Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Paper Love in Art Licensing - Artist Patricia Zapata

Amongst the many things I have been intensely working on is this blog. It has a precise purpose which is to provide a forum for artists, agents, manufacturers and retailers from around the globe where they can share their stories about art and licensing. Our motto is Partnering to Make the World a Better Place through Art. So I just wanted to say that it's been a pleasure to publish many of you and that we will continue posting you, your fabulous art and stories because we believe it helps us all as a community to learn from each other.

And on this note I would like to introduce a wonderful artist who creates stunning paper art, Patricia Zapata.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? Hi Alex! First of all thank you so much for having me on your inspiring blog.

I'm an independent graphic designer working from my home in Texas. We have two children who are the reason why my freelance career started in 2000. I decided to be a stay-at-home mom but a year after our son was born I was itching to get my mind working in a professional capacity again. That's when I slowly started my online design business. None of my first clients were local (thank goodness for the internet!) because I wasn't really promoting myself here at home. I was doing everything online and it was such a blessing. It gave me the flexibility to work when the baby slept or late at night.

Four years later I still had a small number of design clients but I was craving some handwork — something to do away from the computer. That's when craft blogs were taking off and I decided to jump into the fray by focusing on paper. I also opened an online shop where I started selling handmade cards, paper cuts and hand cut balsa wood pieces. One thing led to another and after discovering the world of electronic cutting machines I was hooked. It turns out that even though paper cutting is extremely fun to do, after making multiples of the same piece the activity really loses its charm. I discovered that the real thrill for me is to design a product and have someone else make it. So now, through my A Little Hut shop, I sell downloadable cutting patterns for crafters that have their own machines at home.

In the midst of all this, my literary agent found my blog. Out of the blue she sent me an email asking me if I'd like to write a paper craft book. I was so shocked and excited to do it! It was grueling work but in 2009 I got to see my hard work turned into a beautiful book called Home, Paper, Scissors. Now I'm slowly making my way into the licensing industry and this coming May will be my first time to exhibit at Surtex, booth 664.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? I find it very exciting to come up with fresh ideas that are simple and reflect my style. Brainstorming and sketching is incredibly liberating. The thought of what will become of these ideas drives me to keep going. I really enjoy working not only two-dimensionally but in 3D as well.

In the crafting world it's very important to make something that can also be made easily by others so putting together clear instructions and process photos is also something that challenges me.

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? I've said this many times, and it sounds so cliché, but everything inspires me. Nature, architecture, furniture design and our kids are all very inspiring to me. I never know when the next idea will hit me — or where it will come from.

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? I'm working on new spring and summer themed patterns for my online shop and getting my portfolio in order for Surtex.

TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. I just entered this field and my first real experience is in the craft industry. I'm licensing many designs to an electronic cutting manufacturer that also has an online shop for cutting files. It's been very interesting to see what customers are more interested in purchasing — sometimes it isn't at all what you’d expect.

TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share? I think the most important thing to do as an artist is to continue evolving and learning while always staying true to what makes your art unique.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I really love paper and working with it, so I would love to work with patterned paper that has my designs on it. Fabric, embellishments and other home goods that compliment my paper creations would be wonderful. My dream would be to see a line of Patricia Zapata products — no harm in dreaming big right?!

Find out more about Patricia Zapata on her web site:

Monday, March 25, 2013

An Art Licensing Collaborative Win-Win Situation - Artist Debra Valencia

I'm starting to believe that preparing for Surtex is not that difficult, it's just very time consuming. It requires so many different small and big steps to get to the show itself so  sometimes it feels overwhelming, especially if you haven't done one yet. But once I completed my booth design and some key collections that I want to show, it felt not so bad anymore. Now I think it's just a matter of getting my plan executed on time and creating as much new and beautiful art as possible.

The most fun part of this adventure so far has been to chat with many other artists who will attend the show in May and collaborate on various aspects of this multi-faceted business. Collaborative work is my favorite and so it is also for artist Debra Valencia. She is a rising star and a strong driving force behind a whole group of artists in L.A. who create beautiful art for licensing.

Artist Debra Valencia

PB & Jellie Tunic, “Marrakesh”
TMFMA: Please introduce yourself - My name is Debra Valencia. I'm a licensed artist based in Southern California specializing in surface designs. I work with manufacturers in a variety of categories including gift, stationery, textiles, home décor, craft and fashion accessories. I'm known for my bright colors and playful mixing of contemporary patterns such as florals, paisleys and geometrics. I work in several styles with my favorite being simple hand painted shapes in dense watercolor combined with vector drawn accent prints. I work out of my home studio in Malibu with a stunning ocean view. The scenery and weather here are delightful so I can't wait to go to work each day.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? The exciting part for me is having the opportunity to work on whatever theme I want. This is the closest thing to fine art I've had the chance to do for a living compared to my years as a graphic designer. I had a great career as a graphic designer and loved it.

