Monday, March 4, 2013

Themed Imagery In Art Licensing - Artist Jennifer Brinley

I have compiled a list of about 30 manufacturers that I really like and that I think could be a good match for my art. Some I have already contacted or submitted my work to and got a good response back but many don't know who I am. So my next step is to contact the ones I haven't talked to yet and give them an intro about my work, and eventually set up appointments for Surtex to show them my collections. I hope to meet many of them personally!

Speaking of personal contact, I had the great pleasure to meet Jennifer Brinley by chance at the Atlanta Gift show this past January - and it was so much fun to see her designs all over the market! Jennifer is an artist who not only makes beautiful art but her work is so classic, yet contemporary, that it feels simple and effortless. This is her exclusive interview that she kindly agreed to share with us!

Artist Jennifer Brinley
The Moon From My Attic: Please introduce yourself - I'm an artist/designer and I've been working as a licensed artist for almost 15 years.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? What's exciting for me is thinking about the variety of products out there and what I would like to see on those products. That's where I start. Then I look for inspiration in home decor magazines, design blogs, art and design books, and of course Pintrest. The excitement comes from being able to combine and reconstruct different elements and influences in a new way. The other exciting part is collaborating and brainstorming with manufacturers and product developers and coming up with product ideas that will be fun, appealing, and useful to customers.

© Jennifer Brinley - Bloom Collection
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My first inspiration was Walt Disney. When I was young I wanted to be an animator for Disney – I watched the show, had all the books, and drew Bambi constantly. Another early inspiration was my grandmother who always had scraps of fabric and made her own patchwork tablecloths, pillows and toaster covers. She kept a garden full of billowy flowers and distressed iron furniture. She was "boho chic" before it was fashionable. During college I discovered Georgia O'Keefe and Cezanne and was inspired by the colors and boldness of their work.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I mostly work in watercolor and gouache and then scan the work and manipulate it in Photoshop. I try to paint in layers when possible, it's more work initially but comes in handy later when you need to separate elements for setting up product layouts.

© Jennfier Brinley - Bloom Porch
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I've been licensing my work for almost 15 years. Before licensing I started out designing T-shirts in the late 1980's and early '90's. I actually had my own T-shirt company and about 40 accounts. I was living in San Francisco when the 1989 earthquake hit and realized I didn't want the responsibility of warehousing and shipping. I began cold calling different T-shirt companies and showing my work and was able to drop my business and sell my designs to others. I worked for Crazy Shirts for years as well as Mervyn's Department Stores, The Nature Company, and Discovery Channel Stores. I was getting bored just designing T-shirts and through serendipity met my licensing agent while we were both making color copies at Kinko's.

TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? My agents have always had a booth at Surtex and for a while at the Licensing Show also. So altogether, through my agents' booths I've probably exhibited 15 or 17 times.

© Jennifer Brinley - Americana Rooster, Certified Int'l
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I work with a family of agents. Levison Design is a family run agency owned by Ruth, Peter and their son Mark Levison. We've been friends as well as "partners" and have seen the ups and downs of this business together.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I started in licensing around the beginning of what I call the "salad days," the early 2000's during the expansion of the housing bubble when everyone was buying dinnerware and home decor products. Those were good times for art licensing. The recession of 2008 was like a clearing house and only the most adaptive companies survived. It was a tough time for artists as well and people really had to hone their skills and get used to smaller checks. Those salad days are unlikely to return, however in the last couple of years things seemed to have picked up, people are more optimistic and customers are buying again. I think people will always want to "refresh" their home environment. Home decor and giftware products are typically an easy-on-the-pocketbook way to do that.

© Jennifer Brinley - French Butterflies, Jason Products
TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? What do you think the main upcoming trends are? Some manufacturers seem to be asking for coastal themes. Nature themes continue to be strong as well.

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 would say study the home decor market and have a full portfolio. Try to have something to cover each of the major themes - this industry is based on "themed imagery." Maybe think about which product categories you want to be in and tailor your work towards those categories. Most importantly, give yourself time to transition into art licensing, there's a lag time of a year sometimes from creation of the art to licensing to manufacturing to distribution to sales. The artist is the last on the list to see a check. If you decide this is what you want to do, bear in mind that transition period.

© Jennifer Brinley - Chilies Rug, Homefires
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? It's a career that takes more time than you would think. But if it's something you love to do, you'd be spending that time doing the research and work anyway. If I won the lottery tomorrow I would still do this.

Find Jennifer Brinley here:

© Jennifer Brinley - Proud Peacocks, Cypress Home


Teresa Woo-Murray said...

Thank you Alex and Jennifer for this interview! I've admired Jennifer's products that seem to be almost everywhere. I even saw them in a window display in France a few years back!

Andrea Brooks said...

Thanks to both of you for this great interview.
Very well written Alex. Interviews are not easy to write up.i
Jennifer love your designs. You are definitely an inspiration in art licensing.

Patti said...

Lovely work.