+ I noticed you have recently re-branded. Why did you choose the unicorn?
Thanks for asking! Well, unicorns have always held a special place in my heart and my imaginary world as a child. Escaping through my imagination really helped me make it through my difficult childhood. To me, they symbolized a better place, courage and the ability to overcome obstacles.
My dad would take my brother and I to the library, where I would painstakingly narrow my choices down to three – all being books on drawing, mostly of horses, which I would draw rainbow horns on and get lost in a magical, imaginary place. I had a love for sticker books, rainbow-colored erasers, and those plastic pencils that you could rotate out the tips on (remember those?!? Yes, I was a child of the ‘80s). I made it my goal to fill-up and finish coloring books – as it was important to me that every page had a chance to become it’s most beautiful self.
So when it was time to re-brand, I wanted something that felt like a closer connection to who I am as a person. It’s a little more vulnerable, yet that’s the only way I feel we can make life truly worth it – when we show up as we truly are.
+ I love your work! Can I use your artwork or designs for my facebook page, to decorate my business cards or website with, or to make other products out of it?
No. I own the rights to all the content I create including my fabric designs, artwork, photography, etc., which is strictly protected under Copyright Law. I also copyright all of my artwork with the United States Copyright office for additional protection. All photography is also copyright Natalie G. Photography. Thanks for asking!
+ Can I use your images on my blog or on social media like Pinterest?
Yes, you are welcome to use my images on my blog and Pinterest as long as you visibly credit the image you choose with my name "Josephine Kimberling" and provide a link back to my website.
+ I am looking for a particular fabric of yours, and am unable to find it. Can I order the fabric through you, can you get the fabric I need for me, or can you tell me where I can find it?
Unfortunately, no. In order to support and not compete with the fabulous stores who carry my fabrics, I do not sell them myself, nor do I have access to getting them for you. I also do not have visibility as to which stores are carrying my fabrics.
I would suggest you try searching Etsy for shops that carry my fabrics, or perform a Google search. You can also try Blend Fabrics' "Where to Buy" store finder to find stores in your state that carry Blend's Fabric lines. Just be sure to call the fabric store ahead of time to see if they have what you are looking for.
Lastly, you can also try to contact Blend Fabrics directly to see if they can help you locate what you are looking for. I apologize I am not able to help further, and best of luck to you on your search!
+ How do I order your fabrics to carry in my retail or e-tail store?
Thank you so much for your interest in carrying my fabrics! To carry my fabrics in your retail or e-tail store, please contact customer service at Blend Fabrics to place an order or to set-up a wholesale account.
+ Can I use your free sewing patterns to make items and sell them?
No. My sewing patterns are for personal use only, and even though they were free for you to download, they are not able to be reproduced for resale. Thank you for asking!
+ Can I kit your free sewing patterns for sewing workshops in our fabric store?
Yes, definitely – as long as customers are not being charged for the sewing pattern itself.
+ I am a manufacturer interested in using your fabrics for my products. Are your fabrics available for me to use in this way?
Thank you for your interest & inquiry! Since Blend Fabrics is licensing my artwork and producing the fabrics with my designs, please contact Blend Fabrics directly about your inquiry. Thank you!
+ Can I use your name or logo on any products I am making out of your fabrics?
No. Thank you for asking! I am the only one authorized to use my name and logo, as well as manufacturers who are licensing my artwork through me, for their products.
+ I am interested in having my own fabric line. What advice can you give me on how to get started?
It’s important to note that everyone has a different story on how they got started, and there are many different ways to go about it. From my experience, I would recommend researching the fabric & quilting market and compile a list of fabric companies. Then go to their websites to see what type of artwork they typically carry. If you find that your style is a good fit and still offers them something different, then keep them on your list. Go to their website’s contact page and e-mail or call them to find out what their artwork submission guidelines are and when they review collections.
Begin working on a portfolio of artwork and send it in to them. Be patient. If they come back to you and turn you down, submit your work to the next company on your list. You can always ask them for feedback, and if there is another company they think your work would be a good fit for. Be patient, persistent, and willing to learn and grow from situations and opportunities! It can only help you become a better artist.
You can also read my thoughts in Moyo Magazine, Issue 3 for more information.
+ Do you have any advice on finding your artistic style?
I can share with you a little about my journey to discovering my style in the hopes that it will help. I've been drawing my whole life, but commercially for the past 15 years. When I look back at my work thoughout those years, I can see threads of my style interwoven into my work. The way I see the world, the colors I am drawn to, the subject matter that resonates with me – is all there and it's the cumulation of these things that defines my work.
I must also share that although it comes naturally, it did take me some time to really hone in on it and to take the time to develop it into a stronger look. For example, since I started my own business, I've had the opportunity to spend the past 5 years drawing only in that style, which has really allowed it to become more and more tightly defined.
My recommendation would be to keep at it! There are no short cuts to just putting your time in and practicing. It's also important to really spend time figuring out what is important to you in terms of subject matter and color as well. I think the absolutely wrong way to do it is to find an artist you like or admire, pine to be like them, and then "copy" them in some way. If you want to draw a rose, for example, pull photos of roses and work from there. Don't look at how every other artist is drawing a rose and then copy them. Yes, we are all inspired by each other in this world, but when you have your own voice, inspiration will inspire your work, not dictate it. Also, when you take the time to solve your own artistic problems, your style will then be truly coming from you.
