TypeCon 2015: Highlights

This guest post is by TypeCon correspondents Almenia Candis and Allie McRae.


From Almenia:

TypeCon 2015 was definitely an experience that I wish was not over in so few days. Not only did I make new friends, rub elbows with giants in the graphic design and typography circles, but I had a wonderful experience learning more and feeling like I was in university again.

I was fortunate to take the expressive brush lettering workshop with calligrapher Stephen Rapp. In this day-long workshop, we were provided with supplies, a few notes, and one on one demonstrations on how to achieve a variety of calligraphy strokes. So many questions were asked, and Stephen provided excellent tips and feedback on pressure, ink flow, and chair position to yield beautiful results.

If you weren't able to go to a workshop, there was still a chance to try your hand at cranking out some letterpress around metro Denver. There were 30 of us on the party bus as we made a series of stops to add pieces to our letterpress sheets. It may have been the only field trip that was educational, fun, and involved free brews while mingling with the very gracious hosts at Matter, Genghis Kern, Foil + Dies, and Now It's Up To You Press.

Last but not least, there was a brief eulogy presented by Akira Kobayashi for Hermann Zapf who passed away in June this year. Akira tells of his early days as a graphic designer, he was given the book "About Alphabets" and it has remained a great source of inspiration to the care and meticulous process of Zapf's typefaces and calligraphy work. Creator of fonts such as Optima and Palatino, Zapf's work surpasses trends and his legacy will continue to set an example for new type designers of tomorrow.

From Allie:

It’s tough to pick just three highlights! There were so many spectacular speakers and events that I enjoyed, but I managed to narrow it down to these:

Douglas Wilson gave this great, lighthearted talk on ‘The Beautiful Island of San Serriffe,’ a completely fictional island that made its debut in an April Fool’s edition of The Guardian, a British newspaper. The newspaper dedicated seven pages of articles to this island that included news of its culture, geography, and economy. The island is jam-packed with hilarious typesetting puns: Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse are the names of the two islands; Gill Sands Beach; and the dictator of San Serriffe is General M J Pica. I was laughing through the entire talk. Here’s an article about the prank.

The very first speaker of the program, Mary Mashburn, set the bar high with her talk titled ‘Life Lessons from Globe Poster.’ Countless jazz, blues, and go-go musicians came to Globe Poster in Baltimore to have them design and print their show posters. The Globe Poster Collection is now housed at MICA and students are in the process of sorting through and using the thousands of pieces of type to make new pieces.

And finally, I was very inspired by the works of Ernst Schneidler and his students that Rob Saunders shared with us. Ernst was an influential teacher of letter arts in the 20th century and now much of his work is housed at Letterform Archive, founded by Rob.

UPPERCASE provided complimentary magazines for attendees. Thank you to TypeCon for in turn providing passes to these two correspondents. Want to subscribe to UPPERCASE? Use the code "typecon15" for a subscription discount. Code expires on September 1.

TypeCon 2015: Type of Place

Guest Post by Allie McRae, TypeCon 2015

The speaker I had been waiting for all TypeCon weekend finally made her way up to the stage first thing Sunday morning. Meta Newhouse was my professor for a couple years at Montana State University and we got to know each other very well during a semester abroad in Italy, where she taught Experimental Typography. Even though I have a personal relationship with Meta and was even a contributor to the Type of Place project at its start, her talk went into detail about the parts that I wasn’t involved in: how the project came about and where it is now.

A little background about Type of Place — This research project was started by Meta and her former colleague at Montana State University, Nathan Davis. Meta and Nathan were teaching a workshop at the Atypi Conference held in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2011 when they had a brilliant idea to trek around the city and take photos of native Icelandic type to take back to the classroom to analyze. They were looking to see if they could deduce any cultural characteristics unique to the area from the type specimens they found. Meta puts it more eloquently: “What can be learned from collecting, archiving, comparing, and sharing typography from different parts of the world?”

A year after Atypi, Meta was still thinking about this question and was brainstorming ways that her and Nathan could grow the database of type, preferably from locations around the world. We were in Italy at the time and were the perfect guinea pigs for Type of Place. Between 15 of us students, we took hundreds of photos of type while wandering the streets of Rome. Meta and Nathan took those photos back to Iceland for DesignMarch 2012 to compare them with the collection from Iceland.

