Date: Sat, 23 May 1998 13:07:51 -0400
From: Lula
Subject: Re: illustration: license? independant? license? independant...?

I think there is a book you can check on in the library that lists all trade organizations in the US. You will find the trade shows you may be interested in are not always located in the areas you live.

Since I was so interested in needlework at the time, I got a job working for a needlework shop and read up everything I could find on the needlework and textile design businesses via trade journals and networking with other people in the business and related businesses. It's the same way I heard about Surtex networking with others in the needlework and design field. (a background bio is on my web site)

I've found actively working my own design business helps a lot in seeing options I might not have noticed otherwise. Once a design is created it can be applicable to many design areas such as the greeting cards you are writing about. Because I went to Surtex, I have several greeting card companies interested in licensing my new designs.


Would love to know if there are the recent magazines showing your pieces?!?

I know the Surtex shows accessories for homes, prints and patterns for all applications decorative fabrics, linens and domestics, apparel and contract textiles, wall and floor coverings, greeting cards, giftwrap and other paper products. What I really like to know if by any chance that Surtex shows masks as I do enjoy making them recently 2 years ago.

My designs are drawn and painted right on needlepoint canvas because I don't sketch. I visualize and work out my designs mentally. This is the model I take to trade shows and what you see on my web site except for few finished models I display and write about on another page.

At least twice a year or more depending on the number of trade shows I sign up for, is design and paint a new group of canvases for the shows. The shop owners will then order what they like, sometimes in multiples and I'll paint what they order and it is very labor intensive and time consuming.

I don't stitch any canvases for sale except to make a finished (stitched) model of whichever one I choose to decorate my booths with.Sales are based on the painted models.

Many needlepoint companies in the business have staffs of painters or send their work overseas to be painted by painting service companies. There are also companies that will computer print, screen print or transfer print the canvases. Hand painted like mine are the most expensive to buy.

After 13 years of running this business, I've decided to go back to my original background of painting/drawing and designing. That is why I went to Surtex to see if I can license my work and get that going in the meantime.

Painting canvases is limiting as you have to paint on a fixed grid so stitchers can follow it properly to stitch. For example curves are hard to paint properly and noses, mouths and any details have to be painted on fixed grid lines and sometimes look a little stiff if you are not careful to adjust for that.

A week before Surtex, I managed to paint 14 new gouache illustrations some of them based on my needlepoint designs. I had to re-train my brain to paint like a "normal" artist again. It took me two days to get used to working with gouaches, drawing and painting without restrictions of curved lines and so on.

Hopefully, I'll be able to license more work in the future so I can concentrate on more creative pursuits such as being able to write and illustrate children's books and not tied doing production work.


Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998 18:20:17 -0400
From: Lula
Subject: Re: illustration: Needlework Kits? Long Post

Doing needlework kits takes a lot of upfront spec and financial outlay. I used to do XS kits - the first time hiring a kitting company and the second round doing them myself.

The kitting company was fine but quality control was not always there. So got tired of chasing around for them to send extra floss or whatever the consumer claimed to be missing.... Then I invested and did it myself - talk about work - cutting and measuring floss, fabrics and so forth...but the complaints zeroed out except for the occasional person who claimed I didn't put any floss into the package - baloney as I did each pack individually but who am I to argue with the consumer.

The kitting company made most of the money and the second round I laid out the money for supplies. I hated to think of how much I made per hour! But I did make a profit even though profit margins are not high especially if using good materials - however, there is no predicting the taste of the public.

Even though I sold thousands of kits, it was not worth it in the long run to get involved with kitting for me selling through one of the largest and best needlework catalogs - The Stitchery.

In doing kits - you must be aware of costs - minimum orders of suppliers like floss, yarn companies, fabrics, plastic carrier bags, number of colors and quality - packaging, printed directions, color cover sheets and so on.

It takes deep pockets, a staff and a good publicity machine to make it all work. Only the big companies like Dimensions and maybe a Claire Murray as a "name" can manage but even then I wonder how well she is really doing - just seeing a person's name doesn't mean a whole lot in the needlework world. I know several well known names who make less than I earn but they're in all the magazines and even have books!

The other problem is - there is no accounting for taste from the consumer. The cute and shlocky sell because that's what "someone" is pushing and says the public is buying. Then they wonder why the general needlework market is shrinking!

Selling kits is also a question of what your focus is - mass market which is usually the cute stuff or the more limited high end market. Most designers who kit really hustle their stuff through comsumer needlework shows and trade shows - and like the illustrators, many have other day jobs.

I mentioned in an earlier post - the finished needlepoint company who wanted to license my work is now still deciding - mainly because the owner wonders if my "folky" art style will sell! So it's one step forward and two steps back no matter how interesting your work is.

So as not to be frustrated artistically and earn a living, I do what I do best - paint my original ideas on canvas and market them to specialty shops creating my own niche in a small, competitive high end market. It works for me even though I have dreams of hiring out the work but have had problems finding people who will duplicate the work well. Very frustrating being a business person and worrying about quality control as I must sell to the retailer who in turn must sell to the consumer so the retailer will reorder and continue my business.

Right now, the overall needlework market is not growing as well since crafting is more popular - needlework trade show attendance is down and many needlework shops have closed. Despite these doomsday happenings - there are always new shops and vendors starting out so business moves along.

One of the reasons I have invested in looking for other outlets for my artwork such as licensing is so I can have something else to earn income from just in case the needlepoint market takes a big dip which it does every ten years or so - for me the market has always been upwardly steady but who knows what the future holds? So it doesn't hurt to diversify. In fact I just licensed some designs for printed needlepoint kits but have yet to see the results as everything moves slow.

John, if you want to look into this market, you should despite my personal comments because you never know - your designs might just be the next hot item. What you might consider doing is licensing work to needlework kit companies such as Dimensions who's always out looking for new talent, catalog companies like Herrschner's who will pay about a 6% wholesale royalty on kits sold from your design. Places like Better Homes and Gardens will buy designs outright for their craft magazines. Think about it.

The irony of this whole situation is - even though I make a comfortable living, have fans and known well enough in my needlepoint world, why am I trying so hard to do more with my art? I think it's because as practical artists who need to earn a living - a good design image is a good design image to be used in any shape, way or form possible.


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