Monday, April 28, 2014

Jenny Morgan, A Fresh Bunch and The International Home and Housewares Show

My special correspondent Jenny Morgan was able to attend The International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago a few weeks ago and has written a brief article to share with us. But before I talk about that, I'd like to introduce Jenny and her group of collaborative artists, A Fresh Bunch, as my guest this week.

"A Fresh Bunch came out of a personal desire to focus on my strengths and passions," says Jenny. In 2001 she had started a small wholesale stationery line because she loved design and working with paper, but by 2008 found that she was spending her days on things supporting the business that absolutely sucked the creativity out of her - shipping, accounting, customer service, and production.

It turned out that other designers were finding themselves in the same boat, so A Fresh Bunch started with a group of like-minded artists who wanted to focus on art. That naturally led to A Fresh Bunch creating a platform that allows artists and clients to both focus on what they each do best. This means making it easy for artists to create their most marketable work and to get that work in front of clients while also making it easy for clients to review and select great work.

Jenny adds, "Behind the scenes we offer tutorials on a variety of topics, professional briefs for every client assignment, and one on one feedback on all work submitted to us, the goal being that artists learn and grow while being a member of the Bunch - really we're like a webinar, e-course, online critique forum, and licensing agency rolled into one."

Artists: Courtney Capone, Stacy Montgomery, Tracy Taft-Myers, Tracey Sonneborn, Megan Hain, Marianne Mandrell, Michelle Gemmel, Melissa Nicholson, Siobhan Lynott, Inga Wilmink, Andrea Rincon, Eryn J. Carlisle, Zoe Wodarz, Bella Edgley, Michelle Doran,Onneke Van Wardenburg, Gaby Braun, Miranda Mol, Kim Siebold, Cat & Xenos Mesa

A Fresh Bunch occasionally issues a call for applications via industry blogs, but in general applications come to them via word of mouth. "Because so much of our business happens online we are very comfortable 'meeting' artists via our online application process. Our membership is capped at 75 artists because of the behind the scenes work we do with each member artist," Jenny explains. Sometimes it depends on what they're working on at the time they receive an application, but in general they want to see an artist who has a unique style, strong illustration/character creation skills, and great typography skills.

Artists: Allison Holdridge, Bethania Lima, Maria Jose Bautista, Gill Eggleston, Marcia Copeland, Liz May, Yenty Jap, Susanna Nousiainen, Petra Wolff, Liz Ablashi, Cecilia Garcia Lanus, Angie Bowman, Kamie Rudisill, Petra Kern, Vanessa Raidy, Tracey Atkinson, Molly Broadley, JoDitt Williams, Laura Mitzelfelt, Jenny Morgan.

Jenny also says that the best way to know whether your work is right for licensing is to shop and to think like a product - what type of art do you typically see on products you love? How could your artistic style translate to those products? "Typically when we pass on an application it's because the art looks like it's been created without product development in mind or it's overly simple," she further explains.

Then she goes on, saying, "the internet is great for many things but it can be a dangerous place for artists - it's easy to get sidetracked by all the visuals and to confuse what someone shows in their portfolio or online shop with what actually sells to the end customer. On the internet, you are whatever you say you are so try to block the noise online and focus your attention to the art on products that are flying off the shelves in stores - you only make money in licensing if the products with your art SELL!"

The International Home & Housewares Show

What are the general trends & colors?

  • Eco-friendly, reusable products, from shopping bags to containers to lunch boxes were everywhere.
  • Design driven everyday objects for the home: pots & pans, spatulas, trivets, measuring spoons, brooms, sponges - all are sporting color and pattern.
  • Products thematically aimed at food, beer and wine enthusiasts.
  • Feminine Aprons - a very defined waist and pretty patterns.
  • Indigo, shown in a range from navy to greenish-blue was the stand out color.
  • Nautical and Ocean themes were hot for adult and kids items.

What's selling?

  • Design driven everyday objects and preferably reusable, eco-friendly products.

