Monday, April 29, 2013

Nurtured in Nature - Artist Peg Conley

Last year I walked both Surtex and the National Stationary Show, which are next to each other and loved both the exhibits. It was fun to see what new art and products come to the market but it was also very educational to see who does what. You can see many trends and also how art fits on products.

I personally love nature themes and have been a fan of florals and gardens for many years - they are so inspirational! My latest nature-inspired design was picked up this week by the fabulous Print & Pattern blog (scroll down to see my promo piece), and my matching postcards have now been mailed out to manufacturers, too. This is another step of the promo and marketing I have been working on for sometime.

A love of nature has also always been a part of artist Peg Conley's life. I met Peg at a local artist meeting where she mentioned she was going to exhibit at the NSS this May, in booth # 2043. I asked her if she could tell us her story and share some of her lovely work.

© Peg Conley
Peg grew up in Indiana and, she says, would often jump on her bike to ride out amongst the cornfields to sit by a creek and contemplate life. Since 1981 when she drove her VW bug "out West," she has lived in Salt Lake City, Seattle and most recently San Francisco.

All of these places are accessible to good hikes, beautiful gardens and exquisite scenery. She tells us about Nature's creations: the Beauty of a Flower, the Elegance of the Moon, the Simplicity of Bare Trees and Majesty of Mountains - all images that she captures in her watercolors. "The outdoors inspires me not only with the peace of mind that comes from breathing fresh air but also with the beauty that is inherent in Nature." As is evident in her work, she is "nurtured in Nature."

© Peg Conley
"I began licensing my art in 1999 when Brush Dance picked a few images for their Boxed Holiday line. I continually added images each year for both EDC (Every Day Cards) and their Holiday line of cards. In 2006, I had my first calendar licensed with Brush Dance." "In the Garden," her calendar, was a part of their line until 2012. Peg adds, "I began my own greeting card line called Words and Watercolors in 2010. I've been adding images and additional products ever since. Currently I have over 170 greeting cards in a variety of categories: birthday, inspiration, comfort, thank-you, love & friendship, anytime/blank, baby, wedding, congratulations, anniversary and holiday. Boxed notecards and memo list pads (with magnets) were added to the line in 2012. This year we launched wrapping paper in January. Last spring I had a big sit down with myself and brainstormed, a newsprint pad and markers allowing the creative juices to flow, on how I saw the future. I decided I would continue to pursue my own line of paper products but I wanted to license my art with manufacturers for a myriad of other products."

© Peg Conley
Peg attended the NSS for the first time last year and was very happy with the orders written for her Words and Watercolors line and inquiries into licensing that she received. "I'm happy to announce that my collection of quilting fabric will be available with Clothworks this fall. And I've just signed an agreement for my art on coasters with CoasterStone."

She is now busy preparing for this year's Stationery Show. As mentioned above, Words and Watercolors will be exhibiting in Booth #2043. "I'll have my greeting cards enlarged on foam core boards for display purposes. It is a great way to capture the attention of the buyers walking past the booth … a large image can stop them in their tracks as they take a moment to look more closely. From there I can easily engage with them," she adds.

As for her advice to other artists, Peg suggests this: "Dogged determination and persistence were traits I honed over a 25 year career in Corporate Sales. It was those traits plus my sales background that have enabled me to grow both my own line plus make contacts and follow up with licensing opportunities.

© Peg Conley
"I've been planting seeds and laying the groundwork the past 3 years and expect to see many rewards in 2013. My advice is stay with it, even when you get discouraged. Find a network of friends to talk to. I was lucky enough to find out about the Bay Area Licensing Artists group that meets once a month in Berkley. It's great to network and know you are not alone. Reach out to others, ask questions and have fun!"

Friday, April 26, 2013

An Art Licensing True Story - Artist Keiko Suzuki

Yesterday I got my postcards printed to be sent out to manufacturers around the country that will attend the SURTEX show in May. This is part of the promotional actions to make myself known before the show so people know where to find me and see my art if they want to connect up with me. This marketing step is one of the many I've been working on for a few weeks in anticipation of the exhibition. Here is the press I have gotten so far and more to come soon.

