Last week I asked you to ask me your questions and said I would answer them here, on Thursdays. Welcome to the very first Open Book Thursdays! Let’s see how this goes! I loved seeing your questions, and thinking about the answers…it is such a great opportunity to get to the root of things when people ask you fun or thoughtful questions. I would love it if you all would answer them for yourselves as we go along here…feel free to share your answers! I will get to a few answers a week, and will try to answer all over time, so please be patient with me.
As a sidebar, I was going through a bunch of things getting ready for a yard sale this weekend and found a little collection of the treasures that I brought home from my travels this summer. Coach and I did a ‘stay-cation’ this year, and planned a couple of weeks around Boston and New England. (I should clarify, that in this instance I have defined ‘stay-cation’ as ‘not France’ where I really wanted to go…for those of you are picky about the definition.) But this was not a default choice, it was intentional, it was a great chance to explore the place we live and see some things we have always wanted to see or do together. And frankly, it was WAY less stressful than being gone for two weeks! We didn’t even scratch the surface of our list! We went to Fenway for a day game, the aquarium, to an IMAX movie, and on a whale watch. We spent a few nights in Western Massachusetts at a retreat center, where we hiked, and kayaked and read actual books and reconnected. We also spent a couple nights in the beautiful city of Portland, ME where we mostly ate and shopped and goofed around. The whole thing was a blast and we returned to our regularly scheduled lives refreshed and connected.
Clockwise from the left, my treasures are:
Jelly Ballet Flats from the J.Crew outlets in Kittery, ME
Matches from Eastern Standard in Boston
Turquoise Buddha Head from Blanche & Mimi in Portland
Infinity Scarf from American Eagle Outfitters
Vintage Book from Flea Market
Spotty Notebook from Rock Paper Scissors in Wisscasset, ME
“Maine” Christmas Ornament (we get one from all the places we visit) from a tourist shop
Turquoise Soap from Kripalu Gift Shop
Striped Tea Towel from Blanch & Mimi in Portland
“Knot-i-cal” Key chain from tourist shop
Ok! On to questions! (I am answering these in random order, or in order of what I have the brain power for today…)
Kolleen Asked: I would love to know how you received your licensing gig and how long you were “creating and putting yourself out there” before it happened??
*This is a great question, many of you wanted to know more about licensing. My entree into licensing was a little non-traditional. They found me. I had been up and running as a small greeting card company and was exhibiting at the National Stationery Show and the gift shows and licensors came to me and asked me if I would license my art to them for other types of product. I of course said “No.”
Truth is, I didn’t know anything about licensing, or these companies, and frankly, it scared me. So for a long time I said “no.” Then, I did a little research on licensing (at the time, in actual books) and looked into the companies that were pursuing me, and met with them. I chose a couple to work with and started from there. I made sure to vet the people and the businesses I was planning to work with to make sure that they had the kind of integrity, style and vision that I wanted associated with my now-established brand and frankly, my life’s work. For the most part, I have been very pleased with the companies I chose to work with (Santa Barbara Design Studio, Demdaco, Ronnie Sellers, Boston International & Wichelt ) I made a decision on who to work with and what types of products to make based on my long -term vision for my company (we are also manufacturers) and my brand as an artist. This is never simple and continues to be a challenge to me, but for me, so far, it has been the right decision. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to make those decisions and having not had to seek them out but having them find me. That is not always the case, but is becoming more and more frequent.
Curly Girl Design has been a presence in the industry since our first Stationery Show in 2004. We got more and more notice after winning a LOUIE award for “Cape & Tiara” in 2005. I have been doing between 3 and 6 trade shows a year for the past 10 years. That is the ‘work’ of it. It’s exhausting, expensive, and sometimes fun or frustrating, but it’s experience. So to answer your question Kolleen, I was around for about 4 years, plugging away before licensors found me, but was very happy doing what I was doing until then, and continue to do it today.
All that said, the world of art and product licensing is changing every single day and I am no expert on it. I can speak to my experience, and my perspective as an artist, business owner, and as a buyer on the retail side, but there are many many ways to get your work licensed. My advise is to learn as much about the process and the logistics of it as possible, think about what you want to put out into the world, and think about the WHY. Think about what you want to build and what its purpose is. Work backwards from there.
An avenue for artists who are not business owners, and don’t really want to be, is to work with a licensing agent or rep. Some of my favorites are Shelia Meehan and Lila Rogers but there are many. Keep in mind, that even if you work with an agent and don’t want to be a business owner, you are still in business with your art and should treat it accordingly. Have a lawyer. Get organized and follow your gut.
If you are interested in art licensing and think you might be ready to get it together and get some exposure, you might consider the Surtex show. I recommend walking the show first (you can register as a visiting artist) and seeing what it’s all about. If you are an existing, established artist or brand looking to make the next step, you can also consider a consultant like Nancy Soriano
That is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think I have given you the gist. You should know that licensing companies are always always on the look out for the next thing, and they are looking everywhere to find it! Set up on Etsy, DO your local craft shows…you never know who will find you!
That’s all I have time for today, I will try to get to more next Thursday!
Thank you so much for your questions! If you have a question for Open Book Thursdays, feel free to leave it here!