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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: Do you need to be a brand to successfully license art?

Note: The following is an editorial and are my opinions so not everyone will agree with them. But, I do welcome all comments (positive and negative) to give everyone a well rounded perceptive on other opinions.

There are many opinions on whether art is a brand or not. And, an often-asked question is if an artist's work needs to be a brand to be successful in the licensing industry. The short answer to these questions is that art can be a brand under certain conditions but art does NOT have to be a brand for an artist to be successful in licensing their work. Read the following to find out why I believe this.

Definition of an Art Brand
According to Wikipedia, "A brand is a name, term, design or other feature that distinguishes one seller's product from those of others". Brands in today’s market are associated with product trademarks (Coke Cola, Harley, Kenmore, Rice Crispy, Vera Bradley), sports, entertainment (Disney, Sesame Street), well-known personalities (HGTV "stars", Donnie Osmond), some artists, and many others. Theoretically any creation of an artist is a brand because every artist incorporates into their art their own style, color combinations, and composition. But, unless the art is VERY different from other art, it is not usually licensed "as a brand".

Art directors and others in the art licensing industry are very familiar with artists work and can easily distinguish whose work it is. However, most consumers cannot recognize small differences between different artists art. Thus, art must be very distinct and unique for it to be considered a brand in the art licensing industry.

Art That are Brands
Licensing an art brand is valuable to manufacturers because brands tend to sell more products. Consumers purchase not just one product but continue to purchase products of a brand they desire. Manufacturers such as Demdaco and Enesco license many brands and produce a huge variety of products specifically tailored for each brand. Sculpture artist Susan Lordi (Willow Tree® brand), artist Kelly Rae Roberts, and artist Kathy Weller (Yoga Pals brand) work is licensed to Demdaco as a brand. And, carver Jim Shore, and artist Suzy Toronto work is licensed to Enesco as a brand. All of these artists are very successful since their art are very much sought after by consumers. Look at the art of the artists mentioned above and notice how unique they are. Also read, "What Makes the Willow Tree® Brand Such a Success?"

Art That are not Brands
Not all manufacturer business-model depend upon licensing art brands. Most manufactures license work based upon the style and theme of the art and not necessarily art by a recognizable brand. Although some manufacturers license both art brands and none art brands. Artists Paul Brent, Hautman Brothers, Susan Winget, and many others earn good money by licensing their art but not as a brand.

Not every person will agree that the artists mentioned above do not have art brands because all three of them do have a consumer following. And, some manufacturers do license collections of their work and showcase them in their catalogs with their name, picture, and biography. However, each of these artists art style is somewhat similar to other artist's art style so consumers may not recognize who created the art until they look at the artists name on the product. That is why they are not considered a brand according to the definition stated in Wikipedia.

But, does it matter the above artist's work is considered a brand or not? NO! It does not because they are very successful in licensing their work. And, the reason why is because these artists have acquired a relationship with many manufacturer art directors and the credibility that they know what art consumers want on products. Thus, they continue to get many licensing contracts. But, it has taken them years of hard work, research, and trial-and-error to become established, and their work sought-after. To learn about Susan Winget and her licensing success, read "An Art Licensing Winning Team: Susan Winget Art Studio."

An artist does not have to have an art brand to be successful in licensing her/his art. What it takes is hard work, learning what kind of art and themes consumers want on products, being prolific in creating art, creating relationships and submitting lots of art to manufacturers for licensing consideration, being willing to compromise, being realistic that it takes a long time to get revenue, and do NOT give up!

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Art Licensing: When do you Submit Art to Manufacturers?

As often heard in the art licensing industry "it depends" is the inexplicable answer to the question "When do you submit art to manufacturers for licensing consideration?" Each manufacturer has a different deadline depending on its business model, product line, production cycle, and clients. So, the only way to find out the deadlines for submitting art is to either see the information on the manufacturers website or ask by e-mail or phone call.