Art Buyer Magazine, Spring Summer Edition (page 8), picked up my press release and published in their NEWS section.

Carol Van Zandt's blog, A Laughing Gate published an interview featuring my art which was also re-posted in Paper.Li and various other forums - thank you Carol!

I have fun promoting my work but I love to promote other creatives so I am pleased today to introduce artist Keiko Suzuki. She was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and currently lives in Seattle, WA with her husband William.

Artist Keiko Suzuki
Keiko tells us: "After living in America and Australia plus spending nine years in the corporate world, I finally found creative work is the thing I love to do the most. Since I have had the good fortune to travel and have the support of my husband financially and inspirationally, my artistic ability has been a full-time love with discovering my form of art."

In 2011 Keiko discovered a book by a lady in Tokyo that used an innovative torn newspaper collage, she says. "I have been in the midst of a personal creative frenzy driven by a desire to share the world as I piece together the hues. The collage making technique was originally developed for seniors and physically challenged people to enjoy creating art safely and easily." Keiko share with us the basic process of this form of art making:

  1. Pick up a color piece
  2. Draw a shape with a wet brush on the color piece (so the paper is easily tearable in shape)
  3. Carefully tear the shape off from the color piece by hand
  4. Paste the shape on a piece of paper with watered starch glue
  5. Repeat the process from 1-4 to complete the art.
"Other than using a pointed tool for more detailed work, no cutting tools are used," she says. The simplicity, the soft and warm impression, and eco-friendliness of the art struck her heart when she first found it and she adds: "I could not stop myself creating the newspaper collage art ever since. It brings back my favorite childhood pastime of drawing."

"In mid 2012 I opened my shop first on Etsy as Bless Hue. This allowed for a grassroots type of growth with opinions from other artists and people enjoying art. The next step was to protect my work by copyrighting my pieces of art. Then I found a site,, that allowed for some form of royalty payment based on purchased pieces of my art, whether on a cup, t-shirt or cell phone cover. This furthered my belief in my artistic ability and enhanced my desire to share my eco-friendly art with the world. My art is also shown on other sites like and The name Bless Hue came from 'Bless you' and my appreciation of beautiful colors."

I asked Keiko what was exciting about her creative work and she said that the whole collage making process is very exciting for her. "Collecting as many color pieces of newspaper as possible for my pallet, getting an inspiration, sketching a model, selecting the right colors from my collection of newspapers for each shape, tracing the each shape on the newspapers with wet brush, separate the shapes from the newspapers, pasting them, and adding details to complete. When I finally complete the work with the impression just the way I felt in my real life, I feel exhilarated."

She is also preparing for SURTEX 2013 where she will exhibit for the first time! Of this project Keiko says: "The preparation has been taking endless amounts of learning which I enjoy. Thanks to the generosity of experienced licensors, I have been developing uncountable knowledge through their advice online. I am finalizing the booth design, the press kit, the promotional material, and the portfolio for the show."

Since she is also a newbie in art licensing field, Keiko has relied heavily on the advice of many forums and she is taking that advice on the ins and outs of the art licensing market "in stride," per her own words. Also the webinars provided by SURTEX have been immensely helpful in her preparation for attending SURTEX.

So what are her future aspirations and goals? "Given the fact that SURTEX is the big time in art licensing, I would like my art to be known by many people the world over! Through the contracts to be had, through individuals and firms at SURTEX, I also will be a step closer to inspiring the world to see yesterday's newspaper as a possible treasure trove of inspirational, eco-friendly art. Always follow your passion and breathe joy into the life of those around you!"

Good luck to you Keiko and your lovely work - have a wonderful show!

Keiko's website:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Interview with the Surface Pattern Design Guild

© 2013 Alessandra Colombo
The countdown to the SURTEX 2013 has begun: as of today we have 27 days to the actual show! Are you ready?