+ Why did you leave an amazing career and what seems like everyone’s dream jobs?
Ever since college, I wanted to work for myself. I didn’t know how to actually be successful at that, or what I would do exactly, but I always knew at some point that was the end goal.
12 years into corporate life, I was happily (and stressfully) climbing the corporate ladder. Making a difference at the company, adding value, training and managing creatives, but when I got to the “top” I didn’t enjoy the view as much as I thought I would. You see, I enjoyed the climb. I enjoyed pushing myself and growing and making a difference, but didn’t enjoy the politics and how much of your energy goes into navigating the “game” everyone’s playing and dealing with a lot of ego that comes with being in the fashion industry. Realizing that there wasn't much more that I could learn and grow into, in areas I enjoy, I decided it was finally the right time to devote my energies to create what I love, and using my strengths and talents, to put more positivity and beauty into the world.
+ What did working in-house for companies teach you? Was the experience valuable?
I always encourage artists that if they want to work for themselves either by running their own shop, freelance or licensing business, that they will be at a much better starting place if they have some corporate experience under their belt.
Working in-house taught me so many things - professionalism, how to correspond with companies in other countries, how to meet deadlines and structure my days, how to work with a team, and responsibility. I also learned how to make commercially viable artwork by presenting my work to buyers and getting direct feedback, hearing what is selling and what is not, and why. I learned trend forecasting and had to give multiple presentations to different teams of people, which really helped my presentation & communication skills. At one point part of my job was training artists on software, so I learned how to make curriculum, how to train people with different learning styles and help them troubleshoot tricky repeats by sharing my knowledge of the software. Not to mention job specific skills like drawing every day, getting great at repeats, working with a variety of color palettes, taking art direction, understanding the production side and reviewing strike-offs. You get the idea.
When you work for a company you are exposed to a lot of different experiences and people that allow you to grow so quickly vs. when you only have the experience of working for yourself. I definitely recommend it, but also know that there are many artists out there who have never worked in-house and are very successful. It all depends on where you are at and where you want to be, how you want to grow, what you want to learn, etc.
+ How can I tell if licensing is right for me?
In order to determine if licensing is the right path for you and your art, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1) How much money do you need to make in order to live the life you want to live or need to live? This is VERY important to think about and set realistic expectations around. With licensing, you won’t start seeing royalty checks for about the first year you are in business. Yes, you read this correctly. Plus, you get paid every quarter - that's 4 times a year.
Knowing that going into it, and knowing how much I needed to contribute to my family to survive and thrive, I worked full-time and saved up 1 years worth of income, while doing licensing on the side. This allowed me the freedom to jump in with both feet.
Another thing to think about is that it is typically said that it takes about 3-5 years to gain enough momentum and establish yourself enough in licensing to make a decent living.
2) Do you have a distinctive style to your art that is true to you and not a copy or derivitive of someone else?
3) Do you have a large portfolio of designs that showcase your distinct style?
4) Are you able to create ‘collections’ of designs that can coordinate and work together? This is typically 3-6 patterns + 2-6 illustrations/icons per collection.
5) Are you self-motivated, prolific, and able to create artwork continuously?
6) Are you comfortable making changes to your designs including the artwork itself and the colors, based on a Licensee’s needs and requests?
7) Do you like to shop and are you ok with contributing your art to consumerism and making products to sell?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, then licensing could be a great fit for you and your art!
+ What do I need in order to start my licensing business?
1) A portfolio or body of work in the same vein. Many artists ask how many designs should you have in your licensing portfolio. There is no right or wrong answer here. However, the more collections you have for Licensee’s to choose from, the better. My recommendation is, if you’re going to show at a tradeshow like Surtex, it would be most beneficial to have a minimum of 10 collections with 5-8 pieces of art per collection, which equals to 50-80 pieces of art. Depending on your style, talent, and how well these line up with the market, you could need more or less to launch yourself.
2) A systematic way to track which Licensee has rights to what art and on what products and for what amount of time. When the contract will end, and how to terminate the contract if it auto-renews.
3) Money in the bank, another job, or another form of income, since you won’t be getting paid for perhaps your whole first year of business.
4) To copyright your artwork with the US Copyright office. Many artists wait to do this, don’t do it at all, or wait until an infringement happens. However, I feel that if you are truly running a business, you need to copyright and protect your work. There are many resources available online that can help you know how to do this. A lawyer can also help you with this.
5) Patience and the ability to live in ambiguity. It can take many months or even years for your artwork and that licensee's product needs to line up. Not to mention the competition! You've just got to keep at it, not get discouraged, and keep creating.
6) A way to make contacts and get your work in front of Licensee’s. Surtex is very helpful for launching your art licensing business and getting you on the radar of Licensee’s.