Ladelle Aprons & oven mitts
Prairie Dog Shopping Totes

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nature as Inspiration ~ Artist Kiran Ravilious

It has been a very busy week in preparation for Surtex in May, which is really just around the corner. At this time of the year I wish I had already completed more work although I have some 10-15 new collections to show. So many ideas, so little time...!

One of my pleasures when attending a trade show is to promote my design work through magazine ads, emails, postcards, blog articles, press releases, and most recently YouTube videos! This year my theme is mostly focused on nature, with florals and Alpine woodland paintings on the main stage. My postcard image below illustrates one of my collections called Wild Roses.

© 2014 Alessandra Colombo

Nature is a source of inspiration for many artists who create their own unique style of work. Recently I came across an artist who is similarly inspired by all things natural and whose work itself is also inspiring to me.

Artist Kiran, her dog Daisy and her design work in the background
I invited designer and printmaker Kiran to tell us more about her design and print making process. Her style is defined as naïve and she creates lovely yet bold botanical prints.

Kiran is from Leicester, England, where she lives with her husband Ben, their two daughters, and their dog Daisy. She says, "I carve my designs on lino and handprint them directly onto fabrics. I started printing about 4 years ago and my work has since grown to include single hand printed cushions, bags etc. and in 2013, I produced a range of printed fabrics and wallpapers."

© Kiran
Kiran's creative work starts with a design being transformed from a sketch to being transferred to a block, to carving it, then inking it and printing it and finally, for her fabrics and wallpapers, transferring it to the computer and manipulating the image.

"My main source of inspiration is nature but strong bold graphics are also very inspiring to me along with interesting colour combinations."

She is currently working on a very exciting project that includes a new set of designs. "I'm not sure if they'll come to anything but it's fun trying something new and different to what I normally do."

© Kiran
Kiran uses Twitter and Facebook to interact with other creatives and to find out what is going on in the industry. She adds, "There are journalists and stylists on Twitter whom I've followed who have gone on to feature me on their blogs and so on. I also love using Pinterest for inspiration and it's also a great way for people to discover my work.

My work has been featured in a few magazines lately. I have never approached any magazine due to a lack of confidence more than anything else and thinking everything needs to be perfect before I even think of approaching them. I think perhaps they like the idea of 'discovering' someone new but I know sending them an email with an introduction and a few photos or a link to your website can be useful." So true!

© Kiran
An important tip she shares with us is to keep it at. "Try and work on something new as often as you can. Sometimes being an all-in-one person where you have to do almost everything can be very draining but it takes a few years before people start taking your work seriously. If you're good at what you do and if you believe in yourself, then so will others!"

"I hope to be able to continue doing what I'm doing and to expand my product range!" - Kiran concludes.

Find out more about Kiran:

And be sure to check out her video of her printmaking process, where she also shows some of her well as introduces us to her dog Daisy!

Visit Kiran's studio and see her at work!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

To Awaken a Sense of Wonder - Artist Nicole Piar and the Lovely Ink Project

Sometime ago I received an invite to be part of a project called Lovely Ink. The purpose of the project is to uplift, to awaken wonder, and sprinkle inspiration around the world. I thought it was a good mission to contribute to.

Artist Nicole Piar is the soul behind this inspiring project and has been curating its launch and marketing. All in all, we are ten artists, including myself, Nicole, Cori Dantini, Jessica Swift, Dari Design Studio, Rachael Taylor, Anne Waters, Lizzie McKay, Kat Kalindi Cameron, Anne Bollman, Karma Voce, and Victoria Johnson.