I am a little behind myself, just to say - I can't panic but I'd like to! My printed main booth banner arrived and it looks good, phew! My postcards are being printed and the artwork is in the queue to start printing tomorrow. The press kit is designed and other colorful promo has been sent to the various sites that will publish it ... so what else is there to be done, one might wonder. Lots and lots of other important details, including the booth signs and decorations, product samples, office supplies, packaging and shipping arrangements, and of course several other things that I can't even remember right now.

I really needed a break from all this so it is my pleasure to introduce a special guest interview this week with a group of fun creatives from the San Francisco Bay area, better known as the Surface Pattern Design Guild. I met several of the members some months ago and it's very exciting to have them as part of our artist community - I welcome you all to The Moon from My Attic blog!

The Moon from My Attic: What do you do? The Surface Pattern Design Guild (SPDG) is a community of professionals in the textile, surface, and pattern design industry. We are a professional resource that is a 100% volunteer run, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support our members by connecting them with networking opportunities, business resources, and continuing education as well as offer them invaluable exposure. Membership in SPDG is open to designers, illustrators, artists, and students within our industry. The majority of our members provide commercial design services, often intended for large scale production, for a variety of markets, including apparel, home furnishing, home fashion and tabletop, quilting and crafts, paper products, and even electronics.

Artwork by SPDG member Pamela Farmer
© Pamela Farmer
A group of us started SPDG about a year and half ago. We felt that there was no real professional organization like this (anywhere!) and that there was a real need for one. We began meeting in members' homes, but now have grown large enough that we meet monthly in the Finnish Hall in Berkeley. While the bulk of our members reside in Northern California, we have also built an international membership with members from Chile, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and throughout the US.

Artwork by SPDG member Wendy Lin
© Wendy Lin
TMFMA: Tell us about your Guild. What's exciting about it? What's your main source of inspiration? There are so many things about SPDG that are exciting! First, there are all the fabulous education and networking opportunities we provide. Every month we have a meeting where members not only get to mingle but they also learn something. We frequently have guest speakers which have included experts on copyright, licensing, building your own website, using social media, trends (both apparel and home furnishings), working with fabric manufacturers, presenting at Surtex, and using Photoshop and Illustrator (Adobe was our presenter in January!), to name a few.

Second, we work hard to give our members exposure that is otherwise difficult to get. We make sure every member has a link from our website to theirs (if they have a website). Every other month, we feature a different member on our website and put their artwork in our website header. We also post members' artwork on Pinterest so that they can further expand their audience without "self-promoting."

Artwork by SPDG member Kim Anderson
© Kim Anderson
But the most exciting thing about SPDG really is its members. Everyone comes to SPDG with a different background, perspective, and level of experience. We have some members who are students and others who are more experienced. Some focus on designs for apparel while others focus on designs for quilting and still others focus on designs for interiors, paper products, and electronics. Everyone has such a unique aesthetic ... and really that provides the most inspiration. Every time someone shows their work, in person or online, it just creates an environment of excitement that helps to elevate all of our work. Check out some of our members work on our SPDG Pinterest Page.

TMFMA: Is there any particular project you are currently working on that is exciting? We have several great events coming up in the next couple of months. In April is a webinar entitled "How to Find Work as a Surface Pattern Designer." The webinar is for SPDG-members only and will be put on by Michelle Fifis of Pattern Observer. Also in April, at our regular monthly meeting we will have demonstrations of advanced Photoshop and Illustrator techniques for several skills such as creating repeats, color matching, and masking, all of which are sure to add to your technical arsenal. And in May we are also super excited to be able to present a panel of speakers that will be talking about the nitty-gritty of starting your own business!

Artwork by SPDG member Ben Corrales
© Ben Corrales
TMFM: Some say trends are not important. What's your view about this topic as related to the industry? Following trends is really a personal design choice and may depend on the company one works for. Some of our members follow them, some don't. But whether we follow them in our design work or not, we love to hear about them. Last Fall, we had a great speaker, Fran Yoshioka, who gave us a fascinating presentation on trends for both women's apparel for Fall 2013 and reported on Maison et Object from the September 2102 show (home furnishings).

