Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Moon from My Attic, An Art Licensing Chronicle: a Recap of 2012 and Happy 2013!!

This has been an amazing year full of new work, adventures and friendships - we interviewed many talented emerging and established artists and published some 131 editorials all together. We also expanded our reach to renowned manufacturers to help illustrate how licensing works from their end. Your collaboration has been extraordinary and so inspiring - we have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and we want to thank you all for your tireless contributions and help in return!!

As far as licensing goes, we also had an unforgettable all started last year around this time with a colorful new website and a small portfolio with a few collections on rough tearsheets, which expanded to over 40 collections on new tearsheets created exclusively for the Surtex 2012 show, and most recently receiving several good contracts as well as new companies interested in our work. We couldn't have asked for more!

This fall, in preparation for an even more productive 2013 we also opened up Spoonflower and Etsy online shops under the title of Studio•Alex, which is now officially the new brand name I'll be licensing under and show at Surtex 2013!

Also, we expanded our social media networking to Twitter, FB Page and G+/Community so we can further help promote my and your work. Our sincerest thanks to the many of you who have sent us beautiful prints of your art or published my interviews and artwork on your own blogs.

And finally, it has been a tremendously gratifying experience to write and edit this blog. We hope for you, like us, it has become a place where artists can share their stories and their work and help build and promote the community of artists and manufacturers in this field. Every posting on the blog is read by literally hundreds of people - in celebration of the year just completed, here is a special shout-out to the top 10 most-read posts from 2012:

Here's to an even more successful 2013!!! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Art that Makes You Smile - Artist Sharon Fernleaf

Humor in art can be very helpful. It makes people feel better. And for this holiday season I thought that we all need a big smile to enter a new year in a positive state of mind. Today I have the great pleasure of presenting Sharon Fernleaf, one of my favorite smile-generating artists!

© Sharon Fernleaf
The Moon From My Attic: Please introduce yourself - I'm Sharon Fernleaf, an artist and greeting card designer. I enjoy your blog and I'm really happy to share my work here. I live in Phoenix with my two cat companions, Rumitilda and Leonis, who are the inspiration for most of the cat humor and the quiet animal vignettes that make up most of my card designs.

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? Finger painting in school and those giant sets of crayons you had when you were a kid. I spent a lot of time at the library looking at big art books and reading biographies of artists. I loved Mad magazine and comic books. I doodled all the time.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I love creating cards that make people smile or laugh and it gives me an outlet for an off the wall sense of humor. The best part is giving people something that they want to share because it made them smile or laugh. Laughter is such a great thing. Very healing.

© Sharon Fernleaf
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I love to draw. I have a lot of sketchbooks full of drawings and doodles for cards and paintings. And I love Photoshop. I used to paint more—most recently folk art or little canvases and wood panels of daily life with animals. They were a lot of fun and led to greeting cards. I set up shops on Greeting Card Universe, Zazzle, and Cafepress with those images. I was very focused on scratchboard for awhile. I loved the idea of bringing light out of darkness.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? Everything. I especially love the work of artists who express a lot of emotion in very simple art. Some of my favorite art is in children's books, cards, and comic books - like Lynda Barry, whose work can be so funny and heartbreaking at the same time, Sandra Boynton, Tomie de Paola, Charles Schultz, George Herriman. I was very inspired by three books: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis when I was a kid -- the idea of a secret world behind the scenes made me feel like anything was possible; When Elephants Weep about the emotional lives of animals; and The Secret Life of Plants, both of which opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at animals and the planet.

© Sharon Fernleaf
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? Since January of this year (2012). I'm represented by Kimberly Montgomery of Montage Licensing. She took a chance on me - I'm very new to this. I was interested in working with an agent because I think it's important to recognize what your strengths are and what you need help with and being a cheerleader for my own work doesn't come naturally! I'd rather just design, but of course you can't. You have to promote yourself, so I also work on getting better at it.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Like I said, I'm very new to this myself, but I know what has helped me - there are a lot of wonderful licensing blogs out there, yours included, and books by people happy to share information. My work was at Surtex for the first time this year (very exciting!) and at one point, I was studying so many blogs and books about what you need to know that I felt overwhelmed. My advice is to be patient with yourself while you're learning so you still enjoy what you're doing. You'll make better art.

Find out more about Sharon's art here:

© Sharon Fernleaf
© Sharon Fernleaf

© Sharon Fernleaf

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding One's True Voice in Art Licensing - Artist Janet Broxon

It was just about a year ago today that I was working furiously to assemble and complete my first couple of collections in advance of a critique I'd signed up for with a local group of artists. Over the course of the last year, it has been a wild journey to figure out exactly where and what I want to do; what facet of my art do I want to explore, what makes for good licensing prospects, and what is it that most interests and inspires me. I can now easily see that this is a long journey, one that conceivably could last until I can no longer hold a brush!

