Thursday, January 5, 2012

Surface and Textile Design in Licensing – Artist Carol Van Zandt

Back to work! And happy + prosperous 2012 to everyone!

This year is going to be a fun one for me. I am looking forward to posting my new website within a few weeks and with it, some of my new collections for licensing I've been working on for the past couple of months. With the website, I will be polishing up my Facebook page, and I'll expand my licensing blog to cover more ground with fabulous art licensing artists and their inspirational stories. And while doing all that, I will probably resume my illustration work for my second children's book ... I am even thinking of taking my little characters for a brand licensing adventure. I can't wait!
Artist Carol Van Zandt

Meantime, I am very pleased to start 2012 by sharing this first editorial of a series of articles about surface and textile design, which is a topic many artists are interested in. To help illustrate it, I invited my friend, artist Carol Van Zandt. She designs fabrics, paper, and any product or surface that needs art on it. "I come from a fine art background and was a contemporary painter for many years. I also spent many years in the business world, so art licensing is a great way to use all my skills" - Carol says.

She loves to draw and also do brush painting and watercolor. Carol says: "I have come to love working with Adobe Illustrator, because of the editability and ease in changing colors and scale. I render most of my designs in Illustrator, even if I have hand drawn them first. Though I learned how to use the pen tool very well initially, I almost never use it now as I am typically not looking for that ultra smooth graphic look, but more of a hand painted or drawn organic look. I use Photoshop if I am going to use my brush or watercolor paintings for a design."
© Carol Van Zandt

© Carol Van Zandt
Carol has just started in art licensing; in the summer of 2010, after finishing school, (The California School of Professional Fabric Design) she decided she wanted be an independent designer and create her own design collections for sale and license. Carol spent the next year developing her first collections and preparing for her debut at Surtex in May 2011. After Surtex she decided to spend the next year researching and focusing on the licensing market exclusively.
I asked Carol what a repeat is, as many artists have emailed me with that question: "Designs are put into repeat for many end markets, where you need a design to 'continue' and become a pattern. This is especially true for all types of fabrics and also for paper, but repeating patterns are used across most products, sometimes just as as a coordinating pattern to a central composition, but just as often as the main design. The pattern can still be a one way design or it can be a design meant to be viewed from any direction."
© Carol Van Zandt
Carol also adds: "Rather than having a central focal point like a piece of fine art, motifs, scenes and compositions are laid out in a matter so they can repeat themselves seamlessly. It can be a very simple pattern or a complex composition with many scenes or motifs that all flow into a repeating pattern. Any icon or motif can be put into a repeat by tossing it with more of the same icon or more variety of similar motifs, or it can be incorporated into a more complex pattern. Anything can be put into repeat."
So how many standard type of repeats are there? The main ones Carol uses are a square repeat or a half drop repeat – "but this gets into a long discussion and different people use different terminology and also different techniques", she says. It takes practice to do repeats well. There are many good resources on repeats.  One of the best is a new e-book called Repeat After Me by Claudia Brown & Jessie Whipple Vickery of Pattern People. 

ebook by Claudia Brown & Jessie Whipple Vickery of Pattern People
But techniques aside, how does one go about getting licensing deals in the textile licensing industry? Is there a "protocol?" What type of fabric design can be licensed? Carol says: "Many of the traditional textile end markets don't license artwork, they buy outright, mostly from design studios which focus on producing work for those markets, on trend. This includes apparel, bedding and other home furnishing fabrics. However, quilting cotton companies set up licensing arrangements with designers, and there are some other companies that license for textiles like kitchen textiles, rugs, or indoor and outdoor home products. Every company is different. If they license, I follow their instructions on how they want work to be submitted."
For new artists to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time Carol suggests to pick one end market and research that first, find out what kind of art the companies use and in what format, and develop and format designs for presentation to that market. Then move on to another market. She says:" Be patient, as it can take a lot of time to land a licensing deal, and even longer before the product is actually produced and you start getting paid royalties."
© Carol Van Zandt
Carol also mentions that in selling and licensing one's art and design to any commercial market, manufacturers are best found by looking at products in stores or researching wholesale trade shows or trade magazines that cover those kinds of products.

"Pick a product category and try and figure out who the top five, ten or more companies are, where they are located, what kind of art they use, then find out one by one, if they license their art, buy their art outright, or design in house. The internet is your best friend," she says.  
Her advice to new artists going into art licensing: "Art licensing is not just a way to make money off your art. It's a business and you are licensing your art to the commercial market. Each end product is in a market all its own and works differently. In the end, it seems to work better to develop art in your own style for a particular market and end product rather than find end products where your art will fit. It may seem a subtle difference, but an art director at a company that makes a product is looking for the best designs for that product and likely the best designs have been created keeping that kind of product in mind. That doesn't mean that the same art can't be used for different products. As artists and designers it is easy for us to imagine our designs on a multitude of products, but you really need to try and look at it from the point of view of the manufacturer - what kind of art they have used in the past, what kind their competitors use, and then present a fresh way to represent their look keeping in mind current trends."
© Carol Van Zandt
Carol's excitement with her work is that it is creative work! She loves her studio time and loves the business aspect also, working with the manufacturers and art directors. It's a nice balance of studio work and business she says. She also spends time keeping up with what is going on in the design world which is invigorating for her – "I love that inspiration for surface design is so wide open and there are so many choices and directions to go. Compared to fine art, designing for the commercial market feels so much more expansive."
She concludes saying: "Art licensing is a business, and you are going into business with yourself if you go in this direction. As in any small business, it takes time to build it up, and you need to be able to fund your business until it really starts to work for you. If you are out of work and think you maybe should license some of your art that is just laying around to make some money, you are probably on the wrong track. Better to get some work that provides you some security and then be able to build up your art licensing portfolio and business on the side until you are ready to commit full time. And the fun part, make lots of art!"

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


Dianne Woods said...

Alex, thank you for this. What a great choice of subjects for your blog and a terrific way to start the new year. And Carol, wow, I'm inspired by your art and designs yes, but equally inspired by your enthusiasm for all of the components of the licensing business. I'm inspired!

Darlene said...

Found your article through the Art of Licensing Group/LinkedIn. Very good solid information!

Thank You Alex and Carol.

Natalie Ryan said...

Great advice for approaching manufacturers - and I love Carol's quote to simply 'make lots of art!'.
Thanks Alex and Carol!

Tatyana said...

Thank you for the great article, Alex and Carol!

Unknown said...

Carol, I really enjoyed reading your article. You are a wealth of knowledge.

Alex, thank you as well.

Unknown said...

Thank you all very much for your wonderful comments!