Monday, November 26, 2012

The Journey In Reverse: From Manufacturer to Art Licensor - Artist Caroline Simas

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

In preparation for this Cyber Monday (check out my friend Khristian Howell's awesome offer!), I had a chance to check out a few really cool shops and see what the market has in store for this upcoming Christmas ... lots of colors! So today my new guest is right on when she says down below that manufacturers are looking for color. It's everywhere and it is a good way to attract buyers old and new, in addition to being uplifting as is this new interview! 

THE MOON FROM MY ATTIC: Please introduce yourself - My name is Caroline Simas and I am a mother of four and a licensed artist in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Artist Caroline Simas
I currently design for 12 amazing manufacturers and I am so honored to partner with each of them to design mostly faith-based products for the gift and home decor industry. My brand is called MULTIPLE BLESSINGS and you can find my website here and my blog called DESIGNING FOR THE SOUL here. I have 6 new collections launching in January so 2013 should be an exciting start.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I feel so incredibly blessed to do what I love every day and I'm thrilled to be able to work from my home studio (newly renovated)! I enjoy the relationships I have made from this business. Wonderful friendships have developed from working with product development leaders and art directors. I have loved meeting and getting to know retailers and store buyers who are kind enough to carry the products I design and I have met people from all over the world through blogging about my Multiple Blessings journey. And finally I am grateful for the freedom of's such a blessing to create what I am passionate about and share it with others.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? Our children play a large role in inspiring my is more beautiful when viewed through the eyes of a child. They help me to notice the simple beauty right in my own back yard. My work is also inspired by my faith and I'm passionate about incorporating that into much of the messaging on the products I design.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? Oh, there's no way I can choose. I'll never tire of trying new mediums but lately I am obsessed with mixed media and incorporating everything from painted lace to twigs from the yard to vintage skeleton keys and brooches.

TMFMA: Can you share a favorite technique you routinely use in your art work? I guess am known for the "organic-ness" (is that a word?) of my mixed media. I rarely use scissors because I hand tear each of my patterned papers. I love knowing that because they are torn by hand they are not perfect but rather make each piece feel very hand made and two are alike!

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? Creativity has been a life long passion of mine. After teaching elementary school for 6 years and teaching art lessons from our home, I began a decorative painting business called The Creative Palette where I hand-painted everything from murals to children's furniture, baby linens and lamps. About this same time, I was struggling to find a unique birth announcement for our soon-to-be-born twin girls. After designing this, I printed a small collection of inspirational greeting cards with my paintings and scripture. A friend asked me to bring them to a local show. They sold out the first day and a retail owner was there and asked to have the collection in her store by the following week!

Our two sons and twin daughters were the inspiration behind the name Multiple Blessings. And because the greeting cards and gifts contained scripture and messages of inspiration, joy and blessings were multiplied as they were sent all over the country. It spread quickly and the cards and other stationery gifts I designed were soon sold in 250+ stores across the U.S. But the manufacturing side was challenging and I found myself after a while focusing more on managing inventory and a warehouse and not focusing on using my strengths and artistic gifts. About the time I was praying about how to transition out of it all I was approached about licensing my art for baby pillows. I had already researched a great bit about art licensing and knew some wonderful folks in the industry, so it was a fairly easy transition for me from manufacturer to art licensor.

I am confident this is a much better fit for me as an artist and as a mother and wife but it was an important stepping stone in my career. My clients have often said they like knowing I have that experience and background because they feel I understand both sides of the industry. I also have been able to use my entrepreneurial experience to invent and help with product development and also help with unique packaging for products which has been great fun.

TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? I exhibited in Atlanta in the stationery temps several years and then 2 years in the National Stationery Show. I had walked Surtex during these years and knew it was a great possibility that it would be a better fit for Multiple Blessings. I was strongly encouraged by a fellow licensed artist and my family to make that leap of faith and exhibit at Surtex in 2010. I already had 4 licensing contracts before I exhibited which I believe ended up being a blessing because when I met with manufacturers at Surtex, they could already see what I was capable of creating.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I do not work with an agent at the moment but I am asked that question often...especially the question, "How do you manage it all?" It's a challenge for sure and lots of work but quite rewarding in so many ways. I do know some wonderful agents in this industry and know many do a great job for the artists they represent. I have a great relationship with all of the people I work with on product development and for me, I love to be involved with the process, the art, the decisions and all of it. I have learned though that things change so I will never say never. I am open and willing to learn more on this journey.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I believe the home decor and gift market seems steady and strong. I am hearing that from manufacturers and retailers as well. I like that the manufacturers I partner with think long and hard about their investment pieces (they want to know it will sell before they make thousands of the items!) And retailers I know are being careful with their spending...budgeting and buying specifically with their customers in mind. Products with great art, sentiment, dynamite color, pattern, and texture seem to be in higher demand. My hope is that gifts which are meaningful and tug at your heartstrings will remain strong. It makes sense; as consumers we love to purchase things which speak to us and to the person we intend to give it to. I'm thrilled to be designing in that category and it's an honor to create joyful, meaningful, faith-filled art which speaks to people's souls.

TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? color!

TMFMA: What do you think the main trends are for 2012-2013? I have my ears and eyes open but try not to follow trends. I am really not sure because I try to just create from my heart and soul and be an authentic artist.

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? Oh my. I am asked this so often. Here are a few quick but important tips:

You must be completely passionate about your art; if you don't truly love it and believe in it, no one else will either; know your work (there must be a market for it); develop a niche; what do you want to be known/recognized for? What sets your art apart from the masses? Make a business plan/set goals (in writing); if you plan to exhibit, organize your art into categories/themes; have collections to choose from and lots of them; research the art licensing industry, there's so much good advice out there! Hire a good attorney who understands art licensing contracts; think of every product (pie in the sky) you'd love to see your art appear on and make a list in writing; then research every manufacturer who creates those products and contact them with enthusiasm.

Find out more about Caroline's art here:

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