Today I'm happy to introduce artist and designer Janet Broxon, who has an inspiring tale of her own journey into art licensing and has shared with us some of her beautiful work.

© Artist and Designer Janet Broxon
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - I'm originally from California where I’ve lived up and down the coast. I studied fine art at UC Santa Barbara, and illustration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

I worked as an illustrator both in-house and freelance, illustrating children's books, book covers, packaging, editorial and fabric design. It was easy to find inspiration in San Francisco, such a culturally rich city in such a beautiful setting. Eventually, I moved with my husband and twin boys to mid-coast Maine where I now live and continue to work as an illustrator and art licensor. I find Maine is slowly seeping into my veins and thus my work, with all its nature, seasons and beautiful coastline.

© Janet Broxon
What brought you to art in the first place and who or what inspired you in your art? I think art was always a part of me; I drew and painted often as a child and my older sister constantly had some kind of sewing or crafting project going on, so we'd often frequent fabric, craft and stationery stores. We were always making gifts and greeting cards for family and friends, and I would go to the Laguna Beach art festivals every year, too.

About that same time, I remember shopping with my mom in a department store and seeing the iconic Vera Neumann signature on bath towels, sheets and all kinds of household products and thinking, wow a real person actually does these designs and gets to even sign her name! That's when I think the seed was first planted.

© Janet Broxon
What's exciting about your work? Well first I get to take a little from all the things I love, color, pattern, interesting and beautiful subject matter and throw it all together to create something completely new. I also like to have fun with the compositions I create, adding shapes and swirls that move the viewer’s eye around the piece, where they can find patterns and unexpected textures, like fun little surprises.

In reality, the creative process is a lot like life itself with its share of ups and downs. Some pieces come more easily but often there is that moment of frustration, even panic, when you feel "Oh no, this is just not working!" But it's great when you come out the other end with something that can express the joy of what you believe is wonderful in the world, and are able to share it with others.

© Janet Broxon
What's your favorite medium or tools you create with? I still love traditional mediums and tote around a pencil box full of all kinds of colored pencils, and pens. I do lots of mini paintings and designs, always in full color. I can't seem to visualize as well in pencil alone. When I like something, I'll enlarge it and paint with gouache and pastel and often add collage elements, a little fabric or an inked pattern for texture. I then scan and tweak it further, and maybe add layers of collage and filters in Photoshop. The challenge for me is to still capture the spontaneity in the mini paintings once I work on them larger. I'm also still determined to learn vector for patterns but I find I relate much more to pixels.

How long have you been doing art licensing? It's only really been the last couple years that I began to focus on art licensing more seriously. After working in house with a children's clothing company, I went freelance with the desire to develop my own style and see my work on all kinds of products but really didn't know how to go about it. I only knew about illustration assignment work, like educational publishing, advertising, children's books, greeting cards and editorial. Then in 2006, I was offered a contract to do several fabric collections for a company in San Francisco. I worked with them for several years while still mostly pursuing assignment illustration work. The fabric company was what really got me thinking again in terms of collections and seeing my designs on multiple products. I did lots of research and realized that there is a whole other category out there called "art licensing" (they never taught us this in art school) that works a bit differently. This felt like a good fit. I love being able to pick my own subjects to illustrate and like the idea of having my artwork on all kinds useful and decorative items.

© Janet Broxon
What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in - if any? I had heard about Surtex during my time of research and through friends who had visited. I admire those brave and ambitious enough to design their own booth and show on their own. Weighing all things for me, it just wasn't practical. So I opted to be shown with a group through an agent. Thus far, I've been shown twice at both Surtex and the Atlantic Gift Shows.

What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? I would first advise they do a lot of research - there is a ton of information to be found on-line. Decide if it is really right for you and whether your art is really right for art licensing. If you don't already have a large body of work, then find out what you are best at and most passionate about and develop a lot of work around that. You need to be very self motivated. This was challenging for me coming from assignment work where an art director is guiding you along the way and giving you deadlines that you know in the end will be published and you'll be paid for it.

In the beginning especially, You will likely be working very long hours and without much guidance, developing your own collections without knowing if the work will go anywhere. You have to be your own cheerleader, so to speak, and this isn't for everyone. The other thing I'd say is that you need to be flexible; you may have to change colors on demand, make something look less juvenile or more, tone something down, give it more punch, etc.

