Debbie Tomassi Talks About Creating ‘Bodacious Broads’

10 06 2014

For any of you creating characters and hoping to create a line of greeting cards and more, I know you will enjoy my interview with Debbie Tomassi.  She is a veteran of American Greetings (20 years, no less), Recycled Paper Greetings, Ronnie Sellers…and knows her stuff!  Debbie is one of the artists I agent and I am excited that we get to share her story about creating a product line called ‘Bodacious Broads.’


AmericasMart Showcases Licensed Art Themes on 2014 Product Lines

16 01 2014

AmericasMart is so big I never really feel like I’ve seen the whole thing, even though I walked and talked until my feet AND throat were so sore I couldn’t do any more. Don’t tell me I’m getting older; I am always reminded since my birthday regularly arrives during the Mart each January.

The hallways definitely didn’t seem overcrowded this year, but the show was plenty busy. I am also happy to say the manufacturers that I met with seemed pretty optimistic.

My formal take-away from this year’s show was that there were ‘no new themes.’  Really.  Every showroom had variations on the same themes, some of the same themes, or a different cross-section of the same themes on different products.

The following are the thematic trends seen EVERYWHERE:

  • Recycled – Refurbished – Rustic Chic (with loads of Burlap!)
  • French – Paris
  • Pets – Cats and Dogs
  • Ephemera
  • Vintage/Retro
  • Coastal
  • Wine
  • Flowers
  • Patterns – With chevrons, fleur de leis and paisleys
  • Birds – While this theme saw owls coming on strong the last two years, now it’s a full-fledged Hitchcock level parade of seagulls, ravens, flamingos, peacocks, penguins, chickadees, and of course, the proverbial roosters!Dayspring72dpi (1)PrimitivesByKathy72dpi
  • Words — Both humorous and inspirational words were on all types of product. Some utilized type only, and others mixed the words with images. And there was still lots of chalk boards. I picked up two chalk-board inspired catalogs, from totally different companies. You’d have thought their art directors sat next to each other in catalog-making class.  Chalkboards are now, in my estimation, too much of a good thing. Of course, well designed type and handcrafted writing is awesome, but with new, fresh content—it’s much better!

So, if there is nothing new, what is inspiring manufacturers and consumers?  I think the themes tend to stay the same in a conservative marketplace because consumers are purchasing with purpose.  They buy to fit their collections, to match their existing décor, or to give to someone who loves a certain theme. And manufacturers still aren’t willing to take many financial chances.

The freshness, then, is coming from the new ways in which artists, graphic designers, illustrators, painters, cartoonists and all creators are approaching these themes in really unique ways:

  • Juxtaposing unique art styles and varied themes
  • Mixing colors in different ways (the higher-end manufacturers were using muted version of intense colors; the lower-end was using bold, bright and neon colors)
  • Utilizing textures (lace, paint, rust, wire mesh, clay, hammered metal, fabrics, etc.)
  • Creating silhouettes
  • Designing the product itself

In the end, it’s about moving forward and trying new ideas and elements.  Yet, still creating enough great work that appeals to the manufacturers who will fund production and distribution.  I say out with ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ and in with something more original, such as, ‘Don’t Panic’ by Simply Eartha. Simply Eartha Soy Candle Line with Quotes from Eartha Kitt

Art Licensing: The Road Slowly Travelled!

29 10 2013

vampireCatsporchI think you will enjoy this blog from artist Daryl Slaton at Tails of Whimsy.  It’s a Halloween tale, for sure, as well as an honest appraisal of art licensing.

Musings on Getting From Here to There
Art Licensing: The Road Slowly Travelled!

Yes! We are very excited that our Halloween figurines finally reached the retail markets this month and can now be seen in stores and shop windows throughout the US. Yes, you can even see them on our driveway where the candy witches will sit with a bowl of candy on her lap because our front sidewalk will be torn up this week and our wee friends can’t even get to our porch! Yes, we are gratified that money is starting to come in!

Print On Demand Products…Is There a Place For Them in Art Licensing?

