with me, I had an interview with Lilla where she asked me all kinds of questions. One that comes to mind is, "are you organized?" I think this is extremely important in that there is a lot to do besides designing great art. Labeling, saving correctly, billing, communicating with clients, getting files ready for shows and so on.

And I don't think it's a question of how many pieces you need to submit to an agent. I think it's based on the quality, the style, the uniqueness, the saleability and then a sense of who you are and if they can build a relationship with you. It's kind of like a family in a way and Lilla is the mother ship!

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think it's extremely tough right now, so we have diversified our North American base and now sell to Mexico, Scandinavia and Australia.

Your comments are welcomed. Please enter them 
in the comment section below.


Laurel Nathanson said...

i LOVE her work! and Lilla Rogers is my dream agent. 1000 submissions a year, oh man, i have a lot of work to do!!!

linda said...

Beautiful work - I love her products! I agree that being organized makes everything else much easier and smoother!