Craft Marketer Newsletter
Arts & Crafts Business Help  
Issue Number 34


Licensing Art and Crafts For Profit

Late in 1991, Tracy and John Porter left Chicago for Wisconsin to pursue their dream of making beautiful hand-painted wares to sell. Borrowing $5,000 from Tracy's parents, they started their small business.

The Porters named their company Stonehouse Farm Goods. Business really started when they attended the New York Gift Show in early 1992. John and Tracy had a goal in $10,000.00 in orders for their hand-painted furniture and accessories. To everyone's amazement, they received $75,000.00 in orders.

Over the next few years, business flourished. They moved from their original studio, a chicken coop, to an 8,000 square foot studio with great views of the surrounding pasture.

Stonehouse Farm Goods taught John and Tracy lots of lessons. They realized the need to build a brand name to grow more. In Spring of 1995, they started up licensing partnerships with manufacturers who would produce their artistic creations. Soon they looked at turning out textiles, dinnerware, wallpapers, rugs, and more beautiful products from their designs. A few years later, over 15,000 retailers were selling Tracy Porter products.

Artist, Christian Riese Lassen has generated over $100 million in annual product sales that license his art. Mary Engelbreit has created a range of licensed products that stretches from dinnerware to screensavers, a successful retail store in her hometown, an award- winning magazine, more than 150 book titles published and hundreds of millions of greeting cards sold.

Two ways to profit from licensing:

1. License your designs onto commercial products to earn royalties.
2. Pay royalties for licensing popular characters onto your craft items. Licensing collegiate logos onto your craft items is a way you can capitalize on sales in college towns. The Collegiate Licensing Company has sold $2.6 billion in retail product rights.

Licensing is a $175 billion industry according to expert and licensing agent, Michael Woodward, who has licensed over $600 million in products. Everything from sweatshirts to coffee mugs to greeting cards and hundreds of other items are made incorporating design or artwork that is licensed.

Licensing over the past few years has become a seriously tough business. It is important therefore for any artist entering this market to be aware of certain factors. Michael offers five important tips.

1. Organization; Copyright your work with the Copyright Office in Washington. Keep accurate records by cataloguing your work with reference numbers and descriptions. Ensure all your work is scanned so it's accessible and available for licensing.

2. Producing Art which sells; So many artists try to promote work which is simply not commercial. If you want to license your work to a particular company, find out what they sell first by visiting stores/outlets where the products are sold and visit their website if they have one. Target your art to fit the client's needs and their customers.

3. Promotion; Getting your work in front of Art Directors and buyers is the first stage of creating awareness. Produce a professional presentation i.e. a flyer or single sheets of work in a folder. Ensure the printing quality is good. Use emails to direct buyers to your website. Telephone and write to art directors asking if they have submission procedures. Use a combination of all these methods and above all BE PROFESSIONAL.

4. Creativity; Manufacturers are looking for styles which fit the lifestyles of their customers, so single designs don't create any impact. To be really successful at licensing the artist needs to create a "look" which can be used over several product ranges. This is how "Art Brands" are created. Look at current successful
brands and learn how the artist adapts designs to suit each product.

5. Perseverance; Be prepared for a long hard road- the competition out there is fierce. Licensing is now a hugely competitive business and to survive you must constantly produce new innovative art. Listen to what art directors tell you, be adaptable and cooperative.

Michael Woodward is author of "Art Licensing 101". His book lists resources for how to profit from licensing including locating agents.

For more resources, do a search in the box below for these terms: "art licensing" or "how to license art and design"

Have a great week!

James Dillehay

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