One of the catalysts to this whole typographic investigation stemmed from Geert Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture. After reading this, Meta thought she could take one of the six dimensions of culture, particularly Masculinity vs. Femininity, to make a connection between this idea and the type specimens. As it turned out, while comparing Hungary with Iceland, Hungary’s type was heavy on the serifs, making it feel commandeering and patriarchal. Iceland, on the other hand, had an abundance of softer sans-serifs that felt more tender and modern. Type of Place was on to something.

Fast forward now to the present day — Type of Place is growing to include more and more collections of vernacular type from places like Toronto, Vienna, Prague, and Seattle. However, they’re not done. Meta and Nathan are going to use crowd sourcing by means of a mobile app that will allow users to constantly expand and give depth to the archive. The Instagram-like app is still in development but a beta version will be available for iPhones in the coming months.

I did not do this research project justice with this brief blog post, so I encourage you to check out typeofplace.com and stay tuned for updates, like the release of the app. Plus, this archive will be shared publicly for anyone to use for research purposes or simply to look at super cool type. I’m looking forward to seeing where this project ends up because I think the potential with this database will be endless. So stock up on those type photos while you’re wandering around your city, we want to see them!

TypeCon 2015: Genghis Kern

Guest Post by Almenia Candis

There is always the thrill of winning an online auction. For Jason Wedekind, owner of Genghis Kern in the Denver Highlands, this was very true when hunting for a complete set of movable type. When he was lucky enough to find a set of slab serif characters, there was something extra that drew a lot of excitement. He soon realized that he held in his hands carved history on the other side. 

From ancient maps of Colorado, to a crude engraving of a figure in a very NSFW position, these hidden gems showcases skills of artists past, but also a few with very common printmaking mistakes. You know to mind your p's and q's? Don't forget to engrave your numbers and symbols in reverse as well. 

We were also lucky enough to see these in person during our Letterpress Tour around the Denver area. It was almost surreal being able to hold something that some would display in a museum behind glass. At the Genghis Kern letterpress studio, it was part of the hands on experience to feel the same thrill as Jason. With so much to learn from experts in diverse fields of typography and new acquaintances to keep in touch with, TypeCon was a truly rewarding experience. 


TypeCon 2015: Marian Bantjes

Guest post by Almenia Candis


Keynote speaker of TypeCon 2015 Marian Bantjes opened with a look back at her portfolio. She has used a variety of mediums including dirt, sand, flowers, My Little Pony hair and has made type to look sweet like candy or haunting like an eerie house.

One of the most interesting aspects of her work is making her audience figure out what is being written. It goes against one of the primary rules of typography of making sure the reader has clarity of the text before them. For Marian, it is more of a puzzle hidden in an obscure pattern. She frames her work using existing grids from magazine layouts or photographs of city structures and invites the reader to peek closely at her hidden messages

Later in her career, Marian has steered away from typography and has focused her attention to pattern design. From fabrics, to carpets, to wallpaper, Marian's designs stay complex using the simplest of repeating shapes. Objects found around her home have been made into ornate patterns that give a kaleidoscope effect with a few tweaks in Photoshop to enhance the colour and beauty in every element. 

Explore the British Columbian Rockies with Marian and her dog in a series of video vignettes. The piece, above, was created in response to her experience.

Explore the British Columbian Rockies with Marian and her dog in a series of video vignettes. The piece, above, was created in response to her experience.

Marian's presentation has not only stuck with me because of her portfolio, but also from words spoken when she asked herself, "What is worth spending your valuable time on?" It is something anyone can take to heart as they pursue their creative hobbies when they must ask themselves if they want to continue in their current path. In Marian's case, it has opened up a new dimension in her work to create elaborate collages for her own masterpieces.

TypeCon 2015: Denver Letterpress Tour

Guest post by Allie McRae

Man, what a weekend it was at TypeCon! I was thoroughly impressed at the vast amounts of intelligence I was surrounded by, and yet how approachable and willing everyone was to meet new people and share their passions. Of all the speakers and activities I participated in, the Denver Letterpress Tour was by far the highlight of my weekend. On Friday evening, after a full day of lectures on topics ranging from the inner workings of Adobe’s type team to the endless possibilities of OpenType features, I was ready to get out of my chair and get my hands in some ink.