© Debra Valencia - Knack 3 Melamine Collection
 at International Housewares Show, Chicago, “Gelato”
Eventually I yearned to do my own artwork instead of providing design solutions for my clients' businesses. I previously worked at a couple of large design firms, most notably Sussman/ Prejza & Co. I also operated my own graphic design agency for several years with a staff of 3 designers and 2 administrative assistants.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My paternal grandmother, Socorro del Rosario Valencia was the most influential person in my life. She inspired me to cook, sew, appreciate traveling the world, and most importantly to pursue my career in art. She loved flowers and painted them frequently plus other subjects she loved. She was a self taught artist so her style was naïve but charming. As a kid and teenager, I just loved drawing, painting and trying every craft possible. It wasn't my original plan to attend art school but after a few semesters trying out different majors at a liberal arts college, I gravitated to graphic design and pursued the creative field from there.

© Debra Valencia -

David Textiles Fabric by the Yard, “Kyoto”, 
Totebag made by Cheyanne Valencia
TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? I launched my first greeting card line in 2006 at the National Stationery Show. I exhibited in NSS for 2 years as a manufacturer. During my second show in 2007 I attended the NSS party at the top of the Rockefeller Center; it was there that I found out about the field of art licensing.

I started chatting with another partygoer — also without a seat as we juggled our plates and glasses of wine — as we people watched from a staircase. I asked if she had a greeting card line, too, which she did. I asked how long did it take to turn a profit, what I should expect, and how was it going for her. She turned out to be artist Suzy Toronto and told me that it was nearly impossible to make it with a small greeting card line alone. She told me about how she licensed the same art from her cards for fabric, jewelry and a long list of other products which generated additional revenue. I honestly had not heard about art licensing until that conversation but it changed my life!

Upon returning from the NSS show, I switched gears. I pursued licensing deals in general but was also able to license my entire greeting card line to a large gift wrap company plus land my first licensing deal for 4 stationery/gift bag collections. Throughout 2008, I fully focused on licensing and spent the year building my portfolio and making connections at the Atlanta Gift Show. I made my debut as a Surtex exhibitor in 2009 and have been in the show every year since.

© Debra Valencia - David Textiles Fabric 
by the Yard, “Kyoto”, Kitchen textiles
 made by Cheyanne Valencia
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I represent myself. With my background as a graphic designer, both in-house as creative director with some large firms and running my own studio with 5 employees, it makes sense for me to do it myself. I've worked with 100's of clients directly. From landing the client, budgeting the job, negotiating the fees, drafting the contract and then creating the work, presenting it to the client and selling the concept, I've played every role.

I wouldn't rule out working with an agent in the future. I'm aware that many of the top successful licensed artists have agents. This tells me that you can get to a point where all the work can't be handled by an individual artist even if supported by an in-house staff. Top agents have great sales and negotiation techniques, long-standing relationships with big licensees and an international network of sub-agents which is certainly worth their commission.

This question also segues nicely into the news about the new co-op agency I recently founded. I saw a need for an art licensing community as well as business education about licensing in Los Angeles. We have such a large population of creative people here. I began teaching small seminars last year on the licensing basics and launched an online networking group for local artists interested in learning how to enter the field.

© Debra Valencia - Housewares International Ceramic Mug Assortment, “Mia”

I approached Otis College of Art & Design about launching a course in art licensing and I am now currently teaching The Business of Art Licensing for the Spring 2013 Continuing Education program.

© Debra Valencia - Decal Girl iPad Skin, “Kyoto”
From there, I formed Art Licensing LA, a collaborative agency of 5 independent artists. We teamed up to offer manufacturers a broader range of artwork styles and topics than would be possible by a single artist. With a combined library of over 2,000 images in 5 portfolios, we currently offer fresh art of popular licensing themes: florals, nature, wildlife, beach, food, wine, coffee, holidays, travel, pet, home, garden, baby, children, paisley, novelty, inspiration, humor and more.

We meet for monthly dinner meetings and also communicate by email and phone regularly. Like a virtual studio, in lieu of a physical space, we provide peer support with professional opinions and feedback on in-progress collections; an advisory board of sorts.

As colleagues, we cooperate together as a group to share marketing, publicity and sales tasks. The jobs are divided up by website, booth design, press releases, collateral, video direction, client outreach, etc. It is also really helpful to bounce ideas off each other and get the point of view of another designer. Once artwork is selected by a licensee, contracts and client communication are the responsibility of each individual artist. For example, two of our artists are currently licensed with the same manufacturer for ceramics but with very different artwork. 

This business model works for us since many licensees need several styles of artwork in the same season or catalog. Our philosophy is this is a collaborative win-win situation, not a competition with each other.

