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:

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