The evening started out with 35 of us conference attendees parading up the steps, single file, into an overhauled, matte black school bus that has rightfully earned the title of a Party Bus. With two long benches down each side, a flat screen tv on the back wall, and the bass thumping, we made our way to our first of four destinations—Now It’s Up To You Publications, a backyard letterpress studio belonging to Tom Parson. Tom and his family graciously let us crowd into their yard and admire a staggering amount of letterpress equipment and ephemera that Tom has printed over the years—including some of his own poetry—along with a handful of working presses. With only 25 minutes at each of our stops, we hustled to get our posters printed with our first run; at each stop we were going to add onto our poster until we had a complete print at the end of the evening.

Next up, we swung by Foils + Dies / Vintage Pressworks, to visit Rob Barnes and his stellar team. Foils + Dies is a luxuriously spacious studio with great, stately presses and enough enthusiasm to keep you entertained for hours. In contrast to Tom’s individual operation, Foils + Dies is set up to handle large orders and get them in and out in no time. There’s a bright future for Foils + Dies as they prepare for a move to Rob’s ranch just west of Denver, where an entirely new home (with lake views!) is being built for the presses. With our second colour of our print successfully checked off, we headed out once again to our awaiting Party Bus.

Our third stop was to the cleverly named Genghis Kern Letterpress & Design studio. Jason Wedekind was one of the speakers at TypeCon that morning so we were already aware of his incredible collection of double-sided letterpress blocks that he had on display at his studio. (My fellow correspondent Almenia Candis will be sharing a post about Jason’s passion for finding these rare, double-sided letterforms because they are truly superb specimens.) We grabbed a local Colorado beer and completed our third colour and round of printing. With enough space and time at this stop, we were able to pull our own prints this time, with some helpful guidance from Jason and his team.

And finally, our last stop on the Party Bus was to MATTER, a bustling, full-service design studio with a print shop on the ground floor. As this was our last stop on the letterpress tour, the Party Bus dropped us off here for a more leisurely stay. The walls of the industrial studio were covered in graphic inspiration and Rick Griffith, the head honcho of MATTER, wasted no time in sharing his complex ideas about creativity and MATTER’s design process. For the last time we wound our way through the line to complete our prints. A few of us that stayed a while longer were able to print a bonus round and have Marvin Gaye’s head permanently debossed onto the top of our design. Personally, I think Marvin’s smiling face is what truly made the different elements of the poster come together.

Besides my love of letterpress—the inevitable grime under my fingernails, the smell of ink, the unavoidable ink smudge, the sound of the whirring press—the other 30-some-odd people adventurous enough to climb onto that Party Bus made for the best company. I’m so glad I had the chance to visit some of the quality, local print studios around Denver and to be squished so tightly in that bus that I was bound to make new type-nerd friends.

TypeCon 2015: Meet Correspondent Almenia Candis

I'm lucky to have two correspondents at this week's TypeCon in Denver.

Almenia Candis is a newcomer to the Denver area, so when she applied for one of the free TypeCon passes she wrote, "I would love to be able to attend and see first hand other type designers and inspiration in this new city that I've called home for the past 9 months." 

Here's more from Almenia: "I've been a lover of type for some time and have recently taken up calligraphy as my obsession. I've acquired a lot of great inspiration from people all over on Pinterest and YouTube, including Kyle Gallant whom I'm so glad to see featured in recent UPPERCASE newsletter." 

Made a video of myself doing Reddit's word of the day. Enjoy! Materials: Pilot Parallel Pens (all four sizes) Rhodia 8.3x12.5in Dotpad Pilot Razor Point II (for the date) Song: "New Output" by Sferro

Almenia is posting photos and videos from TypeCon, and you can see some of her previous lettering experiments and practices over on Instagram:

TypeCon 2015: Meet Correspondent Allie McRae

TypeCon kicks off this evening, so I'd like to introduce you to the first of two UPPERCASE correspondents who will be enjoying the typographic and lettering goodness at the event in Denver August 12–16.