We operate separate business entities but share responsibilities and that is a huge burden lifted, especially getting ready for the upcoming Surtex show. We will be exhibiting at Surtex in New York, May 19-21, 2013 in booths 734 & 736. We hope our group will thrive and grow larger for 2014. For more information, see our website:

TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? What do you think the main trends are for 2013? For my art, most manufacturers showed interest in my paisleys, tiles and medallion art. This tells me that the ethnic-inspired art is still hot and I see it continuing for several years. What is next? I can only guess but I do think our concern for the environment makes us want to be close to nature. I will be combining natural colors such as greens and browns with my typical bright palettes and developing new print designs inspired by craftsman traditions: mosaic tile, fabric dying, weaving and embroidery, as well as nature: leaves, bamboo and lots of flowers.

© Debra Valencia - Housewares International
Ceramic Mug Assortment, “Hibiscus”
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? I think art licensing can be a wonderful way for artists to earn a living. But one must be very careful especially in the beginning. There are many ups and downs in the business. A manufacturer may show a lot of interest, request your entire portfolio and then no deal happens. It's like being flirted with by the most handsome man at a party, he asks for your number but then never calls. That can really be a let down if you let yourself get too excited by every request. In other cases, you get a contract, do tons of development work per the request of the manufacturer and then the royalty checks trickle in never amounting to more than enough to pay your utility bills. The positive side is when you get a contract with a manufacturer who loves your work, puts your art on lots of products and keeps the pipeline full season after season. That is when it really pays off. I am fortunate to have a few of those clients.

© Debra Valencia - Decal Girl iPhone Skin, 
“Asiana Blossoms”
For anyone entering the field, I would tell them not to jump into exhibiting at Surtex or any other show for the initial year or two. Work on your portfolio, obtain licensing deals by making online submissions, research companies you want to work with and track down the person who makes decisions on licensing. You can still make submissions directly that way even if the company doesn't post submission guidelines on their website. Build up your portfolio to have at least 20 collections if not more. Pay attention to the themes that are licensed the most and make sure you have some of these in your portfolio. Don't go into debt to exhibit. It can take years to make up the difference. If you really want to exhibit, save up for it. It is worth exhibiting eventually because it really helps establish your name. Plus, manufacturers will stop to look at your work and they may be people you would have never thought of contacting or found by online research.

© Debra Valencia - David Textiles Fabric 
by the Yard, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Maxi dress 
made by CheyanneValencia
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Marketing is essential and not optional. An artist must think like a business person to be successful unless they are just incredibly lucky. I know so many artists who are very talented but they are either too shy or maybe just procrastinators about marketing themselves. If you are the best artist in the world but no one knows about your art, you will not be successful. I advise spending 20% of your time, which equals one day per week on the marketing aspects of your business. This entails making regular submissions to potential licensees and by research into finding new companies you want to work with. Have a well designed portfolio with various samples which can be emailed to potential licensees. This should be supported by ongoing updates to a website, blog, Facebook, publicity, and photos of products. Also make sure you have the basics on hand: logo, business card, postcard, good headshot, well written bio in different word lengths for editorial opportunities.

See Debra's website for samples of her licensed artwork:

...and her facebook page for current news:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What It Means To Be A Textile Designer - Designer and Consultant Michelle Fifis

I have been working on some fabric collections for the upcoming Surtex show so this is a very timely editorial - many artists are interested in textile and surface design but don't know how to start or how to create collections for this particular sector of the industry. So I invited instructor Michelle Fifis, Textile Design Consultant​ and host of the popular blog Pattern Observer to share with us what it means to be a textile designer.

The Moon from My Attic: What do you do? I work with textile designers to improve the professionalism of their work and grow their businesses. Since launching Pattern Observer in 2010, I have helped hundreds of designers through my free training programs, e-courses and private coaching.

Consultant Michelle Fifis
I also work with manufacturers to develop textile design collections. Over the past ten years I have worked with clients such as Lucy Activewear, Columbia Sportswear, Jantzen Swimwear, Nike, P&B Textiles and Pottery Barn.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? Design aesthetic is not an easy thing to teach and I find the challenge to be very exciting! The goal of my new course, The Ultimate Guide to Repeats, is to help fine artists learn how to modify their artwork so that it's more marketable in our industry. It is exciting to see artists enter the commercial design world and develop some of the most amazing patterns I have ever seen. They bring a sense of craftsmanship that is really lacking in our industry.

TMFMA: What's your main source of inspiration? Artists. I have an innate drive to help artists achieve their dreams. There is nothing better than hearing from students who have gone on to sell their first print or landed their dream agent. This industry offers so many opportunities and I want to help more artists and designers earn a living from their craft.