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? We really would like to become the go-to place for surface pattern designers to network and get additional educational opportunities. And we'd also like to be the go-to place for those who would hire surface pattern designers. It's so easy to browse our list of members and view their websites to see if someone has a design aesthetic that matches up with a particular company.

Artwork by SPDG members Sarah Schwartz and 
Ruby Geisler of Sarah & Ruby Design Studio
© Sarah Schwartz & Ruby Geisler 
Another goal is to continue to develop our sense of community. We really believe that every member has something to offer and we can all learn from each other. The more we get to know each other and interact, the more we all benefit. One of the ways we're working to build our community is that we've started a private conversation group for our members where we encourage them to ask anything about surface pattern design. It's really becoming an invaluable resource for our members.

Find out more about the Surface Pattern Design Guild on their website:

Artwork by SPDG member Jill Turney
© Jill Turney
Artwork by SPDG member Jennifer Thayer
© Jennifer Thayer
Artwork by SPDG member Wendy Arbeit
© Wendy Arbeit

Friday, April 19, 2013

An Art Licensing True Story - Artist Mittie Cuetara

I have designed a postcard to send out to manufacturers at the end of the month to promote my Surtex booth. With exactly a month left to go I am going to be dedicating more time to preparing for the show and wrapping up the many details involved with it - so many! The checklist I have been using is some 4-5 pages long ... and there are far too many items still left to check off!

© 2013 Alessandra Colombo

Since this is my first time exhibiting on my own, I invited a couple of newbies that will debut at Surtex in May to keep me company and to share their stories along with mine. This week artist Mittie Cuetara tells us about her journey into art licensing.

© Mittie Cuetara
Mittie says:" I've been drawing ever since I can remember. As a child I was always getting yelled at for drawing on someone's homework or a shopping list. I just love the feel of making marks on a surface. At home I have a giant whiteboard that my son and I draw on constantly."

She has a BFA from the Museum School in Boston - "I think I have held every possible art related job," she adds. When she moved to California, she started a greeting card company with some friends, which they ran for three years then sold. "After the birth of my first child, I began publishing children's picture books with Dutton in New York." In fact The New York Times called Mittie "The Dorothy Parker of children’s books" for the pithy verse and humorous illustrations in Terrible Teresa, the first of her three published children's picture books. She also publishes her cartoons in Funny Times.

© Mittie Cuetara
Mittie goes on, saying: "I began to work as a teaching artist in schools and libraries as the result of promoting my books through store readings and workshops. I learned about art licensing when I went back to school to study fabric design, and it seemed like a great place for my work." She often works by scanning in sketches and manipulating them in Photoshop or Illustrator. "I love juvenile prints, florals, and character designs! I think a unifying theme in my work is a sense of humor and my love of drawing. People say they can always recognize my style, which is funny because I don't always see it."

"I'm very jazzed about the line I'm working on right now! I'm using cut papers and it's  very liberating for me to do something SO different! It was inspired by a Resist project I do with my students involving oil pastels and watercolors. We end up with BEAUTIFUL papers that I use to do collage projects with them."

© Mittie Cuetara
Mittie says she always has her sketchbook with her and she find inspiration everywhere. "A silly looking dog, a beautiful scene on a hike, I love to take these images and create a tossed conversational print, or a fabric line. I also find inspiration from my students, they constantly remind me how much fun it is to be able to make art!"

"As I am new to the art licensing biz, my goal in the last few years has been to make my work more commercial without losing any of its quirky charm." She wants to use all her art-making experience and ability to create exciting beautiful images that can really work for a broad range of products. 

Mittie concludes saying that, to see if she has succeeded in her goals, "I am jumping off the Art Licensing cliff and plunging into SURTEX this year. I figure, whatever happens, it will be a learning experience! Come by booth #484, Mittie City, to cheer me on!"