Hi all, I'm Allie, a graphic designer in Fort Collins, Colorado. I’m just starting out my career at a small marketing and public relations firm (with some freelance lettering and design work on the side) after recently graduating from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.

While in college, I spent a semester abroad in Italy, spending my days studying experimental type — needless to say, I have been in love with letterforms and type design ever since. I am so thrilled to be able to nerd out on typography for a weekend at TypeCon and I’m looking forward to sharing snippets with you guys!

Follow @uppercasemag and Allie on social media and check back here for dispatches from TypeCon. Thank you to TypeCon for the correspondents' free passes. Look for complimentary copies of UPPERCASE in the TypeCon goodie bags!


Guest Post: Old school tools

Sarah concludes with her use of watercolours to round out her documentation.

"I love adding a little paint to the journal pages I create. One way of doing this on a trip is to carry a small box of watercolour paints and brushes. I will often pull out the paints to create the base of my page or add a little detail after I have added my notes for the day. Water brushes are great to use for traveling as they allow you to add water directly to the barrel of the brush and make it easy to take on the go.

Traveling is an exciting adventure, by adding a little creativity and special stops to take in the sights and sounds of your location, you will be one step closer to living a more creative and fulfilled life. The tools and tips I’ve shared with you today will assist in giving you a new way to look at your travels and will also provide you with a beautiful memory of your special visit."

Guest Post: High tech tools

Sarah explains how she uses apps to record her travels.

"As I mentioned earlier, a phone with a camera is an invaluable tool these days, especially if you are traveling a long distance. In addition to the camera on your phone, there are some really fun camera apps that are relatively inexpensive (or free) that can to add drama and flare to your photos. My favorites are instagram and snapseed.

Both of these apps allow you to create different types of filters over your original photo. Instagram helps you create Polaroid-type pictures and has dozen of different filter options. Snapseed also allows filter options and can integrate easily with instagram for even more creative photos. With instagram you can share your photos instantly online and there are now also many ways to print your instagram photos, so they can become a special remembrance of your journey. Use of these phone apps also is a great way to record your journey and incorporate the photos into your journal."

Even the smallest journeys can be captured this way as Janine did using instagram and twitter on her commute this week.

UP NEXT: Old school tools

Guest Post: Colour as inspiration

Paris in Orange, Gallery Collection, Nichole RobertsonSarah explains another way that colour can serve as inspiration.

"There are hundreds of ways to create a journal of your travels. The best way to decide how to capture your journey is to think about what you are seeing while you travel. Do you want to document the architecture, the scenery, the people, the culture, the colours or a combination of all?

One of my favorite photographers is Nichole Robertson of Little Brown Pen. She and her family travel between New Jersey and Paris and have documented their vision of the city of lights through colour in a new book: Paris in Color. This book is a wonderful reference to see how to view somewhere in a new and fresh way. By using color as a focus it allows you see at a different level. What might have just been a tourist shot becomes a truly masterful way of capturing an important memory.

Paris in Yellow, Gallery Collection, Nichole RobertsonYour journal can be divided into colour before you go and then used as a place to capture your journey through writing and photography. As you are moving through your trip, write about the colours you see and date the pages. Also make note of the photos you take so that they are easily added once you return home. This can be done at the end of the day as a recap to the sites and sounds you have experienced."

UP NEXT: High tech tools

Paris in Purple, Gallery Collection, Nichole Robertson

Guest Post: A packing list

shares her packing list for creativity while travelling.

"Packing light for a trip is important but you can still include some small supplies to keep you creative while you are away. Do you like to sketch? Paint? Photograph? Or journal? How about combining all four into a vacation project that you will cherish forever?
Here’s what you need:

  • a journal: I love moleskine journals. They are lightweight and can fit into a carry-on or camera bag.
  • a camera: my go to camera is the Canon Rebel T2i with two lenses: 18-135mm and a 60mm macro.
  • a phone with camera capabilities: a lightweight alternative to the camera
  • a small pencil case: filled with your favorite pens, pencils, eraser and pencil sharpener
  • a small travel set of watercolour paints: Windsor Newton has a travel case that is about the size of a credit card and comes with its own paint brush

All these items are small enough to fit in my carry-on bag so I can reach them at a moments notice. In addition, I have my laptop computer so that I can easily upload my photos to keep a backup and to keep my cameras disk clear for many photo opportunities. Some options for comfortable yet stylish bags include Crumpler (Australian made and many options for cameras and laptops) and Epiphanie Bags (more designer oriented camera bags)."