15 10 2013

blank mugI often get asked about Print on Demand (POD) products, and whether or not this is a good idea, or if it undermines one’s ability to license products to traditional manufacturers.
Making products available for sale on your web site is very appealing. And certainly the companies who offer POD are growing, and offering more types of products and better quality, than when this new era began.
Print on demand is basically, one-off printing, giving you the ability to buy one mug, one t-shirt or one tote bag with one of your designs on it. And let’s face it, it’s exciting to finally see your art, characters or designs on product. But this is not licensing and it’s not necessarily the way to grow your business.
I don’t think that utilizing POD in the early stages of your business is such a bad idea, but let me point out some POD catches that you might not have considered:

  1. If you want to manufacture your own product, rather than licensing it, POD is not the way to do it. POD products are really the most expensive way to purchase products, since you don’t get any volume discounts when you produce them one at a time. If you want to be a retailer, then you need to get serious about finding manufacturing vendors, warehousing your products, getting sales reps, etc.
  2. If you use POD to create mock ups for your web site or trade show booth, then potential licensing manufacturers may see those products and think you have already licensed those product categories. It may actually turn them off, rather than increase your appeal.
  3. If you sell products on your web site, be prepared to tell manufacturers about your sales results. Clearly manufacturers who want to license an artist would love to have some sales statistics to guide them in their decision. When a potential licensee sees that you have been selling product on your web site, they may very well ask you how the sales are going. If you say you’ve been selling product online for years, or even a year, and then tell them you’ve had sales of 327 units, they won’t likely be impressed. The fact is that if you don’t actively market your products, to a wide market consistently, then no one but your relatives and friends will buy them. Remember that selling products requires more than just putting the up ‘available’ sign on your web site. Of course, if you do market your products and sell 1000’s and 10’s of thousands, then you have got an amazing story to tell and you can probably use that information as leverage to close a licensing deal with a similar manufacturer who would love to create the product for you.
  4. POD products are often not well designed. They are essentially blank promotional products, in which you have a limited and fixed amount of space to place your artistic image. They can be inflexible, to say the least. My point is that these products, no matter how stylishly you place your art on them, are unlikely to sell and will rarely convince a well-seasoned manufacturer that your art belongs on products. They also don’t help build your brand identity. You can do better by creating artistic and inventive product designs through mock-ups.

I think overall that an artist will rarely make a great deal of money for the effort that POD products take. And they CAN potentially inhibit or turn off manufacturers and may be something you will have to explain. So think carefully about why you have POD products on your web site, or why you are considering adding them. If your goal is to create products for yourself, friends and family, then go for it!

Speaking of the Top 12 Current Design Trends…

8 10 2013

Gifts and Decorative Accessories Magazine recently asked retailers to fill out a survey about current trends. Below I’ve listed the top 12 design trends for gift and home decor products in the U.S. While reviewing the themes, it occurred to me that many artists may not actually make a list of trends and then create art for these themes, when and if they fit your art style.  If you don’t, it is something you might want to consider.

  • Americana/Made in the USA
  • Asian
  • Celebrity or Pop Culture
  • Classic
  • Coastal/Cottage
  • Eco-Friendly/Green
  • Lodge/Cabin
  • Modern/Contemporary
  • Retro
  • Traditional
  • Safari/Adventure
  • Spiritual/Religious

If you are excited about the prospect of diversifying your business and creating new collections, why not start by doing some basic sorting to see what you already have in terms of collections and art. Then you can review the list to contemplate the options, and it may expand your thoughts and ideas.

Many themes can be broken down further into sub-categories with a variety of designs developed to appeal to different niche audiences:

  • end users – categorized by sex and/or age (women, men, tweens, kids, boys, girls, infants, etc.)
  • everyday and/or seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)
  • occasions/life events (birthday, wedding, birth announcement, election year, dating, back-to-school, graduation, dating, etc.)
  • holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, etc.).
  • location of use (the specific location where the product will be used, such as kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, garden, etc.)
  • geographic location (an area of the country, region or city, such as New York City, countryside, lake, coastal/beach, cabin, lodge, tropical, desert, etc.)
  • activities (jogging, yoga, singing, gaming, sports, etc.)

You can add to the above examples; really the sub-categories are quite limitless. Obviously, the more targeted a design or collection is to specific occasions, regions and activities, the smaller the  potential audience of buyers.  This is an important factor that manufacturers and agents will consider.  But, also, if we don’t mix things up, nothing new will be created.

I also like to think about crossing two trends to create a unique ‘cat-dog’ or other composite creation. This can mean mixing unexpected styles with unexpected themes. For example, a Spiritual/Religious theme executed in a tatoo-styled art; or Lodge/Cabin theme created in a modern style.

Just use this as an idea generator to think about new ways to interpret those popular categories and your own general themes.  You may prefer covering one topic in-depth, such as cat images for various ages and occasions. Or you may have the kind of creativity that jumps and scatters widely across a broad segment of themes.  Either way is fine.  Keeping your true interests and passions in mind is what’s most important. Have fun seeing where you fit and what fits you.

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