TMFMA: Is there any particular project you are currently working on that is exciting? I am currently offering virtual workshops every few months which provide more interaction and community support for designers. This has been an exciting shift in my business and the response has been amazing! I am also developing a new mentorship program which will launch in April and collecting data for an industry-wide business report. There is not a great deal of data on the textile design industry and I hope that this report will help artists understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

TMFMA: Please tell us about your textile design experience. After receiving my BFA in Fashion Design from Stephens College and completing an internship with designer Zandra Rhodes, I launched a line of hand-painted handbags called Fifi Handbags (my nickname is Fifi!). The collection was sold in over 100 stores nationwide and was a blast to run, but a financial disaster! Feeling burnt out and ready for a change, I decided to move to Portland, Oregon in 2003.

A few months after arriving in Portland I saw an ad in the newspaper (am I dating myself?!) for an assistant textile designer with Jantzen Swimwear. I applied and to my delight I was hired! I worked there for several years, designing a few original prints but mostly working on repeat patterns and colorways. This was a little frustrating because I wanted to create more original artwork, but looking back on it, it was wonderful training for the future.

After a few years I left to work at Columbia Sportswear, which was also a fantastic learning experience. While at Columbia I managed the women's print collection which averaged around 40 prints a season, developed high-level trend presentations, and fell in love with the concept of designing with the customer in mind. In 2010 I left the corporate design world to freelance and soon discovered a new passion: blogging and mentoring other designers through Pattern Observer.

TMFMA: What do manufacturers look for in a fabric/print collection? Manufacturers are looking for collections that their customer will find irresistible. A creative director may personally love your work, but if it is not right for the end-use consumer, the collection will not be a good investment.

© Michelle Fifis
The best way to know what trends or print styles a manufacturer is looking for is to research the end-use consumer. Find out which prints are currently selling well, how customers are using or wearing them and who they look to for inspiration. Combining this information with your artistic style is a recipe for success!

TMFMA: Some say trends are not important. What's your view about this topic as related to the textile industry? I think it is extremely important that textile designers have some sense of what trends are emerging or fading from the marketplace. Even if a designer creates prints for a market that is less trendy, knowing what colors and print styles are currently popular, or were popular, is so helpful. I can't imagine why a designer wouldn't want to have that knowledge!

TMFMA: Any important tips/tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share as an artist/consultant? I encourage artists and designers to focus on the creative process and worry less about industry "rules" or standards. If your work is fresh and marketable, an agent is not going to care about the technical details. Focus on the artwork, experiment and enjoy the process. I give you permission!

Find out more about Michelle Fifis and her services here:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Artist Laura Coyle

With the Surtex show coming up in May the topic of press releases is of much interest for exhibiting artists. I recommend you read the very informative ebook by Tara Reed called "How to be a Press Friendly Artist" if you don't know how to do one - it's time now to send your press releases out to the world. Here's mine, that went out today!

As for this new week, I invited artist Laura Coyle to share with the world her style, theme and techniques. Laura has worked as a freelance illustrator now for almost 20 years. I happened to see one of her YouTube intro videos where she talks about Illustrator techniques and I found that she was very clear and easy to follow.

Artist Laura Coyle
A bit of her background: she got a degree from Auburn University in illustration and afterward moved to New York City to find work and then came back to her hometown, Atlanta, where she is now. "I started out working mainly as a freelance editorial illustrator, eventually working for publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Better Homes and Gardens.

I have also worked a lot in advertising and had the good fortune to land an assignment to re-vamp the Parcheesi board for Hasbro. So I've managed to find a variety of outlets over the years for my style of illustration. In more recent years I've been adding art licensing to the mix and also teaching Adobe Illustrator," Laura says.

Her style of illustration is graphic and lively: "My style has certainly changed over the years. When I started out, I was working in scratchboard, ink and watercolor. Later, I began working in Adobe Illustrator with scanned pen and ink. Now, I find that I love drawing everything in Illustrator. I use my scanned pencil sketches as an under-layer, giving me something to trace, and it helps to bring those smooth Illustrator curves to life."

© Laura Coyle
As for inspiration, Laura says she has a wall of books in her studio on painters, cartoonists and all kinds of design. She then adds that her eternal challenge these days is to limit the amount of time she spends looking at things online - "It can be overwhelming. I think the internet makes everyone else in the world look ten times more prolific than I am! It creates an illusion: one person has just come out with a line of cards, another has re-decorated their studio, another is hanging their exhibit, and I'm chewing my pencil trying to come up with an idea. You don't always see the sweat and the time behind all that finished work people are posting online. So I give myself a lot of breaks away from the internet connection. I love my wall of books, my music collection, old movies and even total silence."

© Laura Coyle
She then goes on explaining, "I illustrated a paper sample for Neenah Paper years ago which had my credit line on it and I was called by a designer at Papyrus and another from Hallmark. The experience of working with designers at those companies has been an education in making art that appeals to consumers; a different animal than working in advertising or editorial art. I wanted to dive in and so after visiting the Surtex show a couple of times, I decided to get a booth in 2007. From Surtex I was able to get work with a number of manufacturers and one that put my birthday paper plate collection in Target."

