Five other Nova Scotia artists and I recently left our chilly province for a few days, flying south to New York City where roses were already in bloom. We were a varied group; you can see samples of our work in this online gallery. Thanks to our organizer Bernie Burton of the nonprofit Craft Alliance, we went to be artist observers at the large Surtex show, which is all about selling and licensing original art and design. There were seminars to take and more than 200 booths to visit, where artists and agents were displaying their work for prospective clients. (Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos.)
I learned about the numerous products, from high end to low end, that use licensed art. Any of us can look around our house and see some of these things: wallpaper, clothing, fabric, ceramic tiles, plates, mugs, giftwrap, gift bags, paper napkins, greeting cards, buttons, magnets, jigsaw puzzles, posters, and a lot more. Most of the art was representational (I saw way too many snowmen and roosters) but there were some opportunities for artists like me who do abstract work.
Some artists do licensing as a full time job, and the really successful artists can apparently make a lot of money doing this. Others (possibly me?) pursue licensing as a smaller part of their work. Some artists represent their own work to manufacturers and others are represented by agents who typically take a commission of 40-50%. My current goal is to investigate possibilities in the fine art end of this business, sending samples to companies who publish open edition prints (reproductions) and posters. Before visiting Surtex, other artists might want to check some of these online sources: artlicensingblog.com, joanbeiriger.blogspot,com, allartlicensingblog.com, or artprintissues.com.
We also visited the two other shows at the Javits Center, the National Stationery Show which had a dizzying array of all the products related to stationery and gifts (many, of course, using licensed artwork) and the spectacular International Contemporary Furniture Fair with inspiring cutting-edge designs (some of which also used licensed artwork!).
For me, other highlights of New York were the show of late Claude Monet paintings at the Gagosian Gallery, which goes through June 26, the quirky and very cheap Jane Hotel where I stayed, and the excellent Indian restaurant Tamarind.
Afterwards, a brief but nice visit with friends in Boston, and now it’s wonderful to be home in still-chilly Mabou watching the peas and spinach grow.