Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Answers to your questions...

I have recently gotten a flood of emails with big questions from a lot of you about my career. I always want to answer everyone who writes and sometimes, I don’t have as much time to answer as in–depth as I would like. So today, I decided to tackle three of the big ones for all of you to read…

How did you start working with Anthropologie and how do you like doing what you do? 

I first started working with Anthropologie back in 2010 after they contacted me via email. They saw my work in the shop window at Greenwich House Pottery in Greenwich Village in New York City. They asked if I could wholesale my one of a kind work to them for re-sale, but I knew that I couldn’t afford to do it on that scale. Which meant that I would have to license them my designs instead--as a product/surface designer would. There are generally a couple ways that people license designs--either for a royalty (a percentage of the price of the goods sold) which are paid quarterly or even as an annuity. The other way is for a one-time fee, which is how I have worked with Anthropologie generally. Julia Rothman--an amazing pattern designer and illustrator writes about this on her website (note: Surtex is an annual surface design and textile fair in NYC):

"When I did Surtex many years ago when I was just starting, I sold my patterns for $500 each and lost all the rights. It was a beginner’s mistake. Since then I’ve learned that I don’t want to sell my designs for a flat fee. Instead I want to license them and get a percentage of every sale that happens with the product with my design. That money is called your royalties. Royalty percentages in my experience are usually 5-8% of the retail price.
Sometimes a company will give you an advance; which is money you get upfront to cover your expense of making the design. This is money you get to keep no matter what happens. It’s sort of like insurance. If the company doesn’t sell any of the dishtowels with your design, you still get to keep that money. When you get an advance, you have to earn back that money before you can receive royalty payments. Here’s an example:
ABC Stationary hires me to make a pattern for a journal cover. The contract says I will get an advance of $1500 and royalties of 7%.  Now I have to look at the retail price of the journal. Since the retail price is $8.00 and I’m going to get 7%, that means I’ll get approximately .56 cents for every journal sold. Immediately I get paid my $1500 advance so I am happy. So now to receive royalties on top of my advance I will have to sell enough journals to cover that $1500. That means I have to sell about 2,678 journals ($1500 divided by .56) to start receiving royalties on a further sales.
There are instances when I still sell a pattern for a flat fee. When I do that, I think about what it’s going to be used on, how many products will be made and how it could positively impact my career. Based on those factors, I come up with a price.”

I LOVE my job these days, which is a huge privilege. I get to dream up new things all the time and am constantly doing research--one of my favorite things. The projects I get range from textiles to furniture, ceramics to paper goods and stationary. Its super exciting to think that an education in ceramics could lead to a career in product and surface design. I find that I get to travel a lot, which is also good for the creative mind...great to get out and see new things. I love that I can work on different projects under different brands and try on a new "look" without confusing people about my brand. Its exciting that people can afford my work more readily than they used to. I like that I can make accessible things and more exclusive things (my one of a kind work has hit a price range I cant even fathom) all in the same, yes, I like what am doing!

How would I even go about pursuing a career in this field? 

This is a pretty big question. I recently answered this to the best of my ability in an article I wrote for Ceramics Monthly. It was re-posted on CeramicArts Daily the other day:

I assumed that Anthropologie found my work through a blog posting or through my Etsy shop, but it turned out it was a buyer who saw my work at Greenwich House Pottery in New York and made an internal recommendation for a tabletop buyer to look me up.

So it turns out that buyers at these big companies find artists the same way you or I might. Buyers go to major art fairs and craft shows and they travel a lot looking for new and interesting products. Whenever they visit cities, they do extensive research about the local art community, art events, and gallery openings. Often studio visits or gallery visits are set up in advance to see as much work in person as possible. They do look at blogs and read magazines like you and I, and with so many online free mags these days, its worth trying to put your work in front of the editors through a press packet.

Blogs I read daily: Design*Sponge, sfgirlbybay, Decor8

Online Magazines: CovetGarden, Lonny, Matchstick, Est, Rue,

So, really, the process is no different than developing a career as a ceramic artist. My advice to readers pursuing a career as a designer is no different than advice I might give to readers seeking a successful career showing work as an artist. Make good work and be open-minded to alternative ways of making your work, work your ass off and the rest will follow.

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