© Janet Broxon
Another key element is you have to get your work out there to be seen and noticed. This is much easier now to do with the Internet, but you are like a needle in a haystack, there are now so many others doing it. You must figure out a way to stand out. Patience is another important trait to have, it takes a while to land a deal, to get paid, and for most of us, to achieve any real success. Respect yourself and know your worth — as an artist you are bringing something important to the table, so learn about contracts and copyrights, and be negotiable but don't settle for deals you'll later regret. Lastly, be persistent - this isn't an easy field. I have made my share of mistakes along the way and still have a lot to learn, but I believe the longer you stick with it, the more you'll gain the confidence and clarity you need to be successful.

© Janet Broxon
Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. From what I've read and heard from others as well as felt myself, it has definitely been a tougher time for many people. Manufacturers are offering fewer guarantees, little or no advances, and are giving products less shelf life, making it more difficult to accumulate decent royalties. And never before has it been easier to find exceptional artists from around the world, making the competition fierce.

Despite all this, I remain optimistic. There are also many positive changes taking place. With such easy access to finding so many unique artists, it sets the bar higher for both artists and manufacturers in general, and also educates the public more to what is out there, leading to more art appreciation. Never before have there been so many ways to market your art and even get it on products. Look at how Etsy, Spoonflower and Pinterest and POD sites have taken off. I think manufacturers will follow suit. I have already seen in some cases, companies becoming less conservative and willing to give emerging artists and newer styles a chance.

I recently stumbled upon on The Vera Company website, this philosophy I love of the late Vera Neumann that "fine art should be accessible to everyone, not just a select few." She believed that artwork should not be relegated to walls. Rather, people should surround themselves with art - wear it, dine off it, and dream under it. Because Art inspires, it lifts your spirit and makes you feel better.

© Janet Broxon
What do you think the main trends are for 2012-2013? Trends are fun to research and know about, but I don't follow them too religiously. I always feel I'm going to be too late on them anyway. I try to just paint what most interests me. If it happens to coincide with an upcoming trend, then great! I like to see what the new colors are and I'm thrilled to see brighter colors coming in the next year. The new color of the year for 2013, Emerald, will of course likely bring in more greens. There always seems to be something for everyone with the trends from mid-century nostalgia to fractal kaleidoscopes. So take what you love and run with it. And one I'm always happy to hear about is a continued trend toward more drawing and hand painting.

Janet Broxon
Illustration and Design

Monday, December 10, 2012

Vision, Passion, and Collaboration in Art Licensing: A Special Interview with Anne McFarland Brown, Director of Product Development for Magnet Works, Ltd. (Part II)

We are thrilled to continue our collaborative editorial with Anne McFarland Brown, Director of Product Development at Magnet Works, Ltd. In this chapter, we discuss passion, vision, and collaboration - in fact, the motto of our own art is been exactly that: "Partnering to make the World a Better Place through Art." In this interview, Anne has inspired us even more about what that really means.

The Artist - Manufacturer Partnership

TMFMA: Anne, one thing that would be interesting to uncover is how you like to work with artists; how do you find and scout for talent, what does your most productive relationship with artists look like, how does it work best?

AB - That's a big question. So, to begin, I look everywhere for artists - from social media to blogs to the general internet to art fairs to other avenues - in short, any kind of opportunity that I can put out there to communicate that we are open to ideas, concepts, and art. It's not just artwork or a portfolio, but truly partnering with an artist on a concept. For example, with our traditional core products it can be one of two situations - an artist with a great portfolio that we can choose artwork from, or perhaps we have a subject matter that we're looking for in a particular hand or rendering and we'll work with an artist to sketch something out.

TMFMA: So what is it that you've found are key characteristics or elements that make for a great partnership with an artist?

Anne McFarland Brown
AB - It's really like any relationship. You have to have great communication, a little bit of humor, honesty, truthfulness, and lots of trust. It's an honor for me to take an artist's portfolio or vision into a product and so I hope that artists and designers trust companies like myself and Magnet Works to make certain that we treat their visions with respect.

TMFMA: In your experience, what are some of the things that detract from building a good working partnership?

AB - I try not to get to that point; I think time commitment is really key. I really try to be clear about the calendar and the schedule to make sure an artist hasn't overcommitted with other people. Especially when you go to places like Surtex, for example, so many artists will come home with a lot of contacts and a lot of projects coming their way, and I'll say, "OK, what do your next few months look like," and they'll of course answer, "no problem, I'll be able to fit you in." The bottom line, though, is that you really need to make sure they have a commitment to this category and if they don't, then that's the first warning sign that it's not a good fit right now. It doesn't mean that it couldn't be a good fit long term, it just may be that at this moment it's not a good time. 

When it does come to a point where an artist or designer isn't comfortable with the approach that we took on a product or we're running out of time, we certainly want to make sure that that's addressed. If we can't get to a place where we're comfortable, then you have to drop the product and you look at the ramifications of that - which unfortunately is sales driven; it's one less product that you get to sell.