So my next question was to find out what was new and exciting in her current work - "I have just finished up a few new cards for Papyrus and I can't wait to see them on the shelves. They incorporate some nifty effects like lights and sound. I love working with good art directors, we both bring our strengths to the collaboration and it makes my work better. I'm illustrating an editorial piece now, too, and I'm launching my new Adobe Illustrator class on making patterns in CS6."

© Laura Coyle
And what about tips or tricks you have for your fellow artists? "Be open to opportunities, even if it seems a little off your chosen path. I started out with editorial and advertising illustration but art licensing is something I found later. It's not easy being a freelance artist. Markets come and go, trends change and it helps to be versatile, flexible and entrepreneurial. I started teaching Adobe Illustrator classes a few years ago because a designer friend invited me to teach at her school. I discovered that I love teaching and interacting with students. I've had to raise my technical game with Illustrator which has had the side benefit of making me more valuable to my illustration clients. Developing a mastery of digital skills has really helped me to stay busy with clients over the years. It's so amazing to think of all the different threads an artist can weave a career out of and how those threads often compliment each other."

© Laura Coyle
I asked her to tell us more about the classes she teaches. "I have a catalog of self-paced online Illustrator classes at I teach Beginning Illustrator and Illustrator 2, an intermediate class. We call them the "Essentials" and they give students a good working foundation in Illustrator. Then I have a series of shorter project-based workshops that teach focused skills like working with the Pen Tool or working with a tablet and brushes. My latest class teaches the new CS6 repeat pattern making mode, it's called Pattern Power! It's incredibly fun to work with the new CS6 pattern mode but it takes a little extra work to actually get patterns to repeat successfully outside of Illustrator, for fabric or websites, so this new class teaches how to export repeats for the real world."

© Laura Coyle
"One of the best things about being an artist is that you can't help but get better," Laura continues, "whether that means you accumulate more life experience to draw upon or you just become more skilled through sheer repetition. I'm hoping to continue learning and growing and discovering ways that my artwork can connect with others."

Find out more about Laura Coyle here:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Brief Tips & Tricks in Art Licensing

Art submissions to manufacturers can take up a lot of time depending on how they are done and what the company's guidelines are, if any. After submitting, days or weeks go by and you may hear nothing back. What I do are follow-ups after a couple of weeks or even a month. I ask the contacts I submitted to about my art or I submit new work. Sometimes you get a nice "yes" back and sometimes a nice "no" back and that's all good info to have. Most companies are very nice about letting you know what they want. It's part of building the relationship to find out what is best for follow-up with that company and it's important to respect their perspective on this matter.

I also asked several professional artists and consultants about their follow-up routines with companies they submit art to for licensing. Their answers varied on the approach they take. Some said they don't do much follow up, some say they do it within 4-6 weeks from the first submission.

I am publishing a couple of tips from others in this field that I thought are very helpful. It's always best that each individual artist figures out a routine that suits them and their style of work as well as fits their client's preferences.

Artist Sue Zipkin -

"There is a fine line between being aggressive (in a good way) and being a pesky kind of an artist. Manufacturers really respect an artist who is persistent but also mindful of not overstepping their boundaries."

Consultant Maria Brophy -
  • 3-5 business days follow up after first submission;
  • Definitely continue to follow up, never stop until you get the account;
  • All of the above: do a 3 tiered follow up. First, send an email. A week later, make a phone call. A week later, send a postcard of your best work with a handwritten note. Then follow up again a couple weeks later if you don't hear back. If still nothing or if you get turned down, continue to follow up every 6-12 months until eternity or they sign on with you, whichever comes fist!
Often, we will be turned down for Drew Brophy art, but we never give up. There have been some licensing deals that took 6 years to get. We continue to keep in touch with a company so that when they are ready for what we offer, they will be reminded that we are still around and interested in working with them.

No never means no, it usually just means "no for now".

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Artist Rose Berlin

The artist community in general is so friendly and generous. I feel fortunate to be part of it and to be able to bring amazing stories to the world through this blog. It's my pleasure to share tales from all walks of life and help dissect this very complex maze called art licensing. Thank you all for your continued participation and support through your one-of-a-kind interviews, articles, and your always lovely comments and emails.

The artist I'm featuring this week is Rose Berlin. She and I became friends through a Linkedin forum when I first started in licensing and we met in person at Surtex last year. She was very helpful answering many questions I had - a very dynamic and giving person she is!

Artist Rose Berlin
Rose grew up close to NYC and attended the School of Visual Arts. She says: "It was a relief to know I could have a career in art that didn't involve starving in an attic! My first jobs were in the advertising, editorial and education markets. I had taken one little course in Children's Book illustration, and by the time I had my kids, I decided to try it because the deadlines weren't as stressful."

She has been illustrating children's books since around 1994 and discovered Surtex while walking the National Stationery Show in 2003. In 2006, she tried Surtex for the first time. Rose adds: "Even though I didn't feel quite ready, I learned so much by being an exhibitor and met lots of helpful people."