© Mittie Cuetara

Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Thoughts About the Surtex Experience - by Guest Artist Tara Reed

Surtex is really around the corner! About one month from now artists and exhibitors from around the world will leave their studios and will exhibit at this prestigious licensing show in NYC. This is my first year directly exhibiting - as studio•Alex - and I am looking forward to meet artists, agents and manufacturers and to present my new collections to companies interested in potential licensing opportunities!

Amongst many veteran artists and exhibitors is Tara Reed, who is celebrating something very special: 10 years in art licensing! Here is what she has to say about Surtex:

Artist Tara Reed
"There is a mystery around trade shows for those who have never exhibited and a special mix of anticipation and anxiety that is unique to each artist who does. For three days each year, our lives exist within a box on the show floor of the Jacob Javitz Center in New York. 2013 marks my 10th Anniversary in the art licensing industry. I have exhibited at 14 art licensing trade shows and attended almost a dozen industry-specific trade shows. Here are some tidbits of wisdom I have picked up along the way.

You will never feel ready…

…but as I tell myself and others, you will always have what you need. I have yet to meet an artist who says, "Wow! I got all the art done that I wanted to bring to the show about a month ago and couldn't think of another thing to do so I've been catching up on some great shows on NetFlix." I always want to create more than I have time for. I never get it all done but it always turns out fine.

It gets easier but is never easy…

With experience comes more familiarity and confidence in the show process and a greater sense of calm. When you've come to the Javitz Center for 10 years in a row you know where the bathrooms are. You can find the elevator with your eyes closed. You see friendly faces in adjoining booths and feel like you are home.

You get to know what works in your booth and what wasn't worth the time or money. You get to know manufacturers and have a rhythm to your business.

There is always some level of anxiety…

A sense of familiarity with the process doesn't exclude anxiety however. I remember seeing artists having mini-reunions in the aisles during setup and thinking, "WOW! They have it all figured out! They know what they are doing and aren't nervous at all!” Now that I too have people to hug and catch up with in the aisles and have gotten to know lots of amazing artists I realize that most of us become anxious about the show in one way or another.

For me, there is always that worry in the back of my mind that I didn't get enough done or I didn't use the right colors or choose the right themes … what if I have spent all this time and energy and money to get here and don't make those connections to move my business forward? Intellectually I know that art licensing is a process, that I know what I'm doing and that everything will be fine. However, my emotions sometimes have a different interpretation of the situation!

It's an emotional roller coaster…

There will be times when things are popping! You are having great conversations, the booth is busy and you are feeling full of amazing potential. Then there will be the time when it feels like no one has come down your aisle for hours and you wonder if it was all worth it…

I go through a wide range of emotions at each and every show. What I always tell myself is this: "You are as prepared as you can be. You will meet the people you are meant to meet and all will be well." It's a great mantra for the down times … you'll be just fine without it during the busy times.

When you are in your booth you are a sales person as well as an artist…

It's important to remember that. Most artists don't want to think about themselves as sales people but when you are in your booth, your main job is to connect with manufacturers and retailers, find out what they need and show them how you can fit their needs. That's sales and guess what? 9 times out of 10, no one can do it better than you when you get aligned with the process. No one knows your art better than you, your style, what you are working on that might not be done and what you are capable of. No one is more invested in your success either.

If you are exhibiting, prepare your mental mindset as much as your booth design before the show. Know how to answer basic questions and know that you should ask questions too! SURTEX is a time to learn about what a company does, who they work with, what they make and where it is sold, how they work with artists and more … we don't do this every day so it is important to think about these issues ahead of time.

You will make new friends…

When you spend three days next to or staring across the aisles, you often form a bond. You will make new friends who actually understand what you do – go figure! Maybe you will meet the people you've been chatting with on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. SURTEX isn't only a great place to meet and interact with licensees face-to-face but also a place to meet artists.