Each month you will receive a lovely illustration from one of the above artists including a poetic quote or snippet of wisdom to inspire you. This "Lovely Ink" will come as both desktop wallpaper and as 8″x10″ High Res Printable Art. This month I was the lucky artist being featured on Nicole's blog and you can download my art for free through the end of April.
© Alessandra Colombo - Desktop Wallpaper

I invited Nicole as my guest to tell us more about her own story as an artist and to share her unique and lovely art:

Artist Nicole Piar
The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? I grew up in the forests of New Hampshire and spent a lot of time in solitude. My interior world of dreams and imaginings held just as much weight and depth as the "real" world around me. To this day, I lean into the mystery exploring the borderlands between the subconscious and the conscious where stories, characters, and landscapes emerge and I capture an impression of them in paint and ink. Intuition is my trusted guide, meditation – my key, and faith – the door that opens. My mission is to awaken a sense of wonder, to inspire wild flights of fancy, and to build a bridge between my inner world and yours.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? It is that moment of wild unknown that I dive into each day as I paint and draw. I might have seen a flicker of an image in my mind that I am trying to coax out or maybe all that's there is the blind faith that something will rise forth out of nothing. Either way, when a painting begins to take shape and I am greeted by a new character or flower or world, I feel the absolute thrill and wonder of a child seeing something for the first time. No matter how many times I experience it, it is always pure magic.

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? Wow! Hard to choose one so here is my abbreviated, off-the-cuff list: forests, wild-free dancing, meditation, nature, the vast night sky, dreams, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali, Amy Sol, Dr. Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, Le Petit Prince, Haruki Murakami, Spike Jonze, Edmund Dulac, momiji dolls, fairy tales, and many, many wonderful books.

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? I am currently developing a new offering called Soul Print. We all have an inner critic that can sometimes cut us down and diminish our view of ourselves. This can be very painful and actually inhibit our ability to fully express ourselves in the world.

A Soul Print can be an antidote to this feeling of self-negation. First you fill out a playful and profound questionnaire with questions like "What animal do you feel most connected to?" or "Is there a place in the world that you have always felt drawn to?" Then, I enter a deep meditative state and seek out the vision of that inner you, your Soul Print, which I will later translate into a painting. This painting will serve as a faithful reminder of your true radiant beauty and unique spirit. As Lou Reed says, "I'll be your mirror reflect what you are when you don't know … I see you."

TMFMA: Tell us of your experience/interest as an art licensing artist. While licensing is relatively new to me, I have 8 years of experience as a freelance illustrator and surface designer in the gift, paper, home decor, publishing, and apparel sectors. A little over a year ago, I started to build a library of art for licensing. I love infusing people's daily lives with magic and play. Licensing allows for this by providing a home for my art on items like pillows, journals, curtains, cards, clothing, and other home products.

TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share? Spend at least ten minutes every day experimenting and playing within your craft. As anyone with a career in art knows, so much time is spent on projects with a specific goal in mind. It's so nourishing and inspiring to have freeform time where I just start putting paint down, completely open to whatever comes through. I have learned so much about myself and my art through this practice.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I am currently in the midst of creating a picture book. I am completely enamored with the intersection of story-telling and art so this project is very close to my heart. I can't reveal too many details yet but let me just say that the story is magical, mystical, simple, and sweet. I hope my future is filled with stories and art whether it is in the form of children's books or something I can't quite imagine yet.

Find out more about Nicole Piar:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Surtex 2014 and the Total Art Licensing Magazine

As per my earlier post, trade shows are important for artists to attend to develop more and better relationships with manufacturers and other people such as agents, retailers and also other artists.

So promo pieces in prominent art magazines are usually a big part of an exhibitor's marketing strategy. For example, Total Art Licensing is a worldwide magazine for the growing art and design licensing industries. The magazine has been published since 2003 and has become an essential guide for companies looking to take on an art-based license as well as a reference for artists looking for trending information.

The readership has been carefully created to provide art licensors and agents with an audience that not only matches their business needs but also helps them expand and grow their art programs into new territories and sectors. Editorially, each issue includes in-depth features, news, statistics and developments from all art-based sectors including design, fine art, photography and others. You can view their last publication here:

There will be a new one for this upcoming Surtex as the magazine gets published in both print and digital formats and gets distributed to key decision-making buyers, manufacturers and retailers in over 50 countries. If you want to be part of it you must hurry up as the deadline for submission is next week!  

As a note, readers can subscribe to the digital version of the magazine free of charge by completing the form at the back of the digital issue.