Some manufacturers accept all art theme submissions year round and either license art immediately or files it for future consideration. Some have big box store clients and these manufacturers are constantly giving presentations to them. Hence, they request art for the presentations to be put on hold but do not license it unless their clients want the art put on the products. Other manufacturers have specific deadlines that they post on their websites such as greeting card manufacturer Leanin' Tree and will license the art they choose for the following year product line(s). Some manufacturers send art requests several times a year to the artists and agents on their call-out list. However, the majority of manufacturers need to be contacted via email or by telephone to find out their deadlines. Hint: When you contact manufacturers, ask if they have an art call-out list and request to be added to it.

If you cannot find out the manufacturer art submission deadlines (often happens) then you need to make an educated guess. Most manufacturers are looking for specific art themes at least two times a year. Those are for Spring/Summer (approximately March through August) and Fall/Winter (approximately September through February) that includes all holidays and special occasions during those periods. Many manufacturers decide on what art to license 12 to 14 months before it is introduced to retail. For example, art deadlines for the fall/winter 2016 season could be as early as July 2015.

Do Your Homework
The key to licensing your art is to create the right art for products that appeals to manufacturers, retail stores, and ultimately consumers. Finding manufacturers that license art requires research, research, and more research. You need to find manufacturers that are a match with your art style, find out what art themes they want, how they want art submitted and in what format. Find out more about licensing art by reading "How to license art to manufacturers".

Why does it take so long to see licensed art on products and get revenue?
It "can" take 18 months or more before an artist gets any money after a deal is signed unless the artist is lucky to get an advance toward royalties. The reason is because of the many steps involved during the entire process (contract negotiations, art revisions, manufacturing of product, placement on retail shelves) before receiving the first quarterly royalty check. How long it takes depends upon the industry but paper products made in the U.S. usually takes a shorter time than ceramic products that need the creation of molds and are manufactured and shipped from China. Read "Licensed Art - Getting Paid Takes a Long Time" to see an example of a time-line and steps required from submitting art to receiving royalties. Note: Not all licensing deals or getting revenue take a long time.  Each manufacturer is different and some deals can generate revenue within a few months after signing the contract especially if it was a licensing flat fee.  More information about different kind of licensing contracts can be read on "Licensing Art - There is no such thing as a typical deal".

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: What Makes the Willow Tree® Brand Such a Success?

When fine artist Susan Lordi received her Masters in Fine Arts in Textile Design in 1993, I am sure she had no idea that she would not only become known for her fine art textile designs but also for her sculptured figurines created for the gift market. The transition from creating fine art that appeals to individuals to creating art for the mass market is no easy task. But, Susan did it right because her Willow Tree brand has been a huge success for the last 15 years. Consumers worldwide purchase Susan’s figurines and her other products produced by DEMDACO.

Studying how artists become successful is really informative and one of my favorite things to do. I have followed Susan Lordi's success for years and have always admired the simple carved wooden look of her Willow Tree brand figurines and her ability to show emotion without facial expressions.

Art brands tend to sell more products than non-brands because the customer base grows as the brand becomes more popular. To become a brand that is recognized by consumers the art must be unique and different from other art. And, to become successful and stay successful the brand must resonate some emotional response with the consumer, appeal to a wide spectrum of consumers, grow slowly, and stay true to the look of the brand but continue to be refreshed. I think Susan Lordi has encompassed all these requirements in her Willow Tree brand. The following is why I think so.

• Recognized art style
When Susan decided to create for the mass market in the late 1990s, she did her homework and noticed that there was a void in the gift industry of simple figurative sculptures that depicted relationships with others and the world around them. By creating a sculptured style of less-is-more and capturing a moment in time between persons and nature in her carvings, Susan created a style that is truly unique and recognized by consumers.

View "Susan Lordi Marker, Central High 1972" video of Susan describing her art background and the creation of her Willow Tree brand. And, also view "Susan Lordi - "Willow Tree" video to see a major influence in Susan's carvings. Note: These videos show Susan's passion in creating her work, which is truly inspirational!

