Insight Spotlight: Expert advice from Margo Tantau of Midwest CBK

Welcome to our ‘Insight Spotlight’ column, where we share insights from industry experts in some of the hottest markets out there. This week we are pleased to offer expert advice from Margo Tantau of Midwest CBK


Primary Market: Primary market is Gift, Seasonal, & Home Decor. We sell to a mid range market, ie not at the top of the trend & style pyramid, but solid buyers, and frequent buyers. So we need to have art that we can adapt to their comfort level, while still bringing them along to a more creative place. This takes an artist that can be flexible and not cookie cutter. We are looked to for creative innovation, but not too out there, fresh but a little safe. That’s a tall order, but fresh creativity gets us there.

How can this market be lucrative for an artist?

The more depth in your portfolio, the more clients you will have knocking at your door. You are admired by artists, wholesalers, retailers. They are all paying attention, and watching. Don’t get too discouraged, just know that if it feels right to you, in your gut, it IS right. Just do more of it. Take different classes so your art is YOUR art. You can sell your own goods, license your art, & become recognized across many platforms. There are clients for everyone. Pretty exciting if you ask me.

What is going to be hot in your market in 2015 such as subject matter, colors, products?

Color, geometrics, indigo still, overlapping layers, florals, words words words. Small giftable product that are affordable & act as almost a ‘card’, but are more of a gift. Small dishes with words, notebooks, accessories, tokens.. things to remember another by.

What kinds of products/offerings are a growth sector for your company?

Again, small giftable product that are affordable & act as almost a ‘card’, but are more of a gift. Small dishes with words, notebooks, accessories, tokens.. things to remember another by. Reasonable. Also programs of things. Instead of a whole theme, ie a range of different products, I mean a selection of the same with different artwork. For instance a grouping of tea towels. A grouping of mugs. Easy to sell, eye catching, dramatic, affordable.

What do you look for when buying new art?

I won’t be a “me too”, I’ll be setting a trend or a style. Different, Fresh. Not a repeat. Something that people have to have. I fall in love with the possibility of it. I have to approach it differently than what I see in the market, but with a hint of some kind of familiarity. It’s a fine & importanta balance.

Is there any rhyme or reason to why some products sell well and why others don’t?

I wish I had a crystal ball. Usually the things I like the most sell the least. Biggest learning for me are what the majority of people will by. Who needs the money, and who wants the soul of a piece of work. Those are differentiating factors. Price value, good quality, or at least good perceived value.

What is the one thing you wish artists would do differently when pitching art to you? Or what do you love that they do when they pitch to you?

BE able to provide me MORE OF WHAT I NEED to get product developed, ie out the door to a vendor.
If the artist just gives me words or a pretty picture & its not a layered AI file or further, I have to hire someone to do it, and to design it. The more the artists brings to the table, the more say they will have in the final product/project. We are all running on a time & money crunch. Provide me more than just a pretty picture. I find this an extremely lacking skill in product development realm.

What one piece of advice do you have for artists trying to sell their first piece of art in that market?

Don’t be discouraged, be nice, be thoughtful of how busy the person you are approaching might be..knock on lots of doors, and back that one piece up with more more more. Show diversity, stand for the YOU that is your art. Be professional. Have fun. Ask questions.

About Margo


Retrace Margo’s career path, and you’ll find yourself literally all over the map. Margo blends a passion for art, design and the people who create it, with an understanding of specialty retailing, manufacturing, and the challenges of being an independent artist.

Margo’s love of possibility enabled her to turn the success of her unique Napa Valley retail store, Tantau, into a sought-after wholesale business. This favorite venture, Relish, represented unique small artists nationally and internationally, and specialized in product that would differentiate any retailer who chose to place an order.

Her success with Relish led to National Magazine work, and 4 years as Creative Director of Seasonal Decor Company, Midwest of Cannon Falls. She then joined Hallmark, where she served as Creative Director of Retail Product Development and led a new in-house manufacturing division.

Margo consults with artists and works with creative companies to assure successful growth. She has recently been called back up by Midwest-CBK to be the Creative & Design lead of the company, as they forge new and exciting paths in the industry while respecting their unique artful legacy. She’s madly enjoying the challenge.

Margo has been described as “Fairy Good-Mother to Artists Everywhere” … and she loves to live into that personality. It is this passion that guides her creative spirit.

Find out more at mwcbk.com

Margo is one of the esteemed judges on the Global Talent Search judging panel.


Want to learn more about making more commercially viable art whilst staying true to yourself? Join our acclaimed online course ‘Make Art That Sells‘, led by top agent Lilla Rogers. Class started this week and there is still time to join us! – find out more and register here!




  • Such practical, straight-to-the-point advice – perfect! Thank you.

    March 4, 2015
  • Fantastic advice – thank you Margo and Lilla!

    March 5, 2015

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