My promo piece in the magazine will be this one below ~ from my Natural Wonders collection, an image you've already seen and that you'll be seeing more and more as we approach the show in May. Branding your name and artwork is nowadays another key ingredient of art licensing!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Try Things for Fun - Artist Carol Grace Anderson

In the past few weeks I've had lots of fun getting some of my artwork printed on fabrics through Spoonflower. My watercolors from the collection, Natural Wonders ~ Fiori di Campo, are a new style that I will add to my existing collections to show at Surtex in May.

Some of my colorful patterns are now available through my online shop for fabrics, wallpaper, gift wraps and decals!

Since we are on the subject of textures, florals and watercolors, I thought to also introduce today artist Carol Grace Anderson as my guest. She tells a compelling story about her life and career in the arts and entertainment business which I am going to share with all of you.

Carol's story: "After a career as a teacher, backup singer for Johnny Cash and Roy Clark, a professional speaker, and an author of five books, I realized that my true creative passion was art!

Artist Carol Grace Anderson
During some of my favorite childhood years, we lived in a small village in Upstate New York. That's where I fell in love with rivers, mountains, wild flowers, and trees - all that woodsy stuff that's now reflected in my artwork.

After high school, I went on to college and graduate school to pursue teaching and counseling. I landed a job teaching English and Life Skills in a New York correctional facility. All my students were male felons. It was an interesting job to say the least!

During this time, my sister Mary Beth and I formed an "all-girl" band called Ladysmith and played clubs on weekends while I was still teaching. We started to create our own songs and got a great offer to write songs for a large publishing company in Nashville. We jumped at the opportunity and moved South soon after.

© Carol Grace Anderson
Living in Music City, we were invited to sing back up on several recording projects with Johnny Cash and others. We then landed a touring gig with the legendary guitarist Roy Clark. He was also the host of the long-running variety TV show Hee Haw. That led to shows all over the USA, Russia, and three appearances on THE TONIGHT SHOW with host Johnny Carson. That was a busy and fun ten years!

Along the way, I was invited to speak at a conference. The meeting planner knew about my counseling and teaching background and asked me to do a keynote on staying motivated. It went over well and led to many more speaking engagements and my first book: Get Fired Up Without Burning Out.

To relax after long travel days, I would play with some old paints and dried out brushes. I wished I could take it further but didn't know where to start.

My sister, Mary Beth, had followed her love of art and studied at Watkins College of Art, Design and Film. She became a wonderful and successful artist! She primarily worked in watercolor but later did some amazing pieces in colored pencil also. She inspired me to take my art to a new level. For a special birthday gift, my family gave me a more grown-up paint set. Wow! I was off and running! Along the way, I studied at Plaza Arts Studio in Nashville with Jan Batts, Edie Manning, and Ron Olson.

© Mary Beth Anderson
Sadly, my sister and sweet inspiration became my angel when breast cancer took over. She made her way back to heaven and now inspires me from the other side.

My artwork has a vintage feel with a contemporary twist. It's a blend of textures, images, and natural elements - a refreshing, warm style in today's fast-paced, high-tech world. Can you relate? I like to keep it simple in designing greeting cards and home décor products. Some have described my work as 'charming and fresh,' 'fun and earthy,' 'warm,' and 'bold yet natural.'

My advice for other artists is to try things for fun. Add elements and different colors here and there and it will help expand your style. But be true to what's right for you. Then ask yourself what art pieces in your collection you are most drawn to. That will help you formulate your individual style that defines you!

© Carol Grace Anderson
Alex also gave me some helpful suggestions. One was to study different articles and blogs about art licensing. In fact, her own blogs have lots of useful info on many, varied topics.

Presently my artwork hangs in residences in New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey, Connecticut, Oklahoma and the Tennessee Art League Gallery. Last year, I was honored to be the featured artist on the cover of the Arts Section of The Tennessean. My current goal is to have my work licensed, giving me time to keep growing, evolving and creating!"

Find out more about Carol's work here: