These little ticks might not look like much, but to me they represent the past many days of diligently working away on the design of issue #14. I've got 109 pages done of 116, Erin's busy proofing and so the end is in sight!
Alanna Cavanagh met some new talent earlier this month at Surtex.
PRNT (which stands for PEOPLES' REPUBLIC OF NICE THINGS) is a brand-spanking-new studio founded by young designers Jenna Russelle and Halla Koudsi.
The two founders have backgrounds in the illustration and fashion worlds respectively and met while working in the apparel industry in Toronto. In January 2012 they formed PRNT and this past week they made their debut at SURTEX.
In addition to their own designs the studio carries patterns created by several different artists which results in an enormous variety of work available within one studio. Most of their patterns have a highly illustrative and often edgey vibe and would work wonderfully in the fashion, home + paper goods markets.
We wish Jenna and Halla the best of luck in their new venture!
When Chryssi Tsoupanarias emailed me this week I received a lovely surprise. "I've been an UPPERCASE subscriber since the very first issue, I love it! It's a really beautiful publication," she writes. A graphic designer for the Canadian furniture retailer Structube, Chryssi has made good use of her back issues: as attractive stacks of magazines in the photos for their latest catalogue. "We've used issues of UPPERCASE in some of the images for our Summer campaign—these will be on our website, in our catalogue (online and also printed in-store) as well as in ads featured in home decor magazines (such as House & Home, Style at Home)."
I love how edited the photos are and happy to see the magazine is appreciated in this way. I can see myself at this white desk, below, with my laptop...
Structube has stores in Quebec and Ontario and will be making their way into Western Canada later this year with a store in Edmonton.
(The cover of issue #14 would go really nicely with that grey couch and green accent pillow, too!)
Shelley: How long have you been pursuing the art licensing business?
Chrystal: 8 years
Shelley: How have you found it to change from then to now?
Chrystal: The art is much better. It used to be very old fashioned. Not contemporary at all. More and more illustrators are trying it. Much more competition.
Shelley: What do you think are the most significant new opportunities that you see for your artists in the future?
Chrystal: Paperless applications.
Shelley: What should artists do who want to make the shift from illustrating to surface design or licensing?
Chrystal: Get out there and understand that art is about collections. Decide if you want to be single image or patterns and research. Do lots of research.
Shelley: What shows do you feel are essential to the art licensing business?
Chrystal: Surtex and The Licensing Show in Vegas. Also, if anyone is planning on exhibiting in a show, they should first attend at least one or two years in a row prior to exhibiting in it.
Now that was a crafty extravaganza! We had four tables of things to make: notebooks, necklaces, buttons/mirrors and decorative orbs. Here's a quick gathering of our tweets and instagrams; I'm off to get a good night's sleep. Thank you to Erin, Megan, Chantal and Eleanor for their tremendous help, and to the fine and friendly folk at the Chinook Centre Anthropologie store. We'll post the pictures from our event photographer, Abby Hutchison, soon.
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.
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!
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.
- The Basics of Art Licensing - Part I + II, and
- Understanding Legal Basics - Contracts and Copyrights
- 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.
Alanna 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!
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.
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.
The work of Lucienne Day inspires a lot of contemporary interpretations, but it always worthwhile to know more than the surface of a designer's work. Day's work is part of Designing Women: Post-War British Textiles: a current exhibition at the British Textiles Museum. The book Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers in Modern Design by Lesley Jackson (Chronicle, 2001) is also worth adding to your library.
Around the web:
• Lucienne Day 1917-2010, remembrance in the Guardian
• Robin Day obituary
• V&A Lucienne Day archives
• Classic Textiles' reissue of some iconic designs
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!
Principal + Artist Agent
When Alanna Cavanagh offered to be the UPPERCASE correspondent at Surtex of course we said yes! And even better, Alanna's rep from i2i Art Inc, Shelley Brown, will be sharing her experiences as well. The two have travelled to NYC from Toronto and will be sending in their daily recaps. Surtex is THE place to go to buy and sell licensing of art and design and I know that many of you aspire to be represented there some day.
To set the mood, here are some of Alanna's pattern designs:
I'd like to thank Kathryn Hunter from Blackbird Letterpress for all her support of UPPERCASE magazine — she's an avid reader, takes lovely photos of the magazine on location in Louisiana, provided samples for our letterpress issue #8, and advertises in our pages as well.
We wish her much success at the Stationery show in NYC.
The National Stationery Show is the ultimate destination for a lot of small papergoods companies. At the show, they'll be exposed to buyers, media and potential partners from across North America—contacts that could determine the future of their creative business enterprise. Happy Cactus Designs is a new company, less than a year old, and this is their first time at the big show. Proprietor Brannon Cullum has a good post on the Happy Cactus blog about her road to the NSS.
The name of a stationery company can go a long way in helping the success of a brand. The name should communicate the aesthetic style, appeal to its audience and denote quality. The Happy Cactus name suits the friendly illustrative style of their cards. Brannon explains the name:
So just where did the name for the design studio originate? While living in New York City, Brannon bought a tiny one-inch tall cactus to remind her of her Texas roots. With loving attention (and a lot of sunlight), the little cactus grew into a thriving plant…a very happy cactus indeed! Now in Texas, the happy cactus is enjoying the warm Texas sun. Just like the plant, Brannon’s goal for the studio is to take her tiny seed of an idea for a paper goods company and grow it into a line of products that bring color and happiness to everyone.
Best wishes, Happy Cactus, and all the new companies debuting at the show!