Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eliciting Joy through Art - Artist Terri Conrad

Welcome to 2013! We are now in the next phase of this exciting adventure in the field of comercial art and licensing - we hope to continue to inspire more and more artists and manufacturers in the course of this year.

I also want to thank Caroline Edlund for featuring me on her fabulous blog, Artsy Shark - It's a great way to start the year!

And I want to thank artist Terri Conrad for sharing her beautiful work and story with us - what a wonderful way to start a new year with a professional artist like her!!

Artist Terri Conrad
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself: It's such a fun opportunity to connect with you and your readers. Thank you. I am Terri Conrad and these are just a few places where people may connect with me:

@terriconrad [twitter]

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work?
I love that my work, my calling is to create. . .whether it's guiding the creation of character in my two beautiful daughters, nurturing my family and our home, or my creative business, each sort of harmoniously flow in and around the other. I've always said it's more a way of living than it is a job for me. As an artist, my primary focus is in art licensing and while there is so much that comes under that one umbrella, it is the imagining of a color story and theme for a given collection, the message I want to convey, pattern, pattern, pattern (I've held a life long excitement for pattern and color) as well as the conceptual application of my art that I love the most. Whether it's being licensed for gift, home décor, or paper products or fabric, I always enjoy and appreciate the collaboration between artist and art director and the synchronicity of two visions coming together to create something meaningful.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My personal story has been one of a latent discovery and claiming of my own unique beauty, beloved spirit and infinite possibility and it just felt right, felt like my truest me, to bring this nuance of hope, this story into my work. When I began to consider art as a career, I wanted a clear understanding of my inspiration, my motivation for why this as a chosen career. I had had no formal training, but was always creating something for our home or for our girls, and what I created always had a message or meaningful scripture thoughtfully placed somewhere in the piece.

My greatest joy, my inspiration for my creative expression is when I am able to encourage, nurture and inspire that unique beauty, beloved spirit and infinite possibility in others. My greatest success, and that which holds the most significance for me, is when someone sends me an email sharing a touching story about one of my licensed pieces and how it's brought beauty into their home, meaning to their heart, or elicited a bit of joy. I once was at a doctor appointment and the doctor had one of my cups with the sentiment "I said a prayer for you today" on her desk. I was so tickled to see it, I blurted out loud, "That's my cup. I mean, I designed that!" She became obviously reflective, and shared "this was given to me by someone very special at a very difficult time and it holds so much meaning for me." It's those little, but powerful things that really make our work so special.

TMFMA: Can you share a favorite technique you routinely use in your art work? My work has certainly evolved over the years, and I am bringing a lot more hand work into what I create. Two recent (and favorite) collections, Glee and Serendipity, are all hand illustrated, using Caran d’Ache crayons for a bright, vibrant color story. I feel like a kid when I'm coloring and find deep comfort and freedom when creating this way. I am always, always drawn to vintage décor, but also absolutely adore a fresh make-me-feel-at-home style. Someone once described my work as "sophisticated but grounded in playfulness."

There are so many layers and color to personality and want to be able to pay homage to all of who I am when I express myself creatively. I am trying to allow myself more time and freedom to play and explore with different techniques. I recently bought some inktense sticks and loved using those with a charcoal pencil to sketch on hot press water color paper. I set the piece aside for a couple of weeks, and then was working on a big collage, (literally playing and experimenting with my supplies), saw this piece and began to tear it in pieces and incorporate it in to my collage. I LOVED what came and it flowed so organically. Those are magical moments in my work, because often it can be somewhat of a rushed process. Creative expression takes time to bloom.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? Although it seems like a life-time ago, it was just in 2007 when I launched my first licensed product in the scrapbook market and I chose to hover there for a year and half. I began to venture into other categories in 2008-2009 after partnering with my licensing agency.

Gosh, Alex, so much has changed in just these past few years. When I started, in 2007 there was virtually nothing available on the internet about art licensing. I researched manufacturing vs. licensing by reading a few books, attending shows and ultimately chose licensing because it allowed me to focus on the creative development and leave the manufacturing, sales and distribution to the experts. I have been so blessed to partner with the best in the industry.

TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? Okay, can I just say I love this story, and I think this may actually be the first time sharing it publicly? A friend challenged me to not let money stand between me and my ability to exhibit at Surtex. I reserved my booth, then thought, "Oh no, now what? How am I going to make this happen?" Being a very faithful girl, I just believed having taken that step I would be present at Surtex. A few weeks later, acting on a whim, I called the offices at Surtex to ask if they would let me know who my neighbors will be. They shared an artist's name, (I so wish I could remember who) and Courtney Davis. Having done my research before getting into the biz I was already familiar with the agency and their great reputation in the industry.

On another whim, I picked up the phone and called them. This was sooooooo out of character for me to be so bold, but thought, I'll just introduce myself. I really had no plan whatsoever for the phone call. I was purely acting on whim. Before I could process what was going on, my call was forward to Sam, the owner of the agency and I introduced myself saying, "hi, I'm Terri Conrad. I'm exhibiting at Surtex this year and just found out we're going to be neighbors. This will either help me because I know you'll drive traffic on our aisle, or it will hurt me because everyone will be stopping at your booth first, and won't need to see anyone else after that." We shared some laughter, really great conversation and the next thing I knew he had two of his agents flying out to meet me at the CHA show and to see my work. Three months later, I had a presence at Surtex with Courtney Davis. I still shake my head in the wonderment of it all.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I'm laughing because I did not see this question before I shared my story about how I came to be represented. Yes, (truly) the best agency, and I am so grateful for the collaboration.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. This is a great question, and could be an interview unto itself. I am actually consciously making time to evaluate and better understand the industry. Like all other industries, this one too is experiencing a changing canvas. I believe our global access has much to do with this as does, of course, the economy. I heard Susan January comment in an interview on Smart Creative Women that we have much more art and artists than opportunity or placement for the art. This is so true. Manufacturers today have many, many talented people to choose from and certainly ready access from which to make those choices. I think it's all the more valuable to know why you are choosing art licensing as a career and to be clear about what you have to offer this business that is unique.

TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? Story, story, and more story – I find it fascinating that as we grow in global access we yearn to connect and identify with something familiar and more intimate; we are reaching for a story that resonates with us.

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? Do your research. Do your homework. Understand the business of licensing. Access to e-courses, e-books, and social media communities where information is available to purchase and/or is shared is much more prevalent than just a few years ago. Seek it out. Create a plan, and a plan B. Be clear about what you want to bring to the industry then begin, one step at a time. I encourage any artist wanting to enter into licensing to have a well-developed portfolio of art that reflects not only your art, but its application to different products. It's so valuable to have a vision. Finally, keep creating, everyday, show up, and create.

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? I've been known to over-think things at times, but I do think art licensing is about so much more than just commercially viable art. This knowledge comes with doing your homework, and there's a wealth of wisdom to be had with experience. We need to get out there and try, and try again. Of all the many things I could be doing, I would choose this all over again. 

Thank you, Alex, so much for inviting me into your creative world and giving me the opportunity to share with you.

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