An Interview with Jim Davis, Creator of Garfield

19 06 2015
(c) PAWS, INC.

(c) PAWS, INC.

Jim Davis stopped by The Art+Design Resource Center at Licensing Expo last week and he granted us, what turned out to be a very heartwarming interview. I also learned that today, June 19th is Garfield’s 37th Anniversary. So Happy Birthday Garfield! I love how cartoon characters age so gracefully!

I asked Jim specifically about he regained control of his intellectual property rights, which were earlier owned by UFS (United Feature Syndicate) and what’s in-store for the future with Garfield. (In advance, please excuse the naturally loud background noise on this video, which was difficult to avoid and edit out at Licensing Expo.)


National Stationery Show & Surtex Observations

20 05 2015

Flying over NYCSo I flew into New York to meet with publishers and do both the National Stationery Show and Surtex. Even before the shows at Jacob Javits began, I had productive meetings with clients, new prospects and old friends (not that they are old age-wise, I have just known them a long time). I even indulged, thanks to my dear friend Erin, in an evening of great laughs at ‘Something’s Rotten!’ – a new Broadway musical that didn’t miss a beat and has been nominated for 10 Tony Awards. In other words, I had a great time!National Stationery Show

Sunday I walked every inch of the pared down Stationery Show. While the show is a shadow of its former self, it probably represents more the state of the Stationery and Greeting Card industries, and the massive reduction in retail outlets, then the new management of the show itself. A lot of the big companies no longer exhibit or have chosen to have a smaller presence. However, it was very informative in terms of checking on trends, and there were plenty of newcomers testing the waters with their own card lines.

National Stationery Show New Product DisplayWow – holy letterpress!! Yes, the trend that started about five years ago is now a full-blown epidemic. I think there were more original letterpress card companies per capita than any other type of card company. And, if that is true, I don’t know how all of them will remain in business. Each one can only possibly get a fraction of that niche market.

When letterpress cards began to emerge, I remember that every card was smaller, sweeter and more demure and special in their hand-made way, than the last one. The difference today is that letterpress has finally reached the realm of the clever, tacky and rude humor.

In general, I’m so glad to see humor getting its day in the sun. I think it’s reasonable to say that in light of today’s human condition, we all need it. Humor –of all kinds— is a big, big trend. No doubt, I was proud when the 27th Annual Louie Award for a greeting card ‘$4.00 & Below’ went to one of my favorite clients Loose Leashes.  Actually both Louie Award Winners (under $4.00 and above $4.00) were humorous cards this year!Louie Award Winner Loose Leashes cropped

Over on the Surtex side of the trade show floor, I heard many agencies wishing they had more WORDS. Humorous words. Inspiring words. Sentimental words. You name it, W-O-R-D-S, of all kinds, are still on the rise. Hand-lettered, calligraphy, unique type…it’s all applicable. The population of stationery and gift buyers must be speechless, because they can’t get enough of it.

IMG_0575So where does that leave artists in the Surtex licensing arena? Well, as I said, there is still plenty of room for art with all those communicating words everyone wants. I heard many licensing agencies comment that they wished they had an artist or more artists who incorporate words into their artwork, both in central images and patterns.

Florals and animals still dominate the licensing themes. Further, retro revivals for a variety of eras…vintage, the 50s, 60s, “70s and 80s…are still prevalent in many design and humor concepts. The hand-drawn and hand-painted imagery is such an important trend, whether actually hand-made or computer-crafted. There continues to be a bit of a backlash against art that looks computer generated. Also, it’s not enough to create patterns and coordinating patterns, the manufacturers still want those central images.

On the design and product fronts, I didn’t see much that was new. There were some very original paper engineering. There was some buzz about the growing sales of coloring books for adult women. That may translate into a new trend in intricate black and white line art. I also noted the “his and her” pillowcases are getting there, again, just the ones with words. A great example of a not new, but a new way of approaching the traditional.National Stationery Show New Products

It looked like Surtex was providing some interesting sessions at the back of the trade show floor in their event space, but, sorry, I didn’t have the time to go and it didn’t look very busy anyway. I hope others will comment on these and share the information with all of us. I did see lots of vibrant colors and color combinations, but no neon colors .

Overall I think the exhibitors would have liked to have had more traffic at the show. Attendance did seem down. But many exhibitors noted that the quality of attendees was good. Many manufacturers were hunting for art to fill projects, plans and specific needs. That was exciting!