• Appeals to consumers
To sell any product, it has long been known that the product has to somehow resonate an emotion with the consumer so that she/he feels the need to purchase it. Susan Lordi creates figurative sculptures that depict sentiments anyone can relate to. And, because no expressions are shown on their faces it allows each person to interpret the meaning of each figure in their own way and makes it more personal. Thus, her sculptures appeal to a large number of consumers. Unlike successful art based on trends that evidentially fade away, Susan’s sculptures are timeless and are continually sought by consumers. No wonder the Willow Tree brand is so successful.

Note: What is critical to Susan’s success is that she carves from her own life experiences as a mother, a daughter, a wife, an aunt, a granddaughter… In other words, something she knows to be true… something that interests her, something she’s experiencing, instead of trying to make something that she thinks might sell. Or, in her words, “it has to come from a personal place in order to resonate with others.”

View "Willow Tree Family Groupings" video to hear Susan's reasoning on why she creates her carvings the way she does.

• Continue refreshing art
Consumers are always looking for new and different looks when purchasing products. Thus, artists need to regularly keep their art fresh and new looking when submitting to manufacturers for licensing consideration.

Susan Lordi has met the challenge of evolving and keeping her carvings fresh over the years while keeping her own aesthetics so that they are still recognizable as belonging to the Willow Tree brand. Although she has kept soft washed colors that are a trademark of the brand, over the years she has refreshed her sculptures by adding some embellishment to her work with deeper colors, and/or metal accents.

Note: Susan really out did herself with the introduction of her elegant Signature Collection at the January 2015 Atlanta Gift Market. When I walked by the DEMDACO showroom in Atlanta, I couldn't stop looking at the collection. A gradation of deep turquoise blue at the bottom of the figures with a scattering of gold-leaf raised dots makes them absolutely stunning. And, gold accents on a turquoise blue background on her triplex shadow boxes of Starry Night Nativity made them really beautiful and totally unique.

• Slow introduction of new products
Brands will not have staying power in the gift market if they swamp the market at once with all kinds of products. This is what happens when manufacturers hop on a perceived new trend like last year's chalkboard style art seen at the Atlanta Gift show. This year there were nowhere as many showrooms using chalkboard art on their products and probably that style will soon disappear. It is better to slowly introduce new products so that the market is not inundated with them and consumers will look forward to seeing what is new each year.

The Willow Tree brand follows that business practice and has slowly added new products over the 15 years since it was introduced at the January 2000 Atlanta Gift show. For more information about the product introductions, read "The Willow Tree History".

There is much to learn from sculpturer Susan Lordi even if you as an artist do not have an art style that is unique enough that consumers recognize as yours or even if you have several art styles. Susan’s success has shown the importance in learning what attracts consumers to art, to create from your heart so it resonates with consumers, and to continually refresh art so that the product is salable. And, most importantly you need to continue to learn everything you can about the art licensing industry and all industries associated with it. Education is power that will help you in creating licensable work and obtaining licensing contracts.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: 2015 January Atlanta Gift Show

The 2015 Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishing Market is for retail buyers to purchase products for their business'.  It is also where artists can meet with art directors that license art for their companies products, get contact information on where to submit art, get inspiration for creating new art, learn about the licensing industry and see trends. Note: Since this is a trade show for buyers, it is difficult for artists to attend unless they have the right credentials. For suggestions on how artist can attend the show, read "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show"

The Atlanta Gift show was booming this year with huge crowds in comparison to the last several years.  And, the Reps in the showrooms were extremely busy writing up lots of orders. Although not everyone attending the show feel that the attendance is up significantly from last year like I do, the hallways and showrooms were often at times difficult to get through because of the crush of people. Also, the elevators were so slow and full that most people used the escalators (which were also full) or even the stairs to access the 20 floors in Building one, 18 in Building 2, and 15 in Building 3.  Note: As with all trade shows, not all showrooms were doing as well as those that had a huge selection of SKUs (stock keeping units), were not selling only to a niche market, or were a distributor that represented multiple manufacturers.

