Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A European Art Licensing Market - Artist Helz Cuppleditch

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season so far! I just came back from a short trip to Milan, Italy where I visited family and did some brief market research to see what's going on there. Bright colors, especially red, are everywhere in accessories, fashion and Home, and not just because of the holidays. It was refreshing to see!

And for those European followers interested in art licensing, there are two main 2012 trade shows to explore: the Brand Licensing Europe in London and the Bologna Licensing Trade Fair in Bologna, Italy which is the only trade event in Italy dedicated to the business of subsidiary rights, with the participation of the main Italian and International licensors and licensing agencies. The licensing show takes place at the same time as the so sought after Bologna Children's Book Fair. So if you're also an illustrator you might want to see both!

In the spirit of European art and shows, and as a warm wish to a happy new year to come, I'd like to introduce you today to a wonderful illustrator and licensing artist from the UK, Helz Cuppleditch. 

Artist Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: Please introduce yourself – I am Helz Cuppleditch, an illustrator based on the south coast of England. I've been licensing my work for about 8 years, for various products including paper craft, greetings cards, gift wrap, gift bags, packaging, calendars, fabrics and stationery. In the summer of 2011 I was invited to join the Board of The Association of Illustrators, the only UK non-profit organization to advance and protect illustrators and promote professional standards. As well as illustrating, I volunteer at local schools running illustration workshops, which stemmed from when my daughter was at primary school!

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? In lots of ways I am living the dream! I'm able to work from my studio at home, so being Mum as well as running my business is whole heartedly satisfying. I get really excited when a new brief comes in from a client and love being able to transfer their brief into sketches and final artwork; then wait to see how the client's team uses their skills to create the final products. Being able to use my experience to help and mentor other people through the AOI or on a personal level is also very fulfilling for me.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I work mainly with gouache, because I love the intensity of the colors. Every now and again I wish I had more skill with art programs on the computer so I could use the "undo" button when things aren't quite right!

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I love happy art, or art that has that feel-good factor. Three of my great influences are women, not just because I adore their art, but I believe they had great business skills and instinctively knew what to create for the markets of their time: Mabel Lucie Attwell, Beatrix Potter and Mary Blair. I can't leave out my daughter as an inspiration. Throughout her childhood, she has noticed the little things around us, colors in the leaves, insects, shells and twigs in the shape of love hearts. This awareness re-ignited the child within me that is transferred through my art.

TMFMA: Tell us about your experience in art licensing? Initially I didn't realize that art licensing was so big. That sounds very na├»ve, but I started out licensing my work for greetings cards. Then, it hit me that my work could be used for other products. So I investigated and educated myself about this wonderful world of licensing. A lot of my work is still used for greetings cards, but I also create collections for other manufacturers and products. A big leap forward for me was in 2009 when I was commissioned for a paper craft collection, and fortunately it was a really successful line here in Europe. This has led to other manufacturers licensing my illustrations for other surfaces. In October 2011 I took a booth at Brand Licensing Europe. This is the UK's only trade event where the "decision making" licensees go to do business with all the big brand names, in addition to visiting the "Art and Design Licensing" section for little people like myself! It was an amazing experience, nerve-wracking to promote to people directly, but well worth the time and financial investment.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: Tell us about your experience in illustration? I have worked on a few illustration projects over the years, including some advertising agency work for global brands. As much as I enjoyed the work, my whimsical and feminine style was pretty limited in the traditional illustration markets of advertising and editorial, which is why I explored the art licensing business. Here in the UK very few illustrators have investigated the possibilities of art licensing, but for me it was a really positive investment of my time and energy. 

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I self represent in the UK and Suzanne Cruise at Cruise Creative is my rep in the USA.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? In my opinion the most important thing is to educate yourself with the business side of art licensing; understand the terminology, copyright, what to expect in contractual agreements, how to keep accounts etc. Then if you are suddenly hit with interest from clients, you feel confident that you can deal with them professionally and speak the same language. When promoting your designs to clients, it can be a winner or loser depending on how well you display your work, so think about what that client will want to use your design on. Tailor the promotional material to that client, so the client can visualize your designs on their products. Having a collection of designs gives more impact for a client, rather than just one or two designs. Also, having designs that will be suitable for various surfaces or products will benefit you; designs that can be transferred onto circles, squares, rectangles and borders.

© Helz Cuppleditch
And, promoting yourself to clients is paramount in illustrating. These clients get hundreds of promotional materials every week, so make your promo stand out from the crowd and promote yourself several times each year. Your style might not be needed for months or years, but if you've kept on top of promotions, your work will be lodged in the commissioner's filing drawer or brain when they need it!

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. The current markets are definitely hard, not just for newcomers, but also for established artists, illustrators and designers. We are competing at a higher level now than ever before, and have to be aware of trends and technology in order to keep on top. I am no technical expert, but even in the last few months have had to learn skills that a few years ago were reserved for graphic designers. We all hear the news regarding retailers and publishing suffering at the moment, but there are new areas opening up for design. As commercial artists, we have to keep our minds open to new technology and the possibilities these offer for commerce, in particular new media. With regard to art licensing, certainly here in the UK publishers and manufacturers are looking for the next new character or collection that will connect with consumers through retail sales. Brand building and brand licensing is competitive but it is still a viable and growing market.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing and illustration fields? Join some illustration and/or art licensing groups and on-line forums. People are really great at knowledge sharing! Educate yourself through publications, blogs and by speaking to other illustrators or designers. I think you have to have equal amounts of business acumen and design skill to be successful as a commercial artist, but you still have to be prepared for rejections. That can be hard at first; we're showing the world our creative soul and can take it personally if we get knocked. Every businessman/woman gets rejections, from plumbers to architects, and we are no different as commercial artists!

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing and illustration? I would definitely recommend joining a trade organization. These lobby the governments regarding copyright issues, and most importantly have a wealth of knowledge available for their members. Not only are these organizations there to support the individuals, they are there to help protect our rights (copyright and intellectual property rights) today and for the future of the industries. The more members these organizations have, the louder our voice is on important issues at government level. It also helps us keep up to date with news that could have an impact on our livelihoods. 

© Helz Cuppleditch

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


Anonymous said...

great questions and brilliant answers - what a talented lady Helen is!!

Patti said...

Her work is so adorable!

Natalie Ryan said...

Yet another lovely and informative interview Alex. Hope you enjoyed your Christmas break and I wish you all the best for 2012!