So we sit down with the artist and talk about the pros and cons of that, but it's our job as developers to ensure that the creative mind behind the design is pleased as well as making sure that the product is salable and commercially viable, and it's my responsibility to make sure that it's manufactured well with the right materials. Sometimes I'll have to simplify the idea of an artist to save cost and make sure that a product hits a reasonable wholesale price point. It all boils down to communication, though. In the beginning, if the artist and the developer have a mutual understanding, it's pretty smooth sailing.

Importance of Integrity and Trust

TMFMA: Following on to what you said earlier about the online world, do you look at websites, do you look at places like Etsy shops, blogs, where exactly do you look and what do you generally look for?

AB - I think there's two things that go on with that. I feel like I'm always on Etsy or Pinterest or a blog - there are a number of blogs that I follow, for two reasons. One, I'm constantly looking for trends in the marketplace, whether it's a theme or color palette, a story, or something that we can bring in to collaborate with an artist on. Second, I'll go onto an artist's page or their blog and find out if they have a certain hand that we might be interested in. It used to be that I subscribed to pretty much every home magazine known to man, but now it's just so easy to get online and find information.

I would definitely encourage artists to be knowledgable about social media and how it can jumpstart their career. I worked a lot with artists from Etsy at my previous position and found a number of artists there. It was great, as they were people who had a passion for one-of-a-kind products but who also had a desire to reach a larger audience. It's exciting to work with someone who has that desire and find out what their long-term vision is, and partner with them to achieve it. Luckily, I also get to do that here at Magnet Works, too.

TMFMA: So on a site like Etsy, would you look for different product ideas, since it has grown into such a large community?

AB - It's hard, because you do have to walk a fine line around potential infringement of ideas. Is that something they've created that is unique and special to them? If so, you really have to be hands-off around the product idea and instead approach them about licensing it. If it's something that is an everyday object then it's more about licensing their art and design rather than the product idea itself. We are very, very conscious of that, extremely so, perhaps sometimes even to a fault, but we'd rather be on the safe side of that line.

I've had some artist friends who have been compromised in that way. When you have someone close to you that that's happened to, you're just so much more aware of the impact and consequences of how you're being influenced. So it's just really important to all of us here that we not cross that line. If I'm ever on Etsy or any shop like that, it's usually to find trends. Oftentimes, it may be something like owls or crows or ruffles - an icon or detail or movement that might influence a decision we make on a product but now be taking a specific idea and recreating it our way.

Importance of Purpose in the Relationship

TMFMA: Your integrity in this is very reassuring; there seems to be a certain caveat within the industry, that manufacturers are will try to take advantage of artists. One of the things we've been hoping to establish in this blog is that licensing is a potentially very fun and beautiful community and positive way to pursue commercial art and we personally believe in that very much.

AB - It's so interesting that you just said that, as I just came from a marketing meeting and when we were creating Studio M - before we even knew what it was - we kept circling around our "why" - our main purpose and goal. I don't know if you've seen the TED talks, but there's a talk by Simon Sinek who gives a talk about why we do what we do, rather than the what or how. I was introduced to it by someone in my former company and it has stayed with me.

I have a personal "why" as well as that each company has a "why" and when I first came to interview with the Todds (the owners of Magnet Works) we had this conversation - I said that I was in a pretty amazing position and the last thing I wanted to do was to jump ship for an opportunity where the people don't share my "why," my purpose. And after having a fairly lengthy, almost day-long conversation, we found that we had so much in common in that way and that lifting the creative spirit is a huge part of why we come to work every day, whether it's our own creative spirit or someone else's. When it's there and it's true and it's real, it's hard to put into words but it's exactly what you just put into words about your blog - you share that same vision.

Also, one thing that I would advise artists is that sometimes, if it works, of course it's fabulous and that partnership can be very strong. On the other hand, if it doesn't work, always go back and find out why. You know, we've had some cases where we thought something was going to be a hit and instead it was kind of a miss, so we go back to see what it was that derailed it. We'll take that back to the artist and go, "next time around, we've got to deliver it this or that way." Always, always go back and review and see what goes wrong. Often, we don't do that enough as there is such pressure to keep moving forward to the next season. I've seen success stories where artists will have a few misses before they have a great success - and then it can happen big; so always go back and have that conversation with the manufacturer.

Working Rules of Thumb

TMFMA: Let's say you were engaging with an artist and it is one of their first licensing deals, what would be a good rule of thumb for the amount of back and forth and process steps, or a good estimation to set their expectations for how much work they're going to be involved in?