Tidbit:  Because taking photographs inside the AmericasMart is prohibited unless you have permission, I instead took two photos from outside.  The photo at the top shows the 8:30AM rush of exhibitors streaming into Building 1.  It is across the street from the Peachtree Station for MARTA rapid transit system. Once you are in any of the three buildings comprising the Mart's campus you can get to the other buildings via bridges that are located on certain floors.

The photo at the left is of a 120-foot long (8 stories if each story is 15 feet tall) escalator from the MARTA railway to the street level.  The three 120-foot long escalators at the Peachtree Station are considered the longest escalators in the Southeast. Because so many people use MARTA and the escalators during the 8:30AM rush to get to the MART for the 9AM opening of the show, sometimes security is forced to hold people back so that there are not as many on the escalator at the same time.  Otherwise, the weight of people and luggage would shut it down. I find it mind boggling that when the escalators are not as busy, riders like me need to move to the right because those that have the stamina literally run up it on the left. Gasp!

There did not seem to be any "NEW" trends at Atlanta but coastal images were showcased in lots of showrooms.  I was really surprised because the last I heard coastal was considered kind-of-a niche theme.  When I questioned one showroom Reps if the Mart had sent out a flyer asking the exhibitors to showcase coastal, she laughed and said "No, it is just popular right now."  She also said that coastal products are not just sold in stores on the east and west coasts of the US but in stores along the many waterways throughout it. Most of the coastal art and products in the showrooms and in the temporary booths had a distressed patina look although there still were a variety of other art styles.

• What Seen
Other than coastal I did not see many other themes stand out. But the usual rustic looking products with a distressed finish on them were visible as well as distressed finished American flags on many products from kitchen products to handbags. If there was anything really trending at the show, it was the distressed look with unsaturated color palettes for all kinds of themes.

Of course, the typical popular themes usually seen at the show and seem to be the staple for home and gift products were abundant.  These included flowers, butterflies, birds, grapes and wine, cats, dogs, owls, cupcakes, coffee, high heel shoes, inspirational words either alone or with art including lots of angels.  Also popular were seasonal, holiday and special occasion art such as for Valentines Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween.  And, do not forget the most popular holiday of all – Christmas.

Showrooms had major displays centered on either Santa or snowmen, but over all there seemed to be a fairly even distribution of both. Other Christmas images seen were snowflakes, polar bears, penguins, deer, nutcrackers, angels, Christmas trees, white foxes, owls, partridges, more amaryllis flowers than poinsettias, pinecones and needles, presents, and ornaments.

As usual, the use of colors for art depended on the type of product and what it was used for.  The traditional red and green were predominating for Christmas art with the exception if the art style was graphical or whimsical for a younger consumer.  Then a bright red and chartreuse green were used.  Unsaturated and muted colors are still used for home decor but brighter colors are starting to appear on products in some home decor showrooms.

• What Not Seen or Less of
Last year chalkboard art was everywhere on products at the Mart but this year it was not prevalent.  Even though there are still evidence of owls and red foxes, the whole concept of the woodland theme seemed to be on the back burner.  The anticipated next new woodland creature "the hedgehog" was missing from most products with the exception of stuffed animals.

This & That
• Be Prepared
The key to getting the most out of the Atlanta Gift Show is to be prepared.  A month before the show is a good time to ask art directors for an appointment to show them your art. Although, I am finding that in most cases when artists ask for an appointment they tell you to just drop-in. Appointment times seem to be saved for art licensing agents that have more art to show.

Bring business cards, postcards and if possible an iPad with your art on it. It is now the standard to show art with an iPad when attending Atlanta.  You never can tell when you ask for contact information if you will also be able to show your art to an art director.  It happens to me all the time.

Wear comfortable shoes and take plenty of breaks to overcome exhaustion and sensory overload and to write notes.

