Monday, December 5, 2011

Freelancing to Art Licensing - Interview with Artist Elizabeth Caldwell

This week, amongst other licensing work I did, I re-listened to the Paul Brant free Teleseminar of March 2009; very useful info if you are new to licensing, as he covers really basic points you'll need to know. I found it to be even more interesting now that I've worked on several of the many points he made. 

Since I am creating tearsheets now, I needed a new logo for my design studio - how do I want to represent myself and my art to manufacturers and other potential buyers? Or even to other artists? I came up with a design that I find to be very representative of my art style, and what I want to say. You can see it below here.

© 2011 - alex colombo
For a more expert view of licensing, here is a fresh and positive interview for this week:

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself – My name is Elizabeth Caldwell and I am a freelance surface and graphic designer based in NJ. I have a background in gift wrap, stationery, and gift product design so it is a natural fit for me to license to these types of companies. I love designing patterns and prints to help sell a product. I am a firm believer in making pretty surfaces, because pretty surfaces sell. I am totally addicted to buying things I don't need just for the packaging or pattern design.

Artist Elizabeth Caldwell
TMFMA: Tell us about a recent art licensing success. I recently had Robert Kaufman pick up a few of my designs for their Menagerie and Confections fabric collections. One is a panda print and the other is a pie print.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Robert Kaufman Panda Bears
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I have been licensing my art for about 3 years now. I was freelancing before that, then I started my blog and I started to get noticed more by clients looking to license my style of art. I signed up with Pink Light Design so that I could have more time to just design versus dealing with contracts and the administrative side of licensing and so I could get more exposure at trade shows like Surtex. I decided to start licensing because I realized the potential my designs had to make money long term. That became my goal: create as much passive income as possible to offset the dry spells I experienced with freelancing. Licensing allows me to create more of what I love and what I am good at in my own style. It's what licensees want to see, someone that has a 'style' they can easily recognize.

TMFMA: How did you find your agent and get one that was suitable for you? I found Pink Light Design through one of my favorite blogs: Print and Pattern. They frequently post job listings for surface designers and freelance graphic designers that want to work in the stationery/gift industry. I liked Pink Light's style and thought it matched well with my own design sensibilities so I stuck with them. The owner, Mary Beth Freet, is a wonderfully sweet person too. So encouraging and positive!

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Target Christmas Bag
TMFMA: How does one go about getting licensing deals? What's the "protocol", if any?
First of all it helps to have a portfolio of work that shows experience in designing for stationery, party/paper goods or, at the very least, print/pattern design. Knowledge of repeats is a PLUS but not necessary. Your work should be designed and presented in a way that licensees can visualize your design on their product. Think about what products you would like to see your work on. Can you see your art on party ware? Gift wrap? Bedding?

Do a LOT of research and shop all the stores that carry the brands you love in styles you think are similar to yours. Take note of the company that produces said products and Google them. If they have a website there is usually a link somewhere with instructions for artists who want to submit work for consideration. If this seems too daunting to you then pick up the latest copy of Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market. Licensees are divided by category with a blurb describing what the company does and what type of art they are looking for along with contact/submission information. Keep in mind that not every type of art is licensable in every category. Your art may be well suited for scrap booking but not calendars, for example. Be realistic. It's easy to get attached to your art and think it would look great and sell on EVERYTHING imaginable.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Woofy
TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. The market, in my opinion, seems strong despite the poor economy, especially for freelancers. Many companies are laying off full timers but hiring freelancers for projects. Licensing is a way of companies getting fresh art without taking ALL the risk, something that benefits both parties, I think. I have been very busy with new opportunities, thank goodness. I think the need for fresh art is definitely there...and will continue to be. Without artists creating great art how would all these products sell? Artists that keep on top of trends are definitely in demand.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Pies
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Don't give up! If you really want to license your art then WORK at it. A LOT. Fine tune your style. Research other artists you are similar to and see how you differ. You don't want to be a copycat, remember that. You want to offer something unique in order to stand out. Play on your strengths. Learn everything you can about the business. Research licensees and make sure you have a business card and promo card or website to get yourself out there.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations or goals? I would love to have a whole fabric line with my name on it. I would also love to see my designs on bedding and home goods, and even children's clothing.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Safari Invite
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Art licensing is a tough biz and it takes someone with a thick skin to be successful in it. You will have a lot of disappointments, a lot of rejections, a lot of low sales..but you can't let it discourage you. You have to take the good with the bad and really see a future for your designs, and NEVER stop learning!

You can also find Elizabeth on Facebook and Etsy.

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


kat mcd. said...

Another great interview!

Cindy D. said...

I agree, great interview! I'm still in the "thinking about it" stage before attempting to do any licensing or getting out there to do it. :)