7) A lawyer. Yes, seriously. Are they expensive? Yes. Are they worth it? YES. You can try to find lawyers through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, one who is semi-retired, or one who works on a contingency basis. Just make sure that they understand art licensing and IP (intellectual property). A criminal lawyer won’t be a good use of your resources. Art Licensing Info has a great list of lawyers with an understanding of licensing.
8) Your own contract. Best case scenario is to have an IP lawyer create one for you. Next best is to use a contract from the Pricing & Ethical Guidelines Handbook by the Graphic Artists Guild or another reputable resource.
9) Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop programs. You also will need to be proficient in whichever program(s) you use to create your work. A scanner and printer are also pretty necessary.
+ What does it take to make it in licensing?
I have found that the most successful artists in licensing have a specific look or style to their work, have a strong portfolio with a focused style, generate new artwork consistently, communicate professionally to manufacturers, can meet deadlines, and have enough of a left-brain to keep track of their art, read contracts, market themselves and get new business.
Many artists who succeed in licensing have worked in-house for other companies and understand how to create commercially viable designs that will help manufacturers sell their products. These artists are not divas and understand it’s not all about them – they are professional enough to understand that they are contributing to helping a product sell and are comfortable making changes to their designs and colors in order to help achieve this. Ego is out the window and it’s about building relationships with manufacturers and learning about what you can do to help them achieve their sales goals and solve a problem or hole in the market.
I hear of many artists who think of licensing as a way to make money off of old designs they have sitting around, or find a way to create whatever they want to on their own time. They may have a lot of passion for their art but have not taken the time to develop their skill or understand what sells. The insecurity of many artists cause them to take any opportunity that comes their way either out of fear that another one will never come along, or see it as a form of validation that they are good enough...even though they see red flags.
Might I suggest that artists who fall into these categories spend their time developing their skill, learn more about the licensing industry, shop around to see what artwork companies are choosing to put on their proucts, and get comfortable enough with their talent that they can be objective about opportunities that come their way.
+ Can you share more about the different trade shows that are out there and that you've exhibited at? Which do you recommend?
I would say that if you are interested in licensing your artwork, Surtex is THE show to exhibit at, to put yourself on the map, and help start your licensing business. The Licensing Expo is for artists who are further along in their licensing career and are ready to take it to the next level.
Another way that I like to compare the Licensing Expo and Surtex is that the attendees that come to Surtex are looking for art & design for their products, so there is a much higher concentration of key companies looking for you. At the Licensing Expo, art & design is an afterthought.
As of writing this Q&A, I would honestly say that Surtex is 10x better than the Licensing Expo because the attendees that come to Surtex are looking for art & design for their products, so there is a much higher concentration of key companies looking for you. Whereas at the Licensing Expo, people are there to look for established properties like Marvel & Disney. The majority of the attendees don't usually go to that show looking for artists, therefore the traffic that comes by is like when stationery show people walk by Surtex. It's an afterthought. I would recommend doing the Licensing Expo in addition to Surtex but not instead. In my humble opinion.
Print Source is great for selling your designs, and it tends to lean more towards a younger market, kids, artwork with characters, and more mass market driven patterns with a focus on fashion and paper products. Première Vision New York is also great for selling your designs and is more for textile designers who have a sophisticated and trend-forward hand and aesthetic, who keep up on runway and push the envelope.
For any designer interested in exhibiting at any show, it’s important that you have a large body of work. If you are interested in licensing your work, then it’s important that your artwork has a strong and singular look. I would recommend walking Surtex first, and attending the classes they have at the show so you can learn more about the licensing industry.
If you are interested in selling your designs to fashion companies, then I would recommend working with a rep who exhibits at Print Source or Première Vision New York, depending on your style. Many fashion companies who go to Première Vision New York, for example, won’t stop by individual artists booths and would prefer to go to a print house who is established and whom they have a track record with.
Lastly - when you are asking for advice on which shows to attend, just be sure to ask yourself "who is benefitting from sharing this information"? You need to stay objective and make the best decision for your business.
+ With licensing, why won't I start seeing royalty checks for a year?
Remember – you get paid based on the sale of the product. Therefore, if it takes the Licensee 9-12 months from the signing of the contract and them receiving art, to produce a product and sell it, you get paid after orders are placed. Then, it also depends on when the order is placed compared to where that falls on the quarterly royalties. For example, if you sign a contract in January, and they will be launching it in January of the following year, you will most likely see your first royalty check in April of the following year.
+ Can you point me to some resources so I can learn more about licensing?
Yes! I'd be happy to. To learn more about licensing, check out these resources:
WEBSITES AND CONSULTANTS:
+ I’d like to interview you for my college/school project. Can I send you a list of questions to answer, or call you for a phone interview?
First of all, thank you so much for your interest in interviewing me for your school project. I’ve received quite a few of these requests, which is very flattering. Most of the questions are centered around how I got started, my career path, and what it’s like designing for fabrics. Although I greatly appreciate you reaching out to me, unfortunately it would become very time consuming for me to answer these questions over and over again. As most of this information is already available online in a variety of interviews I’ve answered over the years, I encourage you to read through them to find the information you need. Thank you so much for your kind understanding!