© Rose Berlin
Naturally, her early style - she comments - was similar to her children's book work. "Cute animals, bright colors. But I found that style appealed to a limited market. My art was all over the place and I didn't have enough in any one category. I'm still experimenting with different themes; I did some dog images and they were well received and now I'm painting Santas and Christmas subjects. I feel like I'm still evolving and trying to find a look that I can create volumes of work with and not get burnt out. I usually start most paintings traditionally - using watercolor and gouache on Arches watercolor paper.

Lately I have tried using permanent markers like Pitt pens or Coptic markers (inspired by Mary Engelbriet!)." I also use Photoshop to add more details, borders or reshape. This skill is essential to making your art suit your clients needs. My Santa's List image was originally him and the kitten sitting by the fire. Vermont Christmas Company wanted to use it for a puzzle but needed more detail. So I painted the cat, puppy, gift, teddy and the coatrack separately and put them on layers. It's a best seller for them now!"

© Rose Berlin
Rose is developing a new collection inspired by sketching on a brown paper bag. "I loved the earthiness – and working with pencils. But kraft paper doesn't take paint well so I do a gouache and watercolor undertone on watercolor paper. I have been doing woodland scenes with bears and other American animals. I hope to have a farm/country collection in time for Surtex as well. I think this style will work beautifully on recycled paper products and maybe burlap, which I hear is popular now."

As you know she launched her art licensing at Surtex. She also tried CHA in LA, the Atlanta Gift Show, and last June she tried the Licensing Expo. "Each has its own strengths," Rose says. I have licensed my art on cards, puzzles, flags, gift bags, and so on. I feel the buyers who attend Surtex are the ones who will be most interested in my images."

© Rose Berlin
"I have to say, probably half of my licenses I found outside of shows, either contacting them myself or they contacted me through my website. Ultimately, I hope to have licenses in calendars and prints - I think of myself as more of a painter than a designer. My strategy will be to carefully research where I want my art to be and pursue those goals. I have a million ideas, but there are only 24 hrs in a day so I do have to choose the ideas that will lead to my goals."

One unexpected and exciting license that is happening now with Rose is that her art is being tested for a direct mail campaign. She says: " I can't say who, yet! It's the kind that sends you mailing labels and stickers, asking for donations. They judge by sending a limited mailing using 3 different artist's work- whoever brings in the most donations wins the campaign for next year. So if you get an envelope with a cute yellow duck in red boots please be generous!"

© Rose Berlin
As she grows her art licensing business, she continues to work in children's books and magazines. Rose continues saying that she worries that it might slow down her progress in licensing but she also thinks she has learned techniques that work in either field and make her a better artist overall. "Writing my own books would be another goal I would love to achieve. I feel fortunate that I am in a position to have this flexibility and I owe that to the emotional and financial support of my husband of 25 yrs! One day I hope I can return the favor and  give him the freedom to pursue his dreams."

Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience, Alex! I look forward to seeing everyone in May at Surtex, Booth 355.

© Rose Berlin
You can find more about Rose Berlin through her website:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Get Ready For The Fabulous Surtex Show 2013!

SURTEX® - May 19-21, 2013, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Hall 3A - Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY

I just finished designing my booth for the upcoming Surtex show in May. I'll soon start to post some pictures as the various elements get made or printed. This will be my first solo show and I am very excited about it! If you are attending, please come by our booth 446 and say hi! The Moon from My Attic will also be attending as Press so you will have a live update through Twitter and FB!

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This week I invited our friend Janet Falk to tell us about what Surtex is and its purpose. Many of you know about this great show but many artists new to licensing might not. So here it is, an overview of the best art licensing show in town!

"It's time to get ready for SURTEX®, the premier art, design and licensing marketplace for all product categories. Now in its 27th year, SURTEX successfully connects artists and designers from around the world with manufacturers and retailers eager to locate the freshest, newest, most original artwork for product development. It's also the hub for timely education, whether one is a new market participant or a veteran designer; trend, industry and licensing market updates for retailers and manufacturers; plus unparalleled networking and business opportunities for all participants.

SURTEX hosts more than 320 exhibitors – individual designers as well as studios and agencies – who license and/or sell original artwork for products in almost every category serving the consumer, home and contract markets, from May 19-21, 2013 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

First-time and veteran exhibitors alike have multiple opportunities to augment their own marketing efforts by showcasing their name and artwork on the SURTEX website and in the eNewsletter – vehicles that live 24/7 as well as on-site at the show. Some are included in the Basic package and others are on a fee basis.

To begin with, all exhibitors are invited to three pre-show webinars to help prepare their pre-event marketing, on-site booth set-up, and show floor success. Many first-time exhibitors find the how-to aspect of the Booth Design and Logistics Boot Camp especially helpful. On the SURTEX home page, Marketplace displays rotating images with title from exhibitors; when visitors click on the image, the exhibitor's website opens in a separate tab.

