At this point in my art career, I’m not yet ready to work with an agent or studio to license my designs. But I have been creating some new designs for different markets – like these cute bunnies for the gift bag market. I was hanging on to my designs, building my portfolio with the intention of joining Pattern Bank next year, but I kept feeling like I wasn’t quite ready yet to take that leap.
Pattern Bank was supposed to be my intermediate step – the one I took before I found myself an agent. I’m a planner – I like clear steps and a solid direction. I’m practical because I know what my limits are and how I can best prepare myself for the next phase of my life (as a designer). But no matter how many times I looked at lists of agents or Pattern Bank, I just couldn’t take that leap. At the same time, I am ready to start licensing my designs. I want to work with small companies who are starting out. I want to help other people reach their dreams while I’m reaching my own. I’m a really good and versatile artist – and I love doing this – I just can’t do it full time yet.
For years, I have had a Fine Art America shop – and that’s a site that is absolutely swamped with artists of all types so it’s hard to get traction there. As I was uploading some new patterns, I realized that there was a place to sell licensed artwork and a little bell began ringing in my head…it was exactly what I was looking for. My pre-intermediate step!
Yes, I design because I love to do it – but in all honesty I can only reach a limited audience with my own sites. In order to seriously start licensing my work I need some company to fall in love with my designs and use my work on their products. At the same time, I don’t have the time to be a designer working with my own clients and making numerous tweaks to designs. Tweaking designs takes hours at my current skill level – I’m experienced and a perfectionist – but I don’t know all of the little tricks to make a design fit certain specs easily. Instead, I have to “trial and error” it until it’s exactly right.
With that being said, there was once a time (not too long ago) where I simply couldn’t make a seamless repeat pattern work. Now I can – 100% of the time – in about an hour if it’s a really challenging pattern. It’s just a matter of practice until I’m at the level of experienced pattern designers who can fit a design into a template in a matter of minutes and move on to the next project. Right now, I can do these things – but at a snail’s pace and that’s not all that much fun. The fun part for me is creating the artwork.
So the question became what to do with all of those designs that I created while dreaming of being accepted to Pattern Bank? Those designs will probably not be as on-trend when I am finally ready. Before I look for an agent or join Pattern Bank, I need to know I’ll have the time to produce new work at a consistent pace – since at the moment I’m only a part time designer that just isn’t practical. So I keep putting that intermediate step off. Enter Fine Art America’s art licensing program…
Having a whole new channel really opens up my options for what I want to design. Up until this point, I’ve been focusing on textiles (shower curtains, home decor items) and art (paintings and wall hangings) – all in my “signature style” so I have some cohesion to my portfolio. With the licensing option I can branch out to packaging, paper goods, fashion! I can use my graphic/illustrated style or my softer Chinoiserie patterns. I’m so excited!
My point is that opportunities open up when you’re ready for them. I’m ready to license, but not on a full time basis. I’m ready to explore how my aesthetic fits into other areas of pattern design, but not by sacrificing my limited time to design. I’m finding ways to break into certain parts of the market at my own pace. My business is growing in tiny steps. So for all of you artists out there who are wondering when you’re going to start “taking this seriously” – I propose you can do that now. Just keep your eyes open and the opportunities will come to you. There’s more than one way to do things.