Your leads are like gold…

Artists don't invest in a trade show just for fun. You come to meet people, build relationships and get new leads. Treat your leads like gold. Don't leave them in your booth overnight and don't leave them out on the table unattended. Sadly, I have heard of instances of leads and notes "going missing" – how devastating! Don't take a chance and treat them like cash – because they are what will put cash into your business.

It will be over before you know it…

Before you know it you will be exhausted and ready to tear down your booth. But not before 6 pm – those are the rules! It will all be over but the follow up … and that's the most important part.

Follow up is key…

Very few licensing deals are finalized on the show floor. Most of your leads will involve sending art for review, tweaking some things, creating new art, etc. Without follow up, your business isn't going to go far.

Have a system in place before you get to the show for how you will follow up afterwards. It is the rare licensee who contacts you before you first follow up with them – but if you do have that happen, celebrate and get back to them pronto! If you don't follow up, you might as well have stayed home. There is a lot of competition in this industry and always more than one choice of art that can work – so your professionalism, follow up and follow through can be the difference between getting a deal or not.

SURTEX is a piece of an ongoing process…

The SURTEX trade show is a huge part of the marketing and relationship building process in my business. I never get everything done that I want to before any given show. If I get stressed about it, I remind myself that art needs are continual and manufacturers will want new Christmas, Coffee or Wine art next year too if I don't get it all done this year. Everything is going to be OK…

Final thoughts

If you are exhibiting at SURTEX – I'll see you in May! In these last few weeks remember to be kind to yourself. Work consistently, get ready and then enjoy the process. If you have a crisis of confidence, figure out what to do or tell yourself to get back on track. The mental game of the show is as important now as creating art. Breathe, eat, sleep, create … and have a great show!

Here's to your creative success! ~Tara

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Art Licensing True Story - by Artist Jennifer Wambach

I opened up my Spoonflower shop last year because I wanted to get fabric samples made of my patterns and include the swatches in my Surtex press kit. I thought they worked out really nicely so I then decided to put some of the designs up for sale and have been lucky enough to sell several of them. While exploring contests and other shops I ran into so many great designers and artists - Jennifer Wambach was one of them. She had such lovely work and had successfully won many contests. She is a very diverse and talented artist.

I invited her to share her story with us on how she became a licensed artist through Spoonflower.

Jennifer grew up in a small town in western New York in a 1950's ranch house with lots of art and craft supplies around, thanks to a mom who loves to sew and enjoys pretty much every craft except cross stitch, she says. "She and my dad always encouraged my creative pursuits, although projects like drawing our family portrait in permanent marker on the basement floor and dumping glue on boxes of fabric scraps to get that magical sticky result was probably not what she had in mind." Still, they didn't try too hard to talk her out of going to art school - Jennifer has a BFA in painting and drawing and a certificate in botanical illustration.

© Jennifer Wambach
After college, she moved to Chicago where she "meandered around the world of graphic and product design, dabbled in children's book illustration, earned a certificate in botanical illustration, did some digital scrapbook kit design, made some collage and found art pieces; I tried to do some oil painting and colored pencil drawing, but just couldn't find my niche."

"I met a wonderful guy," she continues, saying "we got married, had three kids, and I stayed at home with them and did freelance design when they were napping. One afternoon I stumbled across Spoonflower quite by accident and not having much of a clue how to make a good repeat, put together a print and entered my first Fabric of the Week contest (my design placed #15 out of 64 entries.) It was quite addicting and fun!"

"Right about the time I discovered Spoonflower, my husband bought me a Silhouette SD digital diecutting machine for Christmas." Jennifer signed her first licensing contract with Silhouette soon after (2010) and won a few Spoonflower Fabric of the Week contests around the same time, two very wonderful and coincidental occurrences that started her out on her art licensing journey. "It was a perfect fit, because it draws on (ha ha) a bit of everything I love," she concludes.