The twice-monthly On the Surface eNewsletter may feature news of exhibitors, such as recent licensing agreements, announcements of new collections, and related developments, plus images. There is no fee to submit press releases. Exhibitors have the opportunity to provide press kits in the on-site press center for media attention and oftentimes have the opportunity to meet key press who visit SURTEX in search of new designs and fresh faces in the marketplace.

Some artists offer an in-booth promotion of merchandise featuring their work or hold a signing of posters or books. SURTEX may announce these raffles and events in the pre-show press release and share the details with reporters. In addition, many artists use the template email, perhaps incorporating their own branding, to apprise clients and prospects of their participation in SURTEX and their booth number.

On a fee basis, banner ads on the SURTEX website are available as are ads in the twice-monthly issues of On the Surface newsletter and the SURTEX show directory, distributed to each of the expected 7,000+ attendees. Exhibitors may also display their name and booth number at key locations on the show floor.

Manufacturers attending SURTEX represent hundreds of product categories, such as tabletop, home textiles, giftware, apparel fabrics, gift wrap, and more. Some well-known brands include, 3M, Anchor Home Products, Atrium Wallcoverings, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco Wholesale, Hanover Direct, Homefires, Kurt S. Adler, Leanin’ Tree, Marcus Brothers Textiles, MeadWestvaco Consumer & Office, Michaels Stores, NYGALA Corp, Paper Magic Group, Paperchase, Paperless Post, Popular Bath Products, Red Rooster Fabrics, and Staples.

In a return to its roots and in line with the re-emerging textile sector, in 2013 SURTEX launches Atelier, a special section for top textile design studios that primarily sell their designs. Studios in this by-invitation area will present their trend-forward collections to manufacturers and retailers developing interior textiles, wall coverings, floor coverings, and numerous other products. To date more than 65 exhibitors, nearly half from outside the United States, have signed up for Atelier. Some 90 are expected in total. The trend-forward collections of these studios, some shown for the first time, will bring additional excitement to the show floor.

SURTEX and its sister shows have a symbiotic relationship. The designs of many SURTEX exhibitors are appropriate for the card, gift wrap and related merchandise of the adjacent National Stationery Show®, not to mention that some designers focus on textiles for the home furnishings market participants in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair®. In addition, a new show, Creative & Lifestyle Arts, will take place in the aisles between the National Stationery Show and SURTEX.

For complete SURTEX information, including the Conference Program sessions, Trend Theatre presentations, exhibitor listings, plus online registration to attend SURTEX, please visit"
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Register online to attend and we hope to see you there at booth 446!

Friday, March 8, 2013

An Art Licensing True Story - by Artist j.c. Spock

Many licensing artists seek representation through agents, in fact the most read post on this blog is about how to find an agent. And if you search the web there are many other articles about agents and what they do. It's important to find the right agent as this story will tell you.

I met artist j.c. Spock in an Etsy forum. Her story is different from any other I have published so far and it's dedicated to all newbies to warn them of the pitfalls when entering the licensing arena. I congratulate j.c. for being courageous and for finding her own path despite the pitfalls, and for sharing her experience with us.

Artist j.c. Spock
j.c. considers herself an accidental artist. She didn't start creating mixed media art until the age of 35 when she left her corporate career in search for work that would nurture her soul. After experimenting with various arts and crafts, this self-taught artist finally figured out what she wanted to be when "she grew up." She now has a dedicated following and an on-going partnership with FORCE, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. She is inspired by the human spirit, by people who make brave choices, and by those who face their fears. Although her artwork has a whimsical tone to it, it is also largely inspired by the courageous people she meets, especially those dealing with cancer and serious illnesses - a connection that she considers to be one of the most unexpected joys of her artistic journey.

"My foray into art licensing began in late 2010," she says, "when I heard about this great way to make money with your art! Clearly I was uninformed about how much work goes into art licensing, so I set out to learn more. I began reading art licensing blogs (including this one!), read books on the topic and began submitting my portfolio to various licensing agencies as well as manufacturers. I received a couple of no's but mostly never heard back." She grew frustrated after a couple months and dropped the idea for a while - "once again, I was clearly unaware of how hard it is to break into licensing and the stamina it takes to pursue it long term," she adds.

In the summer of 2011 she received a message in her Etsy shop from a manufacturer who was interested in a large part of her portfolio. "They wanted to do a 110 sku program with my artwork and their current lines were GORGEOUS. It had the potential to be a huge deal. I was over the moon, but also aware that I was completely unprepared to go it alone."

"I knew I wanted an agent to help me work the deal and prevent any pitfalls or language in the contract that could put me in a precarious position as I felt I was in a you don't know what you don't know position." She used her opportunity as leverage to get her foot in the door with some of the top art licensing agencies on her list, she continues, and sure enough, one of them was now interested.