UP NEXT: Colour as inspiration

Guest Post: Creativity to-go

You may remember Sarah G. Stevenson from her series of posts about finding creativity. As the days get longer and summer holidays approach, Sarah's back to share her thoughts on creativity while travelling.

Her website has many more resources to help you make the space to play when you don't know how to find the time. Of particular note is the art retreat she is organizing for this Fall in Lake Tahoe. Create. Explore. Discover 2 is a place for an intimate group of women to tap back into their creativity, dig deep into their hearts and get messy and play. Lisa Congdon of UPPERCASE's Collection a Day will be one of the retreat leaders.

Sarah starts before leaving home with packing for creativity.

"Vacations can be an incredible source of creativity and a beautiful starting point to create something magical if you know how to travel with creativity in mind. Right now I am traveling in Australia with my family. It is their first time visiting the country that I call home, so it is really important to me to capture the trip in a special way that they will remember and also for me to gather some creative inspiration so that when I get home I have a jumping off point for some new projects.

For me this begins before I leave with packing for creativity. What does this mean? In addition to packing the normal things you would take on a long trip or vacation, I also pack a few things so that I can still create while I am away. Today, I am going to share my packing list and ideas to jumpstart your creativity while on vacation."

UP NEXT: A packing list


Surtex: Lilla Rogers

In issue #13 we profiled Lilla Rogers and her line of craft supplies, Ruby Violet. Lilla also heads Lilla Rogers Studio which represents nearly 40 illustrators.

One of our intrepid Surtex reporters, Alanna Cavanagh spoke with Lilla about the many facets to her creativity.

Alanna: Lilla you run a thriving illustration agency, work yourself as an artist and have recently launched Ruby Violet. How do you possibly do it all?
Lilla: Well...actually I've just finished writing a book for Quarry/Rockport that will reveal many of the ways I have done it! It's called "I Just Like to Make Things: How to Have Fun, Stay Inspired and be Successful as an Artist" and it's due out February 2013. It contains lots of great photos and interviews and has a ton of advice on how to make a living with your art.

A: Wow I can't wait for it to come out - and I'm sure many UPPERCASE readers feel the same way. The "stay inspired" bit from your title strikes me right away because in our 24/7 plugged in world of blogs and Pinterest I find many artists suffer from a bombardment of images which can really dull their creativity. How do you advise artists to stay inspired?
L:  You have to fill the cup up but not to overflowing. There needs to be a continual process of taking in and then giving out. If you take in too much and don't produce you'll feel saturated. On the other hand if you just give out (produce art) but don't take the time to look around and see what's going on...your work will get stale. It's a matter of balance.

A: Your artists' work always looks so fresh and 'on trend'. Do you do anything to help them achieve this?
L: Each season I send all my artists a trend report which is filled with what I see are the emerging images, colour ways etc. For example last Christmas the report contained vintage ornaments and deer!

A: In an earlier interview for UPPERCASE you explained that in the 1980s you felt that the best energy and interesting illustration work was happening in magazines but now you feel it's in surface design. Do you still feel this way?
L: Absolutely! Surface design is positively exploding right now. There are so many areas within it. For example home decor, apparel, and fabric. All of them are expanding. This is our 6th year doing the Surtex show and it just keeps getting better.

A: What advice would you give an artist who is hoping to break into surface design?
L: Read as much as you can on the topic. Keep up with what's going on in the marketplace and stay current with technology. Come to Surtex and walk the show the first year to decide if it's for you. Make up as many pattern designs as you can and if doing a show figure out a way to present them nicely. Remember that you can often create many new patterns by simply altering the images and colours of an existing pattern. In general I would like to say to illustrators and agents that no industry stays the same forever. It is bound to change and those that embrace the change and remain positive will do fine!