© Jennifer Wambach
"My absolute favorite thing and what amazes me every single day is the opportunity to draw nearly anything I want! It seems wrong somehow that I can use my goofy little drawings to create designs to sell through the Silhouette store and then use them to make fabric collections which I'll sell on Spoonflower and send to fabric companies for licensing. After many years of corporate design (same old projects over and over again, like brochures with very limited parameters and using a very limited set of photos) it's amazing - AMAZING!!! - that I can draw anything, and even more so, that people will want to buy it," Jennifer confesses.

© Jennifer Wambach
The favorite of all her artistic pursuits is probably fabric design. "I can get so completely involved in whatever one I'm working on that I don't realize I'm hungry, I forget about whatever I just set to cook on the burner - I just want to tweak this one little thing, it'll just take 30 seconds - and don't notice when both my legs have gone completely numb because I haven't shifted position in two hours," she says.

As for inspiration, I asked Jennifer what she does. Her answer is that it's a bizarre mishmash of all sorts of niche, fringe, and completely unrelated and random things, like mid-century design, florals, advertising kitsch, Van Gogh, fabric, graffiti, Renaissance art, children's drawings, toys, bright color palettes, her pets (an elderly cat, a puppy, three loud cockatiels and a red betta), interior design, kids' clothes, abstract expressionism, Degas, folk art, robots, NOVA PBS shows, antiques, music, early 20th century illustrators, and her current food obsession: expensive chocolate combined with weird things like horseradish or paprika.

© Jennifer Wambach
Jennifer is running 150 miles per hour and produces beautiful products while doing so!

She says:" it sounds cliche, but my favorite is usually the newest one I'm working on. Right now I've been semi-obsessed with the wrought iron/chalkboard trend and flowers, and am working on some new (pretty, not kitchy! sort of new for me) fabric collections and Silhouette designs inspired by those. I'm also hoping to do more watercolor (probably have to wait 'til kid #3 is old enough to know not to grab everything off every table within his reach), and am experimenting to find a way to incorporate those paintings into my repeats." She also adds: "I also really enjoy the 3D shapes I come up with for the Silhouette store. It's a challenge sometimes to make them work, since paper sometimes bends or resists bending in ways I didn't imagine when I pre-designed the finished object in my head, but I love figuring things out."

© Jennifer Wambach

I asked Jennifer what she has in mind for future aspirations. "In the short term, I'd like to finish the redesign of my website,, and go through the boxes of art supplies and really organize and put them away in my new "office" - a corner of the family room with shelves and desks.

© Jennifer Wambach

Both of those goals will hopefully lead to me doing much more licensed art: fabric collections, home decor and stationery. I also want to expand my Silhouette designs to include more intricate and more 3D shapes. And finally, I definitely want to get back to watercolor painting."

© Jennifer Wambach

Find out more about Jennifer Wambach:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sophisticated and Wearable Palettes - Artist Victoria Johnson

Most of my art supplies for the Surtex booth have arrived and I am about to order my booth wall panels - the artwork is completed and I cross my fingers that once printed they will match my design! I also completed the artwork for my Surtex postcard that will be mailed out to all my contacts at the end of the month. In about a week or so I will start printing my tear-sheets and begin the endless process of composing my collection "binders," although this year I will present my art in a different way...but I won't show it until just before the show!

While continuing to prepare for the show in May I will keep posting interviews and articles featuring artists, agents, and manufacturers from around the world. This week I am happy to introduce to our community artist Victoria Johnson, my English print designer friend living in Rome, my favorite city of all!

Artist Victoria Johnson
The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? Before Rome I lived in New York for twelve years, during which time I co-founded and ran a successful design studio specialising in women's wear and paper product design. I came to Rome with my Roman husband and four year old daughter four years ago. Now we also have a little boy who's two and a half. During the "baby years" I continued to design periodically, supplying a licensing agent with work whenever I could. This enabled me stay to involved in my field and become familiar with licensing. When my son was old enough to go to nursery I decided to dispense with agents and promote myself as a brand. My close friend Lara, who has a background in advertising, helped me research and build a client base and re-establish contact with key industry names.