AB - First of all, I love it when I get to work with a first time artist! I can only speak for our process here at Magnet Works, though, and we value the artist's involvement; we're possibly the extreme. Where one company may say, "we'd like the high res images and we'll see you in 6 months when we're finished with the product," I prefer that we start with a get-to-know-you meeting, talk about what the vision is, the calendar and schedule, things like that and make sure they understand the commitment. Depending on what their capabilities are, whether it's just speaking to the story board or the vision board, or if they want to help create that by sending images or create it themselves.

Also, we have a blended strategy when it comes to the actual manufacturing, as we are fortunate enough to have capabilities both in China as well as here in the U.S. - so our artists are very involved. When I've been on location at the photo shoots, I've sent images of the behind-the-scenes photos to the artists just to keep them in the loop.

TMFMA: Out of curiosity, if you work with an agent rather than the artist, is the process any different?

AB - It's not much different; typically the agent will just be the initial contact and we'll coordinate the contract with them, but usually the agent will encourage us to work directly with the artist while keeping in the loop in case there is an expansion of the products we want to develop. Most agents are very supportive of this type of strategy; in fact, I haven't worked with an agent yet who wasn't OK with this approach.

TMFMA: That's fantastic - and also it's probably better if you can work directly with the artist in terms of building that relationship.

AB - Actually, my preference is to visit the artist in the early concept and idea stage. To visit their studio, to see how they live, to experience that space that we're trying to create for, just to get to know their lifestyle is helpful for me to see it and get a better idea of the big picture.

TMFMA: Do you mean you actually get on a plane and go around seeing the artist's studios?

AB - Absolutely - that's one of the best parts of my job!

TMFMA: Wow, that's the dream of a designer, to have a manufacturer that approaches the relationship in that way.

AB - It's just so helpful to sit down and collaborate, whether it's on the Magnet Works side of talking about new themes or styles or approaches for our core products or whether it's working with an artist on a Studio M collection. It's just all very relevant and an important time with the artist to establish that trust, that dialogue, that comfort level of working together. It's essentially a good-faith commitment that we're here to deliver.

TMFMA: Well, this is simply amazing - and inspiring!

AB - I would encourage anyone who has a desire to license their art to get out there and try it. I certainly think that many of my friends within the licensing community both on my side and the artist's side would say that having a small group of licensees that you form these partnerships with is often the best. Then you are really cultivating that partnership, you're building your brand; unless you're just trying to pay the bills, you have to determine what your goal is. I often tell people that it's really important to get to know the company with whom you're working, their standings in the industry, their ethics and business practices, their artists and relationships.

How They Find New Talent

TMFMA: What is your take on Surtex and shows like that?

AB - I love them, for two main reasons. A lot of times I'll see artwork beforehand, get kind of a sneak preview and I'll be surprised - especially if it's an artist I've never met before. Also, it's just the general community of people at the show. When I started going in 1997, my first experience with a show like Surtex was that the artists were pretty reluctant to share information. It didn't feel as much like a community as it does today. Now you go to Surtex and there are people running up and down the aisles helping each other with booths and sharing leads, like "if this doesn't work for you, you should check out my friend's booth over there," kind of atmosphere. It's such a different world and it's so fabulous to live in it.

TMFMA: It is true; it's a very good hearted community!

AB - Yes, absolutely. So I do like Surtex a lot; there's certainly a lot of buzz around that particular show. I'm thinking about going to some other shows I haven't been to; there are many who enjoy CHA and Quilt Com and some of those. I don't know, but I'm excited to explore some new ways of meeting people within the art and design community.

TMFMA: Thank you so much again Anne, this has been an amazing interview and it has inspired us in many ways and directions!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Special Interview with Anne McFarland Brown, Director of Product Development for Magnet Works, Ltd. (Part I)

Where did November go?! It's already December, the last month of the year, and 2013 is getting ready to burst upon the scene. I love the beginning of the year, as it is like a fresh breath of promise and adventure!

And in the spirit of celebrating new opportunities, today we're so, so excited to feature another interview with a manufacturer we really really like - Anne McFarland Brown, Director of Product Development with the wonderful Magnet Works, Ltd. - who is launching a whole new enterprise today! Studio M is their new endeavor to bring the indoors outside with a whole new line of outdoor products and an incredibly interesting and unique approach to partnering with artists to do so.

The first part of this editorial with be about the launch of Studio M and we are so honored to feature this exclusive interview:

Anne McFarland Brown
The Moon from My Attic: Hello, Anne - could you share a little background on yourself and how you got into product development?

Anne McFarland Brown: I fell into product development by chance, actually. I received a B.F.A. in textile design at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and ended up getting a job right out of college with Seabrook Wall Coverings, a family-owned and operated business in Memphis, Tennessee. I started out with them as a colorist and gained a lot of experience in the surface pattern world. After 7 years, I ended up moving to Kansas City and started working with DEMDACO, where I started in their table top division and expanded into home decor, wall art, and other home products.