A: Such great advice Lilla. In addition to your book and more Ruby Violet designs what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
L: In 2013 I hope to launch an online course on making a living with your art. I just love to teach and help artists learn how to make pieces that sell. Keep your eyes peeled for it!

A: We will Lilla. Thanks so much for your generous insights.

Surtex: Helen Dardik

UPPERCASE correspondent sat down with illustrator Helen Dardik at Surtex.

Helen in the Lilla Rogers booth.Alanna: Helen you seem to be an incredibly prolific illustrator and surface designer. From your blog it appears that you produce at least 1 new (and very dense) pattern a week. What's the secret to your productivity + focus?
Helen: Well...I've always been an overachiever so I am used to working very hard. As far as focus I work very late at night after my three kids are in bed and all is quiet. That's when I can really delve into my work and concentrate. I make a cup of tea at 10pm and normally work till 4am in the morning.

A: You were an early adopter to the blog world. What do you like about blogging?

H: I don't have a lot of people in my immediate circle in Ottawa who are as crazy passionate about design as I am. Blogging gave me a way to join a community of like minded and very supportive artists. Through it I've met incredible surface designers like Heather Moore in South Africa and Carolyn Gavin in Toronto-both of whom have become good friends.

A:  Do you have any advice for those new to blogging?
H: Yes do it for yourself. Use it as a vehicle to create new work, experiment with your style and push yourself forward. The minute you realize you're doing the blog for the benefit of readers you should STOP!

A: You have been present in Lilla Rogers booth for all 3 days of Surtex. What do you like about coming to the show?

H: Illustration can be a very solitary profession so it's a great experience to meet some of my clients in person and finally put a face to an email address.

A: What has been one of your favourite surface design assignments?

A I have loved working with Blue Q. The art director is tremendously supportive. He tells me to do what I do best and gives me a lot of freedom with my design. I have worked on bags, towels, and water bottles for them.

A: Your work has appeared on so many surfaces already. Do you have a dream assignment?

H: Yes. One day I'd love to have my work printed on lining for the inside of a fabulous coat!

Surtex: more than the Convention Centre

Alanna Cavanagh in Hell's Kitchentaxi photo by Alanna

Helen Dardik snapping some photos for inspiration.

Attending the National Stationery Show and Surtex are good reasons to get to NYC, but of course the city itself deserves some attention! Here are some shots that Alanna has sent from the Big Apple.

Surtex: a learning experience

Image by Mark Hoffmann, represented by i2i Art Inc.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

There's lots to learn about surface design and the more you learn, the more you discover it's just the tip of the iceberg!

The past two days I've attended seven seminars at Surtex. Some of the info covered challenges the right brain big time, and the seminars are held in underground suites away from the hustle and bustle of the show. There's no eye candy here, just the nitty gritty stuff. It's important, though, for anyone thinking of pursuing the business of surface design. Each session was an hour and a half long and included lots of Q+A.  It's great to get real specific answers to your questions.

Day 1: 

  • The Basics of Art Licensing - Part I + II, and 
  • Understanding Legal Basics - Contracts and Copyrights

Day 2:

  • New Legal Strategies - Royalties, Terms and More
  • Strategies for Working with Manufacturers
  • Futurecast:  Business Trends in Art Licensing
  • Understanding and Enhancing Retailer / Manufacturer Relationships

Some of the educational highlights from the Surtex seminars: 

Licensing is a $192 billion dollar business worldwide.

The artist is the Licensor and the buyer of your art (usually a manufacturer or retailer) is the Licensee.

The business is changing but there are always opportunities for great art.

It's not absolutely necessary, but it's preferable to register your copyright on any art you have licensed (in case of any infringement). To save money, don't register everything you create until you license it. 

You need to be prolific because it's best to have lots of samples to promote yourself to potential Licensors.

If you're looking for an agent, make sure you choose someone you get along with. Good communication and transparency make for a good marriage (in life and in the artist/agent relationship!).

If at all possible, try to get your name on any products you license.

When you're selling your art to a manufacturer or retailer, get an advance and royalty as part of your license agreement, if possible.  

The average royalty is 5% - 7% for household products, and up to 10% for paper goods or wall decor. 

Words to avoid in a contract: assignment, all rights and work for hire.

