Friday, March 24, 2017

Agent Spotlight - Brenda Manley Designs

How long have you been in business and how did you come to be an agent? 
I worked 16 years for a paper tableware manufacturer in multiple positions.  Started as a graphic designer for catalogs, then promoted to designer, senior designer, assistant manager and finally design manager.  I created trend briefs, art directed and was an art buyer/licensee.  I had been attending Surtex for 10+ years.  At each show without fail, I was in complete awe of all the insane talent oozing from each booth. The creativity was intoxicating!  I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit so I decided to switch sides of the proverbial table. Since I am an artist first, my original intention was to freelance on my own.  Along the way I met emerging talent who had little experience in this industry. In my attempts to help some of them my agency developed organically. Some may see me being an artist as confusing while being an agent at the same time.  I reassure them that my art directing skills are stronger and that my creative output is rather infrequent. I truly feel being an artist combined with 16 years of manufacturing experience is a win/win situation.  I understand the demands of manufacturing deadlines and know the challenges designers face.  I thrive being the conduit to both sides!  So while we are in our 3rd year of business I bring over 28 years of design experience to the table with 19 of those years specializing in the social expressions/surface design industry.  

(Editor's note: you can click images to view larger)
Angel Gerardo - AG_0042_Joy to the World_CS

Who are the manufacturers you work with - how did you establish those relationships?
Relationships have been established via exhibiting at trade shows.  I have had the pleasure working with many outstanding manufacturers, some of which have requested to remain anonymous.  However, the following have granted permission to publish:  Amscan, Apache Mills, Claire’s Accessories, Clever Factory, C.R. Gibson, Demdaco, Design Design, Design House Greetings, DesignScapes, LLC, Groupe-Editor, Hallmark, Igloo, International Greetings, Michael Miller Fabrics, Mohawk, National Imports, Northcott Fabrics, Jillson Roberts, Lenox, Pier 1, Seaman Paper, Sterling Brands, Sullivan Paper, The Lindy Bowman Co., TJX, Unique and Wigwam Mills.

Do you have employees/help? 
I have recently been employing the help of a contractor who helps with admin and accounting.  This frees me up to do what I do best - support my artists, art direct, network and secure projects for our talented team!

Alyssa Kays - AKD_15C001_Candy_Christmas_Train_Card_OP

How do you market artists? 
Many ways!  Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters, advertising in trade publications and exhibiting at trade shows. Oh, and several interviews here and there ;-)

What do you look for in an Artist? 
Passion, design style, originality, color sense, technical skills (PS and AI expert level) and authenticity as an individual.
Amiee Sue Malott - ASM_16078_Baby Collection

How much work do you expect an artists to create? 
I ask that they produce 12 new designs a month.  While this may vary per designer due to design style, it is a suggested guideline.  This helps them develop as an artist (the more we create, the more we develop).  It also helps keep our portfolio fresh so we are relevant to manufacturers who have little to no development time. 

Any great news you would like to share?  
We have a very desirable booth location this year at Surtex.  We are in booth 2707 - right in front of the entrance!  I’m so excited I can barely stand it!  Oh, and I also I have some very exciting news but it’s too soon to share.  Stay tuned!
Emma Schonenberg - ES_EXG16_005_Exotic_Garedn_01_OP_B
How has the Art Licensing business changed over the years?
I’ve seen a shift in manufacturers moving away from licensing and procuring artwork via purchasing artwork out right - full buy out.  This works well if manufacturers are equipped with an in house team to manipulate the artwork.  However, on the flip side, there are still many viable licensing opportunities available.  Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

Any advice or information you would like to share? 
I would say the most valuable piece of advice is to show up everyday no matter the circumstances.  Release the outcome of what you think it should look like. Just keep creating, dreaming, journaling and keep doing the necessary actions to achieve the next level on one’s goal/bucket list DESPITE the challenges, mistakes and disappointments.  For it is in these trying times that our character develops.  One with character, preparedness, and quality content rarely relies on luck to succeed - THEY FLOURISH!

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  1. What a really wonderful interview thanks very much Annie! I love the way Brenda sets her artists a goal of 12 pieces a month. Thats brilliant!

    1. Hi Cindy. Thanks so much :-) Yes, the more we create the more we learn and develop! xoxo, Brenda

    2. Cindy! Thank you. I appreciate you stopping by the blog :)

  2. Great interview with one of the more enthusiastic members of our community! Twelve designs a month may seem intimidating at first but it's how you grow in this business--clients get to know you as someone who can produce consistently--and that's gold!


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