"I became aware that something was off when my agent immediately began picking apart my art and expressed concern over contracting my art as-is with the interested manufacturer. Part of it was a matter of style and likeness of my work and part of it was a legitimate concern over my use of patterned paper - which as a collage artist, I had no idea that the papers I was using were permitted for small business uses but not large scale mass manufacturing. I was asked to learn Photoshop right away so I could start altering any discernible images, which overwhelmed me as I was not a digital artist at all but a hands-on paint and paper artist."

The manufacturer who initially contacted j.c. was growing weary with her agent's stalling and they asked her to reconsider doing the deal alone with them. "But now I was a contracted artist with my agency and couldn't do the deal without them. I felt stuck. My agent asked me to create a similar line with different looks for the manufacturer to which I obliged but the manufacturer didn't like; they wanted the original material. My agent asked me to trust her and her agency's years of proven success. I reluctantly agreed and the ultimately manufacturer walked away from the deal. I was crushed." She has no way of knowing if they would have gone through with a full program, but it's hard not to wonder how it  would have impacted her career and if she had pursued the deal on her own.

"My agency assured me that more deals would be on the horizon but I was asked to rework a large part of my portfolio, which turned into changing my style completely and soon my work didn't look like my work. I was also pressured to churn out very commercial art – wine, fruit, chefs, roosters, etc. I mean no disrespect to artists who thrive with this material; it's just not comfortable or enjoyable for me. I was prepared to change a few things and push past my comfort zone but this was on a whole new level. I knew they were trying to position me for what sells in the industry but it's pretty obvious that my style of art doesn't lend itself to oven mits and plate-ware, but is more suitable for canvases, greeting cards and specialty gifts. I felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole."

The "show season" was fast approaching and j.c. was asked to beef up her portfolio (though she already had nearly 400 images in about 8 categories). "I did nothing but eat, breathe and sleep art licensing for about 6 months and to the great detriment of my online shop which was barely bringing in any sales due to my neglect. I was also not allowed to share any new artwork in my shop or blog because it would ruin the element of surprise they were hoping to bring to manufacturers.

"Because they were having difficulty with me not being a digital artist, I was asked to scan each painting several times throughout the mixed media layering process which added hours of work to each image so that it could be digitally manipulated down the road. I was working 12-16 hour days, many times 7 days a week for no money with the hopes that something might work out. I was lured by the promise of a big launch at the Atlanta gift show, a press release, and some notoriety as a newly signed on artist with a prestigious agency - none of which happened. My artwork began to suffer and my self-esteem took a dive."

She further explains - "I was becoming completely miserable and began to realize that art licensing (or perhaps my agent) wasn't a good fit for me. My initial visions of submitting my work and collecting checks couldn't have been further from the truth. After 9 months of trying to make it work, I parted ways with my agent. I didn't collect a single penny and essentially worked 9 months for free. To say I was initially devastated by the whole experience is to put it lightly. It took me several months before I picked up a paintbrush again. I took a break, got my shop back in order so I could make some desperately needed income, and in the summer finally began creating again for the pure joy of creating artwork – not based on anyone's needs or desires but based on what came from my heart. Finally I was back to my old self."

© j.c. Spock
Recently j.c. was contacted by another art licensing agency inquiring about her artwork and interest in art licensing. "I admit, I was flattered but politely turned them down. I know how hard it is to get agency representation and didn't take the offer lightly, but I know in my heart that I’m not ready to entertain that option again for awhile. My experience, while painful, was very insightful and I realized how much I truly love the direct contact I have with my customers in my shop, the handmade process involved in making a greeting card or mounted print in my studio and having full and total control of what I create when I want to create it. I may not get on the shelves of Target and become a recognizable name, but I've learned to talk my ego down and we're both okay with that. Life has returned to peaceful, calm and balanced."

Will you ever consider art licensing again, I asked? "I'm not sure. I know it's a great opportunity for some artists and I don't discount the art licensing industry nor the agent I worked with; both clearly work for some. But right now, I'm really happy where I am. My shop is successful, I love what I do and I'm okay with slow and steady. I'm currently working on a large wholesale project within my state of Colorado and finding my niche with those boutiques and shops that are looking for something local and handmade. My current approach works for me and every artist has to make the determination for themselves whether art licensing (with or without an agent) is a good fit. If you are considering the option, please do your homework and explore each option and potential trade-offs thoroughly. Don't let the lure of money or fame detract from who you are as an artist. Be true to yourself and your core values and make an informed decision from that point of reference. Licensing your artwork can be a great opportunity, but it's not for everyone.  And that's okay too."

j.c. lives at 8,300' in the Colorado mountains with her husband and two pugs. She feels extremely grateful to be living her life as an artist, creating from the heart. She is currently on a social media fast but can be found on Etsy at and her portfolio can be viewed at