It takes about 1-2 years to get to know and achieve some level of success in surface design, so don't get discouraged a few months in.

Before you do a deal with a licensee check their reputation. Do they send royalty statements on time and pay royalties owning according to their agreements?

Before you sign a licensing agreement, have a copyright lawyer who specializes in licensing review the contract.  

Beware of exclusivity and make sure it is only for a narrowly defined category.

Don't be afraid to conduct an audit (through your copyright attourney), if you have reason to believe your royalties are not being correctly reported. In most royalty agreements you should receive a statement quarterly. 

There is a great online tool for finding your images which may be in use without your permission. It's called TinEye. Go to tineye.com and do a reverse image search on any of your images.

Familiarize yourself with a manufacturer or retailer's style or brand before you approach them with samples. Also find out in what format and how often they prefer you submit your art. 

Attend a show like Surtex. Take the seminars to learn as much as you can about the business.

Surtex: Frank Sturges Reps.

The Heads of StateAlanna Cavanagh reports from NYC:

Another booth that really stood out was for Frank Sturges Reps. Frank has been in the illustration representation business for over 15 years and represents a small group of incredible illustrators including  The Heads of State, Jessica Hische, and Katherine Streeter.

The booth made an impact with large panels of gorgeous illustration and saturated colour. Definitely a favourite of the day!

Jessica HischeKatherine Streeter

Surtex: Sorry You're Happy

Alanna Cavanagh reports from NYC:

First off it must said that being at the Javitts Centre can be an overwhelming experience. Your pass allows you admission not only into Surtex but into the National Stationery Show and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) as well.  If attending all three shows you are literally exposed to thousands of images, exhibitors, attendees, press packages, "trend seminars", workshops, and business cards. By the end of Day 1 I had a strong desire to be put into a sensory deprivation tank with a big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

I come from an illustration background and bring a bias to the Surtex show—I am most excited by the illustration booths.

One of the freshest presentations I've seen so far was from Sorry You're Happy. This art licensing and surface design studio is made up of husband and wife illustrators Kyle Reed and Jen Hsieh (You might be familiar with them from UPPERCASE's Work/Life book series). It was exciting to see that, in addition to their own work, they were exhibiting pieces from two established and talented Toronto-based illustrators Katy Dockrill and UPPERCASE contributor Aaron Leighton.

Kyle and Jen holding one of Jen's tea towels.All the work in the booth looked fresh and playful with the perfect amount of quirkiness thrown in. Jen and Kyle are particularly interested in licensing their art in the children's market and I think it would work beautifully there. I can easily imagine any of these designs dancing on a onesie or on children's bedding.

Booth panels by Aaron Leighton, Kyle Reed and Katy DockrillOne of Katy Dockrill's patterns in the sample book

Surtex: a view of it all

photo by Shelley Brown

Surtex: Day 1

Work by Tracy Walker, represented by i2i Art Inc. Tracy is also one of the artists in Work/Life 2: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

After 25 fantastic years repping illustrators for everything from advertising to design and publishing, the economic crash in 2008 was a real catalyst for the already shifting business of 'traditional' illustration. There has been a growing trend towards illustrators producing art suitable for applications to surfaces on everything from greeting cards to household products. To this end, Surtex is a trade show offering artists an opportunity to introduce their work to a variety of manufacturers and retailers.

I attended the show back in 2006, but over half a decade later, I am noticing that the calibre of art is changing, as more and more illustrators are entering this market. Just imagine how exciting it is for an illusrator whose work is normally applied to a printed brochure or used in a campaign that has a shelf life of 4 weeks to suddenly see their work applied to a tea towel, a rug or a stationery package!


Today I attended three seminars:  Basics of Art Licensing, Parts I + II, and Understanding Legal Basics: Contracts and Copyrights.

If you are an illustrator or designer thinking of pursuing surface design, I would recommend that you visit Surtex, which takes place in New York city every May. The conference program includes sessions where industry pros help give you a foundation in licensing your art.

I'm happy to report that although about one third of the surface design industry may still sell the art outright for a modest flat fee (where the artist relinquishes their copyright), there is a growing appreciation for the value of the usage and the aritst's rights.

More to come after day two tomorrow!

Shelley Brown
Principal + Artist Agent