I heard exhibitors say they were not approached by as many artists, as in past years. The management’s new pricing strategy was successful at keeping the artists looking to get into the business, or looking for an agent, to a much smaller scale than in years past. Those who did attend were notably very professional, from what I observed.

Lastly, the height of the chalkboard art and products’ trend is finally over. But the chalkboard style seems to have left behind a somewhat indelible mark, through its influence on hand-lettering and type styles, which cannot be erased.

Video Interview with Designer Brand – Debra Valencia™ and Beginner’s Art Licensing Essentials Mini-Conference THIS WEEK!

22 03 2015

Debra Valencia LogoLast week was busier than ever with classes coming up and our seven-hour Art Licensing Essentials Mini-Conference for beginners starting this week (click here or see below). But I jumped at the chance to interview Debra Valencia for you…okay for me too! I enjoyed it so much and I know that you will find this wonderful video interview quite informative. We will be doing many more video interviews in the coming months, so watch for them.MiaNotecards

Debra has made a lot of progress in the art licensing arena in only six years of licensing, and in only two of those years did she have an agent. Before she found an agent she realized that getting some deals on her own would help her get a better agent, so she did (OH AROUND!) 32 deals between 2008 and 2013. Debra is also no stranger to helping fellow-artists new to licensing, as she mentors several in her geographic area of Los Angeles.

DVBathBodyI’m so excited to share this interview because it shows that you didn’t have to start 20 years ago in art licensing to become a successful branded artist. I think Debra Valencia is a perfect example for all artists, designers and creators who envision themselves as a brand. The Debra Valencia™ Brand features fashion-forward patterns that have endless applications in stationery, gift, craft and home décor. She is working with manufacturers in paper products, social expression, textiles, home fashions, tabletop, gift, craft and hobby, children’s merchandise and jewelry. Debra’s artwork is currently licensed for over a 1,000 products in stationery, home office, gift and textiles. I’m showing a few lovely products here, but of course, there are many more examples on her web site.

‘Sewing Pretty Bags’ By Debra Valencia & Cheyanne Valencia 132 pages Sewing sisters Debra and Cheyanne present 12 quick and easy projects for sewing boutique handbags, shopping totes, pouches and more. With step-by-step instructions and fresh, modern designs, they show how to make beautiful unique bags for both fashion and functional uses. Featuring quilt fabric collections by Debra Valencia.

‘Sewing Pretty Bags’
By Debra Valencia & Cheyanne Valencia
132 pages
Sewing sisters Debra and Cheyanne present 12 quick and easy projects for sewing boutique handbags, shopping totes, pouches and more. With step-by-step instructions and fresh, modern designs, they show how to make beautiful unique bags for both fashion and functional uses. Featuring quilt fabric collections by Debra Valencia.

Let me also share some exciting NEW news from the Valencia camp: her sister, Cheyanne, and Debra have collaborated to create a sewing book of 12 quick and easy boutique handbags, titled ‘Sewing Pretty Bags.’ She said the concept came out of their sewing handbags and other designer prototypes with her fabulous fabrics, as a way to showcase them. Debra even wrote her own proposal and pitched it at Book Expo, landing a quick deal with Fox Chapel Publishing. The book is scheduled to be in bookstores on May 1st, so look for it.

Okay…that’s all I’ll reveal for now…please make yourself a truly delicious cup of tea in a gorgeous mug or tea-cup and sit back and watch the interview. It will be worth every drop! (We apologize in advance for the slight audio feedback that occassionally arises during the interview.)

WWCI from AALWorldwide Creators’ Intensive – Art Licensing Mini-Conference $125 (Live Events + MP3 Audio Files and Full Presentation in PDFs to review at your convenience) The Worldwide Creators’ Intensive, our first global armchair 3-day mini-conference, is an action packed 7+ hours of learning the licensing business from the comfort of your own home.

Taught by J’net Smith of All Art Licensing – March 25, 26 & 27, 2015

It’s a very well-rounded and comprehensive, intensive 7+ hours of training scheduled over 3 days, with practical and affordable art licensing information created for the domestic and international art communities. The benefit of registering for our live events is that you receive our discounted price and you get to ask questions. If you cannot attend on the day and/or at the time we are offering the courses, don’t worry—you can still ask questions prior to the class and they will be answered.  Then you will receive the full class materials and audio, so you can take the courses at home whenever you like.

  • Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1)
  • Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2)
  • Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3)
  • Art Licensing Negotiations & Contracts (Part 4)

Save when you register for the entire event! Best Price: $125/USD Register for Worldwide Creators’ Intensive – all 4 live events

Learn More by clicking here or I’ve outlined the curriculum below:

WWCI: Art Licensing Essentials (Part 1) Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (1.5 hours) $30 (if purchased separately)

This course covers:

  • insights to help you determine where you fit into this business
  • the art licensing process
  • product categories
  • timelines (how long does it take to make money)
  • artist requirements
  • challenges that are to be expected (& pitfalls to avoid)
  • distribution channels and retailers, and
  • the agent/artist relationship.

WWCI: Art Licensing Collections & Presentations (Part 2) Wednesday, March 25 – 1 p.m. EDT / 3 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course covers how to:

  • develop your marketing strategy
  • define your target audience
  • research manufacturers
  • understand important licensing perspectives (that of the manufacturer/retailer vs. the artist/brand owner)
  • create professional collections
  • develop presentations
  • create pitch letters and
  • organize and write effective websites.

WWCI: Art Licensing Marketing & Sales Techniques (Part 3) Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course will cover how to:

  • create your sales tool kit of essential skills
  • understand the licensing sales process
  • find your retail fit
  • develop sales leads
  • write sales letters
  • communicate with manufacturers and
  • sell yourself to a prospective manufacturer or agent.

WWCI: Art Licensing Negotiations and Contracts (Part 4) Friday, March 27, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. PDT / 1:00 p.m. EDT (2 hours) $50 (if purchased separately)

This course teaches:

  • the essential contract elements
  • protecting the rights to your art and business,
  • generating maximum income,
  • learning industry royalty rates
  • recognizing common mistakes
  • negotiation techniques
  • how to evaluate an offer
  • when to sign a deal and when not to

For more information on the 3-day Mini-Conference Intensives or to purchase any Part separately click here

Product Art & Design Trends – 2015

14 01 2015

Monochromatic of Puget SoundHere is what I’m seeing as key art and design trends for 2015. I polled fashion blogs, home décor sites, retailers, trade publications and a variety of sources. See how my list compares to your trip to AmericasMart. I welcome your thoughts and examples.


A mix of colors, imagery & themes

  • Farm to table
  • Metalics (the new neutral)
  • Gray (still a top neutral)
  • Library cozy
  • Natural wood
  • Octagons
  • Nature mixed with mod designs
  • Deep blue (Greek Isles)
  • Digital world influencing print
  • Retro—70s bohemian still with us but here come 80s & 90s
  • Space ‘the new frontier’
  • Opulence/luxury
  • All things royal (continues)
  • Weddings

Here’s a link to Pantone’s Spring Color Report, so you can check out their line-up.

Pantone Spring Color Report 2015

Lastly, I want to add a few notes from a fascinating conversation I had with a manufacturer recently.  He mentioned how ‘fluidity’ is really important right now because we’re fighting back from such a major recession. I see the fluidity in the neutral colors all combined together, lots of beautiful monochromatic scenes.  Then pops of color or white.

Humor is important. Optimism and inspiration are key. And, of course, looking back to wonderful days gone by and ahead to a brighter future.  I can actually see everything he was talking about in the list I gathered from a wide variety of sources.

I couldn’t get to AmericasMart this year, but I can’t wait to read about everyone’s experiences this year! How are the trends influencing your thinking and designs?

(My thanks to Sara Chapman for her Monochromatic Photo of Puget Sound, more of her photography can be found at Love That Image. Where else but Seattle should you go for images of gray…our trendy neutral.)

Interview With a Stationery Manufacturer – Inspiration is Still a Big Market

17 06 2014

Here at the Licensing Expo it’s been a busy first day. The lifeblood of the show is two-fold, the creators who spend endless amounts of time creating and dreaming about getting their message, characters or brand out into the marketplace and the producers, manufacturers and retailers who produce and distribute the media and products.

Andy Meehan, owner of Christian Inspirations, a manufacturer of stationery products shares some insights and misconceptions about his business with us today.

Creative Minds Design Studio

In its first show last year, Creative Minds made serious tracks with an international licensee for children’s footwear for its emodoki, cute character mood faces, property. Now the company is back, all the way from The Netherlands, to add more licensees to its emodoki line as well as launch its new characters, Minky & Chuwie, and Fulgar the Puppy. Antoine Aarts, said, “I came all the way from Holland for this show.  I was here last year and we did very well for emodoki, that we developed a couple more properties and have a much bigger booth.”

Creative Minds Design Studio

Creative Minds Design Studio

emodoki shoes

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