How long have you been in business and how did you come to be an agent?
My family founded an arts and craft supply distribution company, Viking Woodcrafts, Inc., 35 years ago. The timing was perfect, as my husband and I had recently moved back to Minnesota from Illinois so I became the first employee. Eight years later Viking Folk Art Publications was formed, a new division focusing on publishing decorative painting books. My husband and I purchased the publishing division in 1996.
Our company published books for artists from all over the world –from Canada and the UK to Australia, Argentina and Japan. Our knowledge and understanding of color and the process of reproduction led us to the exciting world of art licensing, giving us another service to offer our artists. Painted Planet Licensing Group was formed in March of 2004, and today we represent 21 talented artists from around the world. I thoroughly enjoy being surrounded by such beautiful artwork on a daily basis and watching our business grow and evolve.
Do you have help/employees?
We are fortunate to have a great multi-tasking team to assist our artists and licensing partners. Leah Cochran is our Licensing Coordinator. She works hard at matching our extensive library of artwork with the right manufacturer, along with keeping our licensee and contact databases up-to-date. Alyssa Christian serves as both the Public Relations Coordinator and Account Manager, promoting and branding our company and artists via numerous outlets (check out her blog on our website!), while also handling record maintenance and royalty payments. My husband, Larry, is our part-time Accountant.
What do you look for in a manufacturer?
Currently we have strong, long-standing partnerships with manufacturers of various different products—from burton + Burton, who produce gifts for all occasions, to Leanin’ Tree, an industry leader in greeting cards, to tableware manufacturer Certified International and fabric forerunner Red Rooster. We’re always looking for new manufacturers to partner with. Our artists represent a wide variety of styles, allowing us to satisfy the needs of a diverse range of companies.
Quality of products, good communication and willingness to promote the artist’s name or brand are some of the key elements that we look for in a new manufacturer. Establishing a good working relationship is critical to everyone involved. There’s always a risk involved when signing a contract with a company we’ve never worked with before but we’ve found that some of our most profitable ventures and strongest partnerships have stemmed from taking that risk.
Do you prefer royalty deals? Flat fee?
Typically we prefer royalty deals versus flat fee but there are times when a flat fee can be the right route to take. If the production run is small, sometimes the guaranteed flat fee is better. Also, there are some card companies, and companies that print for non-profit groups, that will only pay a flat fee. It’s important to weigh all factors of the specific situation when negotiating a fair payment. Whether signing a royalty or flat fee agreement, we advise our artists against selling their images outright in order to allow them the flexibility of licensing the same artwork again in the future for different products.
How do you market artists? Who pays for this? Anything different for new artists?
One of the most substantial ways we market our artists is by exhibiting at Surtex every year and occasionally at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. We also meet with art directors year round—at their offices, twice a year at the Atlanta Gift Mart, at the Houston Quilt Market and usually a specialty show such as the Chicago Housewares Show. We’re in constant communication with existing and potential clients, responding to hundreds of callouts a year and submitting artwork to companies for consideration on a weekly basis. We frequently send out mailings and e-mail newsletters to promote new artwork or a new artist.
We’ve recently revamped our website, making it easier for art directors to navigate portfolios and stay up-to-date with new artists, upcoming shows we’ll be at, etc. Our new blog, Painted Planet Perspective, features a monthly “Artist Spotlight” interview. We have an ever-growing social media presence, marketing our artists daily via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. We also encourage our artists to maintain their own personal websites, blogs and social media, which we link to from our website.
When we sign a new artist we assume all costs for exhibiting at shows, portfolios, advertising, etc. We recoup our costs by sharing any royalty revenue 50/50. Because of our initial investment, the decision to sign a new artist is very deliberate and well thought-out.
What do you look for in an artist?
When considering a new artist, we want to make sure that the artist is bringing something new to the Painted Planet family. We look for artwork that is fresh and on trend, and styles that complement yet don’t compete with what we currently have to offer. We also take into consideration our current licensees to determine whether the artist would be a good fit for them.
Equally as important when considering a new artist is their willingness to put in the necessary hard work and treat this as a job, not just a hobby. Licensing is a commitment, and an artist should be prepared to meet deadlines, be asked to make adjustments to their work to meet a client’s needs, and create new artwork on a regular basis. It’s also extremely helpful if an artist has certain software experience, such as Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator, and has the capability of creating product mockups.
Any advice or other information you would like to share?
My best advice to any artist considering licensing is to take a shopping trip and look at how artwork is being used on products. Can you envision your artwork on similar products? We receive submissions from some artists who produce amazing fine art but the licensing possibilities are too limited. Don’t become discouraged if your first submissions to a licensing agency or manufacturer are rejected. If licensing is truly something you want to pursue, do the research, ask the questions, be flexible, and keep refining and working on your artwork.
I feel very fortunate to be able to sit in my office, look around, and see the fruit of all our years of hard work adorning the walls and shelves. I get just as excited opening a new box of samples now as I did opening the very first one over 10 years ago.
You can find Jan:
Phone: (507) 835-8009
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