• Importance in Asking Questions
Asking questions from EVERYONE attending the show is a must if you want to take full advantage of attending the show.  Talking to buyers, Reps, art directors, and other artists is huge because it gives you information about all aspects of the art licensing industry and gives you a better understanding of it.  I drum-up conversations with people anywhere - while taking a break, waiting in line for food or an artist signing, on MARTA, and in showrooms.  This is the most friendliest trade show that I have ever attended and everyone loves to talk about products and their business.

Having a big smile on your face goes a long way and I am always amazed when busy Reps and art directors are willing to show me their products and talk about them even though they know I am not a buyer. It gives me the opportunity to ask what are good sellers, the artists that created them, and what themes do best.  Getting any information is huge in understanding the industry that I would not get it unless I asked.

This year I even went into showrooms that I assume only used in-house designers (most of the art look like the same artist created it) and got a big surprise.  Several of these manufacturers also license art from free-lance artists.  And, the Reps even spent some time showing me the products that they licensed and of course gave me the contact information to submit art.  Huge!  So make sure you talk to everyone and ask lots of questions when you attend the show.

• Traveling Woes in Attending the Atlanta Show
Traveling and hotel problems happen all the time to those attending trade shows.  For this show I was one of the unlucky souls that experienced airline and hotel woes where everything went wrong; airline delays, broken MARTA train and standing outside in freezing weather for 20 minutes until another train arrived and then the clincher - no room at the inn.

Every year there seems to be a lot of broken pipes at the hotels in Atlanta during the Atlanta Gift Show.  But the broken water pipe excuse is really a euphemism for over booking hotel rooms.  5-6% of booked rooms in hotels are no-show, so hotels make the practice of overbooking with first come first serve.  I do not know about other customers but with me it really cost the hotel that gave away my room. I paid for it four months in advance and had to wait over two hours for them to find me a room in another hotel.  They paid an $85 taxi fare to the new hotel with a free night lodging and a customer that will never book with them again. It is not fun to spend all day on an airplane, have hours of layovers at airports, and not get a hotel room until 1AM.  The only solution seems to be to book a hotel room far from the AmericasMart so that there is not the likelihood of losing your room OR arriving early enough so that the room is still available.  Because I live on the west coast, the second option is not feasible unless I am willing to take a red-eye flight.

Articles  - information and photos of showrooms and products
• Art and Product Licensing: Thought and Comment from Jim Marcotte - "Atlanta – A Study in Contrasts…and Not"

• Gifts and Decorative Accessories - "Direct from Market: Atlanta Winter 2015"

• J Wecker Frisch "AmericasMart 2015"

• the moon from my atticThe 2015 AmericasMart Atlanta - "The Nation’s #1 Product Destination"

Related Articles (originally posted for the January 2014 show)
•AmericasMart Atlanta (youtube video) - "The Atlanta International Gift Market - January 2014"  Note:  The 2015 video will probably be posted on youtube later in the month or in February.

• "Art Licensing: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - the amazing AmericasMart campus"

• "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show"

• "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - trends"

The health of the gift industry ultimately affects art licensing and the amount of art that is licensed by manufacturers. Thus, successful gift shows (Atlanta and other regional ones) bodes well for the licensing industry. This year seems to have started off well and hopefully that means good news for artists in obtaining many licensing contracts.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Art Licensing: Tips on Using the Indispensable Mac Preview App

One of the most useful application that is included with Macintosh OS X operating system is Preview. Preview makes it fast and easy to view and edit pdf, jpeg, tiff, png, etc. files. Also image files such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can be opened in Preview as non-layered files.

Preview also has other functions such as scanning documents or photos, sharing files via email or chat, changing the file format, capturing screen shots, editing photos, and batch processing actions. Learn how to use these functions by reading the articles listed in the Related Articles section at the bottom of this post.

Note: The features found in Preview for the Mac are available in Windows QuickView for PCs. However, QuickView is no longer shipped with Windows. But a third party equivalent that supports XP, Vista and 7 is available according to the QuickView section in Wikipedia.

PDF files
Preview is best known as an alternative to using Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat to view and alter PDF files. It is faster to launch Preview than Reader and had lots of useful features. PDF documents can be combined; pages can be moved between PDF files, reordered and rotated. Pages can be bookmarked, comments added, background color changed, view a PDF slideshow, a rectangle or circle can be drawn to emphasize an area. It also has other features depending upon the OS X Preview version. For instance, OS X Lion Preview version and greater allows PDF documents to be digitally signed. Note: Preview does an excellent job in displaying large PDF documents and allows some editing and other features, which may be all that is needed. But, it does not have all the bells-and-whistles of the latest versions of Adobe Reader and Acrobat support.

As an artist, I find the Preview app viewing function indispensable as I manipulate and edit my art and collections into pleasing compositions. Preview also includes helpful tools such as the ability to add text to the image, some image editing capabilities, batch processing, view slideshows and animated gif files, and change file formats. It is much faster to open an image in Preview and use Previews functions and tools than to open the image in Photoshop or Illustrator to do the same thing.

A single image or several images can be dragged onto the Preview app to open it. Or, images can be opened from the Preview app. Or, if the image file is a jpg, png, etc., it can be opened in Preview by double clicking on the image. To temporarily open images in Preview select the image or images with the mouse and then hold down the command key and push the Y key. Hint: Place the Preview app in the desktop tool bar so that it is easily accessed.

Useful ways of using Preview

• Viewing Images
– When manipulating parts of the image in Photoshop, it is difficult to look at the entire image to determine if the composition is pleasing and balanced unless you standup and move away from the monitor. I have found that it helps to instead reduce the size of the image when viewing the composition. A quick way to do that is make sure the Photoshop file is saved and then open the image in Preview by selecting the file, hold down the command key, and pressing the Y key. The image in the Preview window can be quickly enlarged or reduced by pulling on the bottom-right window handle. For information about composition read "Creating Licensable Art: Composition Tips"

– Using Preview to view multiple images in one window is a wonderful way to compare the images and determine if the collection is cohesive. Select all the images you wish to view at one time and use the command and Y key strokes to open the images in Preview. The four images displayed together at the top of this article is an example of opening multiple images in a Preview window.

– If you have a large photographic reference library like I do, you may have trouble finding what photos you wish to use as a reference for new art. By selecting a slew of images in a folder and opening them in Preview you can quickly scan and select the ones you wish to use.

 • Marking Images to be edited
When refreshing art, adding images to a collection, and working with art directors, there are times that you may want to mark changes and write comments on the image. Instead of printing the art and marking-it-up by hand, Preview allows you to do it on image files. See an example of a mark-up on the above tulip image.

• Labeling Images
Preview allows you to quickly label images with copyright and contact information. This is helpful if you want to place the image on a blog or submit it to manufacturers for licensing consideration.

• Changing size, resolution, and formats
Images can be resized; the resolution and the format can be quickly changed in Preview. So instead of waiting for a large high resolution file to open in Photoshop, Preview can converted it to a smaller size, lower resolution jpg file in a fraction of time. That is very useful when submitting art to manufacturers for licensing consideration.

• Rotating images and editing color
In Preview, images can be rotated and colors adjusted. I found the ability to rapidly adjust the color saturation useful when placing images in the sidebar on my blog. For some reason, when images are placed in the sidebar the color saturation is reduced. Thus, I need to increase the saturation of the image before placing it in the sidebar.

Related Articles

While in Preview, open Help at the top right of the function bar to find out how to use its many functions. Also read the following articles for more information on using Preview.

• "Mac Basics: Preview app views and edits images and PDFs"

• "What IS Preview (and Why You Should Use It)"

• "Scanning with Preview in Mac OS X"

• "How to use Preview in OS X Lion to digitally sign documents".

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).