Sue Todd, Owner and Anne Brown at Surtex
Art Pole by Stephanie Burgess
About a year ago, after 7 years with them, I took on a position as Director of Product Development with Magnet Works, focusing initially on their line of core garden products. Over the course of my career so far, I've been fortunate to get a lot of experience with a range of different products, from wall paper to tabletop to home decor to wall art to gifts to garden. Equally important, I've been really lucky in my employers, as all three companies have been family-owned and operated and have provided great working environments.

TMFMA: You mentioned that you're a big part of this new endeavor at Magnet Works - what can you tell us about it?

AB: Well, now that the official press releases are out, I can tell you everything! Our new division, called Studio M, is a category we call "Artful Home and Garden" which will contain products for the outdoor living space. All of those products are built into collections that are truly a partnership with an artist.

Bloom by Jennifer Brinley | Studio M
TMFMA:  So are you looking at this as part of the movement to bring the indoors outside?

AB:  That's correct, you've nailed it! Outdoor living is a growing trend, complete with outdoor hearths and bringing the colors and inspirations from indoor spaces into the outdoors. It's such an important part of our living today. I personally think that part of what is driving this is our desire for community, so oftentimes in our neighborhoods we want to get to know the neighbors, entertain the neighbors and be outside as much as possible with our kids. That calls for products that are expressive of your personality or your vision and which work well in an outdoors setting.

TFMFA:  How will your artists be involved in this new endeavor?

AB:  This is another exciting aspect of Studio M. Essentially, we'll choose an artist and sit down with them to create their own lifestyle collection. We have two situations where this has happened so far - we sat down with Susan Winget, who has already done a number of designs for our core products, and explored what is important to her regarding nature and being outside. The collection that has resulted is built around her own personal garden space. We did something similar with Jennifer Brinley, who also is a part of our core products, and her Studio M collection is very different and fun.

Gypsy Garden Collection by artist Genevieve Gail |  Studio M
We also have two concept-driven collections, meaning that they are more of an idea for a product that an artist wanted to create as a critical mass statement of an individual product. Stephanie Burgess has done an entire collection of art poles, like sculptures for the garden. Another artist, Genevieve Gail, did a collection of miniature gardens. So whether it's lifestyle or concept, it's really truly working with the artist and cultivating what it is that they see as their vision for this space.

TMFMA: Wow - it looks like you're not only looking at an artist's work and how it can play into your products, but you also are bringing artists in via your new Studio M to start brainstorming and determining what products could actually go into that outdoor space. Is that how it's working?

AB:  Absolutely. It just depends, as we'll sit down with an artist and figure out how they live in the outdoors, determine how does their garden grow, and what is their outdoor space like. Certainly many of our artists are in different regions of the country so that is reflected in their work or in the types of products they want to create. If one artist says they have a true love of birding and watching birds, we'll want to create an entire line of bird houses, bird feeders and anything related to birding. If another artist has the worst green thumb ever and uses their outdoor space differently, or likes growing vegetables instead of flowers, it is really just a clean slate that we can jointly build upon.

DrinkBlots Art Coasters | Studio M
TMFMA:  That's fantastic! I think building a whole line is the dream of many if not most artists and designers.

AB:  It's the dream of a developer, too. I worked that way for so many years. It has been instilled in me in my experiences with my former companies the importance of maintaining the integrity of the art as being at the root of it all.

TMFMA:  We've also been seeing a move towards having a personalized aspect of products and you were describing having more of the background of the artists and what it means for them to be outdoors. Are you also seeing this as an evolution in the marketplace from the consumer side?

AB: Definitely. Certainly the owners of Magnet Works saw this and brought me on as a result. They saw this as an important trend and wanted to speak into it. That's exactly how we started Studio M.

TMFMA:  That's great to have that as part of the driving purpose for Studio M. Does the "M" stand for something?

Magnet Works | Studio M - Artist Community 
AB:  We wanted to keep a relationship with Magnet Works and we went back and forth for several months around various names but kept coming back to the idea of a studio. We felt the studio part of it reflected the thumbprint of the artists. So many of the products will truly be created by hand in conjunction with the artists themselves and then mass produced from there. Thus, the name came into being to represent a comfortable, casual vision that is also homey, authentic, and livable.

TMFMA:  What a great opportunity for a deep collaboration with your artists and designers.

Anne Brown and artist Kelly Rae Roberts
AB: I know so many artists and designers who I've worked with in this way, and oftentimes it makes for great success for both the artist and the company developing the product. I've just found in my experience that it's the best way to approach product lines.