© Victoria Johnson
TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? My work is illustrative and designed with the homewares and paper products markets in mind but I think it is heavily influenced by years spent designing for clothing. I like to use sophisticated, "wearable" palettes and a lot of my imagery and compositions are suitable for use on fabric. I used to incorporate a lot of vintage elements into my women's wear designs and I think my appreciation for vintage fabrics and motifs is evident in my work now. I produce nearly all my work in Illustrator. I used Photoshop for ten or more years but spent a grueling three months mastering Illustrator because it is simply so much easier, quicker and more editable. Changing colourways in Illustrator is a dream.

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? I'm very excited by the possibilities that can be explored in my work both artistically and entrepreneurially. I like the parameters set by the industry. I like the fact that I have to problem solve with my art: find ways to be innovative while sticking to seasonal themes, think about the context in which the art will be used, and create something different yet broadly appealing.

© Victoria Johnson
It's immensely satisfying to see my artwork featured on a product, to arrange and photograph it and post it to my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and then receive feedback. It's fantastic that with the help of social media I can see my work complete a full cycle from designing to selling to production to promotion to feedback to designing again. It's also fantastic that the design world and all its influences are at my fingertips through Twitter and Pinterest. I feel that the digitalisation of the design world has opened up so much opportunity and that there are so many ways that my business can develop and grow while I'm sitting in my studio in Rome. I love the fact that my work is in fact a giant, multi-faceted puzzle and I get to spend my days building and putting the pieces together.

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? I'm about to do some Easter designs. I haven't done any for years. I'm quite interested in Ukrainian painted eggs as I have a close friend from the Ukraine who has offered to show me and the children how to do them. They are very intricately decorated so I'm hoping I'll be inspired.

© Victoria Johnson
TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. My experience with licensing has been varied. It's a long process and it can take up to eighteen months to see a royalty payment. With an agent I felt very disconnected from the clients (and the agent!) and often wondered if I was producing the right type of work. However, I did sign a number of agreements and gained a lot of insight into how licensing works. Some licensees paid well and others very little and I quickly realised that there are few guarantees. Since I decided to dispense with an agent I've signed several agreements that look promising and for the most part am waiting to see the outcome. Last year I licensed five designs to a leading fabric manufacturer and they paid a reasonable advance immediately and sent samples promptly. Since then I've licensed another two designs with them. I think the key is to have as many agreements in place as possible.

TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share about your work/art? My biggest tip to anyone hoping to build a creative business would be to make a plan. It doesn't have to include spreadsheets and financial projections but it should be a skeletal map of your intentions – where exactly you're trying to get to and the various steps you will take to get there within a loose chronological framework. If you're working with someone else I would pass on some advice once given to me by an accountant – delegate! Have clearly defined roles that don't overlap. That way nothing slips through the cracks.

© Victoria Johnson
Artistically, I would say that a key component to commercial viability is trend awareness. Pay close attention to what your peers are doing, check their blogs, follow them on Pinterest, see who's winning the online design competitions, look at what's selling in stores and online, visit a tradeshow and make notes.  Above all, listen to your potential clients and use their suggestions. They know better than anyone what's selling and what isn't.

Generally I'd suggest that motivation – or a lack of it – can determine the outcome of any endeavour and maintaining a level of faith in what you're doing is vital. This is what makes you able to show up at your studio every day and think creatively. Positivity and optimism are skills (they don't come naturally to everyone) and you can learn them.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I've been working as Victoria Johnson Design for just over a year now and feel that it's been a year of positioning the chess pieces. I have a comprehensive online presence, a well-organised, expanding database of clients (many of whom I've built a relationship with), and a sizable collection of work that covers many commercial themes.

© Victoria Johnson
Lara and I are still trying and testing ways in which to reach clients with my work but we're steadily establishing a rhythm that appears to be working. This year I would like to focus on producing a much higher volume of work to be sent out at a faster pace and getting more online exposure. I'm also looking into the possiblity of producing a limited product range of my own. I'm quite excited about this but am a little bit intimidated by the logistics. If anyone has any advice to offer I'd be happy to take it!

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