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Monday, October 22, 2012

Editorial: An Art Licensing Winning Team: Susan Winget Art Studio

Little did artist Susan Winget and painters Mary Beth and Jeannie know that they were going to travel a long and rewarding journey when they started creating art to sell at the Atlanta Gift Mart in 1982. Thirty years later and a lot of hard work, Susan Winget's art is one of the top art licensing brands in the U.S. It is licensed for an amazing number of products including fabric, calendars, ceramic and melamine tabletop ware, all sorts of gift items, ornaments, decorative flags and paper products including party ware, gift bags, and greeting cards.

The business started in Susan's garage but as the success of first selling and then licensing art grew, more space was needed. Thus, a small building was built on Susan's property. And, as it continued to grow a larger two story cottage was built in 2001. Find out more about the art, staff, and studio on the Susan Winget website.

So why is Susan Winget art so successful and sought after by consumers?
When I have a chance, I often query sales reps, distributors, gift store owners and managers about different artists work. In response to questions asked about Susan Winget's work, a sales rep told me that Susan knows what consumers want and creates art that sells products. A distributor told me that Susan's art is continually refreshed so that it is not dated like some other artists work and the themes are just right for the products. And, a gift store owner told me that products with Susan's art on it outsells the same products with other artist's art.

I am sure that knowing what kind of art resonates with consumers has taken years and a lot of research. And, it looks like the Winget team has hit it right-on. The styles, colors, and themes have been refreshed and expanded over the years to reach out and appeal to more consumers. And, having an experienced team that creates a lot of art with different themes give manufacturers plenty of art to select. They do create an enormous amount of art because just for 2012, Susan Winget licensed OVER eight calendars. Gasp! That is over 96 images.

The success of Susan Winget is also due to being represented by a top art licensing agency, Courtney Davis, Inc. They specialize in planning a brand strategy for each of their artists by seeking out the right manufacturer partners and then working with them to develop products that sell.

View the following videos for an eye-opening view on how a vision, hard work, dedication and a team that considers themselves family can produce great art that is seen on an amazing number of products and is coveted by consumers. Note: Most of the videos were produced by Springs Creative for Jo-Ann Fabric. By the way, putting these videos on youtube.com is a great marketing strategy ;)

• "Tour of Susan Winget's Art Studio"
Discussing the start of the Susan Winget brand and a tour of the Winget Art Studio.

• "Susan Winget Shares About her Art"
A discussion about different projects for 2012.

• "Susan Winget: Starting the Day"
Showing the daily organizational meeting and different art licensing projects.

• "Susan Winget: My Creative Process"
The start of a design with a pencil sketch and the initial wash. Also shows a variety art styles and themes on design boards.

• "Susan Winget: Final Touches in the Studio" (continuation of "My Creative Process")
Showing the final touches in a painting and the use of a computer to manipulate art for products.

• "Susan Winget: Different Styles of Art"
Examples of different Susan Winget art styles.

• "Susan Winget: Transitioning from Art to Fabric"
Showing a quilting collection with central images and patterns done by the Susan Winget team. Also shows how the manufacturer combines and converts those designs into combinations for quilting projects.

Products
• "Susan Winget: Quilts Are Treasures"
Showing art converted into fabric for quilts.

• "Celebrate the Holidays with Susan Winget"
Showing some whimsical Christmas art made into fabric products

• "KandCompany Susan Winget by BlueMoonScrapbooking"
Showing papers, stickers, and other items for scrap booking.

• "CR Gibson's Brand's New Day :: Susan Winget"
Showing paper party products.

• "Susan Winget Sam Snowman 2012 Wall Calendar review"
Showing calendars manufactured by Lang and sold at calendars.com

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Art Licensing: Hurry-up and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait

One of the most frustrating things that happen in art licensing is that a manufacturer asks an artist to send them specific images, the artist hurry's up and sends them, and then the artist does not hear back from the manufacturer. This is especially true for artists exhibiting at Surtex and other licensing trade shows. The artist gets many requests for art but few if any licensing deals goes forward. WHY?

Listed below are some of the reasons.
1. A huge number of artists are vying to license their work to a relatively small number of manufacturers looking for art. Thus, manufacturers have lots of art to select from and they consider MUCH more art than they can possibly use for their product lines or for presentations to retail chain stores. Because manufacturer art directors have so much art to consider they often do not inform the artist on the status of their art until or unless they intend to license it. Note: Artists that create licensable art with a special twist or emotion that catches the attention of art directors are the ones that get the deals.

2. Art may not be looked at immediately but stockpiled for a later decision on whether to license the art. For example, at the May 2012 Surtex show manufacturers most likely had already chosen Christmas art for the 2012 holiday season and may even had chosen art for the 2013 season. So the art they were considering was for the 2014 season and may not be decided on until the last quarter of 2013. However, it usually does not take that long if the timing is right but still it can take longer than anticipated. I had interest in the nutcracker art (shown at the top of this article) for a decorative flag in January 2010. I did not hear from the manufacturer until they decided to license it 11 months later (December 2010) for the 2011 Christmas season.

3. Pre-selling art on products before it is licensed is increasing each year especially to retail chain stores. If the art is intended for use in a presentation, it can take months before the presentation is scheduled and for the retailer to make a decision. And if the presentation is not just for several individual products to be shelved with others but for a batch of packaged products to a big box chain store, it can take even longer. Many presentations may stretch over several months and in the long run the manufacturer may lose the deal to another manufacturer. So if the artist's work is part of packaged products, there are two hurtles to overcome. The manufacturer must first get the deal and second, the artists work must be wanted by the retailer so that it is incorporated into the package. Note: During this long involved process, the artist may not even be aware that her/his art is being considered.

4. Circumstances in using the art may have changed by the time the manufacturer is ready to make a decision.
• The art may no longer be on trend.
• The art director that asked for the art is no longer with the company and the new one is not interested in the art.
• The company policy has changed on the type of art and art style it wants or the company goes out of business.

So what can artists do?

The following are some suggestions to increase the chance in getting licensing deals.
1. Have a huge body of work so that many pieces of art are chosen for licensing consideration which increases the chance in getting deals. For instance, if an art director requests 20 designs be sent for licensing consideration, the artist has a better chance in getting a deal for at least one design than if only one design was requested.

2. Enhance your portfolio by having an excellent variety of art themes that are popular with consumers. Read "Art Licensing Editorial: List of Recent Trends" to see a list of some themes that are popular.

3. Continually stay in touch with art directors and often send new work. The more familiar art directors are with the artist and her/his work the better the chance in getting deals. Read "Art Licensing Tip: What does follow-up really mean?"

4. Contact art directors to find out when they are interested in considering different themes of art such as everyday, fall / Halloween, winter / Christmas, and other holidays. There is no standard time of the year to submit different art themes. Each manufacturer has their own time frame.

5. Contact art directors to find out if they send out requests for art (call-outs) and ask to be put on their list. Participating in call-outs is an excellent way to find out what kind of art themes manufacturers are seeking and when they want them. For more information on call-outs, read "Thoughts on doing CattleCalls - Should You?" Note: The words "cattle calls" originated with the motion picture industry when the studios sent call-outs for auditions.

Conclusion
Be aware that not hearing back from manufacturers after they request art is just part of the business and requests for art may not result in always getting deals. Take note on what art themes manufacturers are interested in and create more. Most likely other manufacturers will also be looking for those themes. Create as much new licensable art as possible so manufacturers will have a large selection of art to choose. Be persistent and continue to follow-up and stay in touch with art directors. And most of all do NOT give up!

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Editorial by Jeff Grinspan: Is Art Licensing DEAD?

by Jeff Grinspan
Grinspan & Co.
website: www.artmoid.com
e-mail: grinspan@artmoid.com

To any well-trained or educated business executive viewing the art licensing model from the outside, there would be only one conclusion. There is no art licensing business. It’s D.O.A. And, if you don’t buy that, you’d surely have to admit it’s on life support…

Here are the obvious symptoms...
• No Growth … :(
The economy is limping along, there are fewer retailers than ever before, fewer manufacturers AND a blatant commodity oversupply. Bring in the paddles! CLEAR!!

Oh and by the way, in a tight economy, retailers get very conservative. And consumers look for the tried-and-true comfort art, as they say.

• What’s a guarantee??????
The historical formula for robust, profitable art licensing used to be something like this- Advance ($) + guarantee ($$) + royalty ($$$) - advance ($) = ‘a nice living’. Today, licensees are paying the lowest advances possible (some not paying any at all), the word ‘guarantee’ has been pretty much eradicated from licensing vernacular and with added pressures from retails intent on keeping their margins high, licensees keep pushing for lower and lower royalties. Is anyone making any money???

• The Internet is here to stay…
Say you are a successful manufacturer who uses licensed art. It wasn’t too long ago you had to attend trade shows or have someone send you a portfolio for review. Today? ‘Googlize’ roosters or coastal or snowmen and you’ll have 1,000 + images at your monitor with the click of a mouse. How is any artist to compete with the selection and ease of finding new art theses days???

Grim you say. Heretic! Pessimist! Naysayer! Not really. There is no doubt licensing your art in 2012 and beyond is more challenging than ever before. But, despite all the questionable vital signs, weak pulse, pasty look and irregular ‘artbeats’ . . .

maybe it’s not as bleak as I’ve made it out to be.
• Learn art licensing CPR! (Creativity Produces Results)

Okay so let’s address the death knells one by one. Yes, the economy is still weak. Yes, the hit we took in 2008 resulted in a retailer fall out and manufacturer shake up. But the result was it forced those remaining to be more efficient and to commit to their survival. The need to entice wary and cost conscious consumers to purchase goods became critically important. How do you do that? If you are a retailer, you have to carry merchandise that is fresh and appealing. Only new designs and creative thinking on the part of artists delivers that kind of result. Retailers will always need new art on product. And manufacturers are the ones to supply new product. So be creative, prolific and attune to today’s trends. More so now than ever before.

• Show me the money…
Okay, it’s unavoidable. The model has evolved and yes, guarantees are scarce. But historically if you were not a brand name designer you really could not get significant guarantees. Advances, while putting dollars in your pocket UP FRONT are deducted from your future royalty payments, so guess what? Your initial royalty checks sans advance are gonna be ‘bigger’ - same total dollars but you get it later than sooner (all things being equal). And while there is no empirical data to support the mathematics of fewer retailers but same number of customers (hey, we all still gotta shop somewhere right?) = great royalties, some things do change. But here is where ‘the will to live’ has to kick in. Expand your search to new categories of product for retailers that ARE successful despite the economy- specialty stores like Crate and Barrel or The Container Store, online e-tailers like Ballard Designs or Home Decorators, and specialty retail markets like surf shops or pets. What you may end up giving up in lower royalty percentages may be offset by higher volume of product in a broader base of customers for licensees.

• If you can’t beat ’em, join 'em.
The Internet should be a marketing tool for you. Yes, your prospects are going to search for new art. So drop the lament and make absolutely certain your SEO is tweaked to capture as much interest as possible. Be relevant! Make sure your website is well populated with art that shows your strengths, your style and your willingness to be in the game!

Okay, so art licensing is not dead. We’re not even in the emergency room. There’s no epidemic or plague. We just need to take some time to re-examine our overall health, regain our strength, build our endurance and assess our ‘art licensing nutrition TM’. There’s plenty of opportunity still out there alive and kickin’!

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.