TMFMA: Well, this has been a fabulous interview, Anne - it is so encouraging to have a manufacturer's view to share with licensing artists and so encouraging that you seek out partnerships that are that tight with your artists - it's really inspirational.

AB:  Well, I hope that artists realize that certainly we're not the only company that has that philosophy. Unfortunately, there are those few companies who don't who lead people to believe that licensing can be this cold, unsafe world, and it's really not. You know, if you're engaged in it it can be such an amazing experience and such a great thing for everybody. The greatest success I've had in my career thus far has been when I partner with artists in this way.

Anne Brown, artist Stephanie Ryan and Sue Todd, Owner
TMFMA:  It's great to hear you say this. I believe very much when I do my art that I could license to a lot of different people, but what I'm really looking for is that long-term partnership because that's what drives me. It's just fun and rewarding to collaborate. As a designer, I've done so many projects from beginning to end and it's just such a pleasure to do that with other positive people around you who are engaged in the same effort with a shared goal for everyone to succeed - and I think that's the same dynamic at the core of successful licensing.

AB: Absolutely!

TMFMA: Thanks again for sharing your story with us - I'm so happy to have met you and been able to chat, and wish you all the best success with Studio M!

NOTE: Part II of this interview will be published on Monday, December 10th, 2012. Anne will share with us how she goes about finding new artists to collaborate with Magnet Works as well as other helpful insights about her company and the world of licensing. Don't miss it!

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Upcoming Special Art Licensing Editorial

We're going to take a short break from publishing interviews and other editorials on our artists around the globe because we're preparing a special manufacturer editorial for this week. I can't wait to share this amazing insight into the never-resting world of licensing! It's an exclusive interview with a manufacturer we really, really like ... don't miss it!

© alessandra colombo - holiday peace & love tree
We'll resume the posting of our artists' interviews and stories on December 17th - there are so many wonderful artists in the licensing community, we can't seem to stop being amazed. Our goal is to eventually  publish everyone - we usually look through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc., and online shops and other design blogs like Print&Pattern - it's so fun to scroll through! And speaking of which, thanks Bowie Style for publishing my Holiday Peace and Love Tree collection!

An additional piece of news:  from time to time I will post freebies that can be download and used for non-commercial/personal use only please. The first set of giveaways are a set of fun everyday art type borders and labels for crafts projects or for snail mail. One of the patterns is a cute snail to seal your packages or envelopes. So if you like the design, go to the links below and print your own set. I use white self-adhesive sheets 8 1/2 x 11 I purchased from and cut them out to fit the application I need. They work great!

"Cute Garden" labels


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Persistence and Respect in Art Licensing - Artist Chris Chun

This has been a fun and exciting week for me, with a new licensing contract and sales from my online shops! I've also been working on expanding my existing collections and creating new art. And my website now has links to my social media (and soon my online shops) so people can find us. Promo and marketing are an essential tool for getting your business noticed and artist Natalie Timmons figured out a clever way to promote.

She was also very kind to include one of my tearsheets in her practical How to Create a Sale Sheet eGuide - you can directly download it for free from her website or from my Resources Page. It's a great tool for emerging artists and designers to use so thank you Natalie!

On this sweet note of art and licensing and other great tips for success in this field, please welcome Chris Chun, an amazing talented artist from Austalia.

Artist Chris Chun
THE MOON FROM MY ATTIC: Please introduce yourself. My name is Chris Chun and I am an Australian artist and designer currently living in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. I have been living here for the past 18 months and the area is home to a thriving community of artisans and craftspeople. It's very inspiring living here and the city has it’s own unique charm. I love the whole lifestyle here – the friendly people, thrice weekly massages, wonderful fresh food and the slower, more relaxed pace of life.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? Being able to experiment and try new things. At the moment, I am working on some new art which combines my love of textiles so this is new and has lots of possibilities. I am also learning ceramics and printmaking again here (I haven't done this since high school) and I will be painting again for a couple of new exhibitions planned for next year.

© Chris Chun
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I'm inspired by lots of different things – anything from films, magazines, childhood, food, museums, art exhibitions etc. But perhaps my greatest sources of inspiration are travel and the natural world around us. I like capturing fleeting moments of beauty whether it's a leaf from a tree or a bird eating from a dragonfruit or butterflies dancing above an orchid.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I use a wide variety of mixed media – acrylic, ink, gouache, wax, linocut, canvas, origami papers, embroidery, etc.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I've been licensing my artwork since 2005 to a select group of companies around the world. Prior to going out on my own, I worked in product development/ design and styling for bedding, pillows, homewares, fashion, etc. My first licensing contract was with a publishing company in the UK called the Art Group who saw some paintings from my first solo exhibition and wanted to license them onto greeting cards. I had funnily enough always loved and bought their cards so this was the beginning. The main reason I like licensing is that you can license the same image to manufacturers in many different product categories and you still get to keep copyright of your artwork.

© Chris Chun
TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? I remember going to Surtex for the first time back in 2002 and thinking I could do this but it took some 5 years later before I took the plunge and first showed at Surtex. I have only exhibited twice in 2007 and 2008. Exhibiting at Surtex was key to getting me noticed in the USA and I met lots of wonderful people from these shows.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I have an exclusive agent in Russia and someone in the USA, with whom I work with on a consultancy/ project basis. For the rest of the world, I represent myself.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think worldwide the retail market is still tough at the moment. It can be quite frustrating being in art licensing as when things are tough, the buyers tend to be more conservative in their thinking about designs and colours etc. When really, the opposite should be true. People are not going to part with their money on something they've seen already before. They are more likely going to buy something that is new, fresh and makes them feel good.

Artist Chris Chun - Studio
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field and that maybe want to exhibit in a show like Surtex? For a new artist living in the US and thinking about it, I think it is a great show to participate in. But it is expensive and it usually takes a couple of years exhibiting there to get noticed by buyers. I would personally go there first to see what it's all about before jumping in. At least then you can decide whether you would be happy showing your art to people in your own booth or you may prefer to go with an agent to represent you if this isn't your cup of tea.

© Chris Chun
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing?

It's all about YOU. Your art has to be authentic – I really believe that what you produce should come from the heart and have integrity. There are a lot of similar styles and looks out there. Ask yourself – what makes you stand out from the rest of the pack? What makes your art unique and special? It took me 5 years to find 'me' from when I first visited Surtex. The other important thing to remember is that your art has to be able to 'connect' with the end consumer so they want to buy it. We want them to buy a lot!

Be prepared to ride the rollercoaster! The thing I dislike about licensing is that there are no guarantees when it comes to getting your product out there – even if you have signed a contract. For example, you may have worked hard on designing a collection, your client has gone ahead and had samples made and it looks certain it is going to a store…then WHAM! The buyer at the store may have changed or the CEO has stepped in and decided it's not the right look. All that work for nothing.

In this business, you have to accept the fact that there may be other reasons why some things don't come to the market but it has nothing to do with your actual artwork. I think for many artists, this is the thing that is the killer. You put so much of yourself into your artwork and then to see it not go ahead can be crushing. Even though you may be business savvy, we're artists at the end of the day. It does hurt on an emotional level and it can take some people (including me) a long time to get those creative juices flowing again.

Slow Boat to China. You've probably heard this so many times already and I'm going to say it again - licensing is not a get quick rich money scheme. It takes time to build up a portfolio, meet the right manufacturers, time to get contracts signed, time to get products made and then time to hit the store shelves to get sales. You could be waiting up to 18 months before you see any royalties and upfront advances are unfortunately becoming rarer and rarer these days.

© Chris Chun
Lawyer Up. Please make sure you get a good IP lawyer to look over your contracts so you don't accidentally sign away your copyright or get locked into an agreement where you can't show your work to anyone else for 5 years. Believe you me, there are some horror stories out there.

Respect. Please show some respect for yourself, your artwork and for the other artists in this industry. This means not licensing your artwork to a company for something ridiculously low like 1% just because you are so excited to get your first deal etc. It not only devalues your artwork but it brings down all the hard work that the artists who have been doing this a long time before you have strived to get recognition for.
By selling yourself short, you are also saying to the art directors out there that they can get artwork really cheaply so why should they pay normal royalty rates for this? As artists, we have to stick together and ensure that our commensuration is fair.

The First Step.  There is a wealth of information out there about art licensing; how to get started, what is involved etc. Make sure you know what you're getting into before deciding this is for you. These websites may be helpful: Tara Reed, Maria Brophy, Joan Beiriger, Khristian A Howell, Smart Creative Women, Art of Licensing Group on LinkedIn.

© Chris Chun
Don't be a Copycat! Please don't copy anyone else's work. Whilst it is normal to be inspired by other artists, please make sure that this is all it is. Doing a version of someone else's work or changing it slightly is not acceptable either. You will be found out and you can kiss your licensing career and credibility good bye.

The Jackpot. Licensing can be very rewarding in terms of earning potential and seeing your products out there in the shops. I remember the first time I saw my designs in a store - I was so chuffed! My Mum was so happy, she told all the shop assistants that her son had designed this. How embarrassing especially when I was standing next to her! LOL! But you know what? It probably helped them sell the products more as they learnt about the story behind the design.
Good Luck!

You can find out more about Chris and his art here: