Q&A with Lilla – Bolt Fabric

question of the dayWALL

Our ‘Q&A with Lilla’ series is back! This is where we share questions from the previous class of Make Art That Sells (MATS). First up are questions from BOLT FABRIC week. If you want to know more, or ask burning questions of your own, sign up for class (Starts October 20)


Q) My question is about icons? What exactly IS an icon? I am assuming you mean the main image of an artwork that will be repeated as a pattern on fabric?

A) An icon is a little thing that is free-standing, such as the girl, keys, and trees in the red box above, as opposed to a whole scene like you might see in a children’s book where everything is touching. Icons can be moved around and are repeatable, so that’s really useful for projects.


Q) Your lesson talks about the need to have your icons small (2″ area) to grab attention on a bolt. When I paint an icon does it need to be to this scale or can I paint it larger and the manufacturer will adjust it down to suit?

A) The icons don’t necessarily need to be that small. Some fabric has large motifs. You just need to think about how a 2-3” area would read on the bolt edge. And yes, the manufacturer can reduce the art.


Q) I purchased a shower curtain with one of the designs featured, the owls by Suzy Ultman (love it by the way!) Did she receive royalties for the fabric and for the product, in this case, the shower curtain?

A) How cool! Yay! In a case like this, the manufacturer might pay a flat fee or a royalty and then they create the shower curtain.


Q) Is it OK to submit the same artwork to several fabric companies (or other potential clients) at the same time, or is there a rule about contacting one company at the time – and then waiting for a response before you send the same samples of art to the next company?

A) You can do it either way, no problem. It’s fine to submit to a few at once. Should you be so lucky as to get interest from two companies at once, you can mention that.


Q) I recently got very good feedback from Robert Kaufman, but they don’t have an opening for the theme. How do you know/predict what fabric companies are looking for?

A) Congrats! You can ask the company, you can take MATS where I am constantly giving you hot themes, and you can regularly view all the fabric sites and see what trends are. Trends can take time to get a feel for, however. Surtex and Printsource shows offer trend lectures.


Q) In the world of retail, holiday and Christmas decor is so huge. Is there an appropriate time to submit fabric that is geared towards this season or are companies shopping this theme all year?

A) Generally they are shopping for winter in the summer.


Q) When designing for Fall or Spring 2015 for example, what do you recommend as a good resource for color trends or just color palettes in general?

A) It’s very difficult for the independent artist to get that kind of inside information. The subscription fees to the various trend reports, which show seasonal color palettes and themes (subject matter), run in the many thousands of dollars. This is exactly why I chose to write Make Art That Sells and Bootcamp, as a way to get that information out there to independent artists. In addition to MATS classes, you can try http://www.colourlovers.com, watch various sites, check out Pinterest, shop, and read catalogs.


Q) How do you find the right person to send your work to? I feel like this is a roadblock I’ve run into a lot. Many times I resort to sending out emails to the companies’ general email that never get responded to.

A) Try the Artists’ Market book or buy a subscription to agencyaccess.com to find art directors’ names. Conversely, you can call the company in question and ask who looks at art submissions.


Q) I want to understand the actual work flow of a working artist/illustrator, and wonder if that’s something that can be covered either via Q&A or in future class material! With your artists, do you ask them to create art similar to what we’ve been doing with the class(es), and offer them for license? Or do actual clients come to you with work, and you assign work to the artists based on who you think fits best for the job? Do multiple artists work on the same job initially, then the client picks the direction they like to go with and the job is awarded to the chosen artist?

A) I work one on one with artists to make pieces and I send my own trend reports to my artists. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. The lion’s share of the work however is clients coming to us to license existing work or to commission new work from a specific artist.


Q) Would you recommend your artists (and us) to stay off of selling their work on Society6, Spoonflower, Etsy…etc., if they want their work to be discovered and licensed? I read on your book that people discover talent via Etsy, but then I also think these companies probably wouldn’t want those designs because they are already in public.

A) I know for sure that clients troll these sites looking for new and exciting artists, so I would encourage it. My basic motto is to have fun with social media/print on demand sites/e-commerce and let the universe work its magic.


Q) You say that we should submit new work to art directors companies every 1-2 months. Say we created our homework this week and are happy with it, should we hold off on submitting, and create a few more pieces in our portfolio (with various subject matter), and then submit it to the companies? Would you say we should hold off of selling these designs on Spoonflower…etc. if we want to submit it?

A) Ok, great question. I want you to think of the promotional process as if you are sowing seeds in the garden. You are sprinkling seeds all around. Some take, some don’t. Some plants bear fruit. It’s a numbers game. The more the better. You are to send work on a regular basis, STARTING FROM WHERE YOU ARE NOW.  And you don’t need to hold off on selling on Spoonflower. If you get a license for that piece, you can pull it off Spoonflower. Think big and open and bountiful. Think of getting your work out there AS YOU GROW. Hope that helps. Great question that I’m sure others were wondering about.


Got your own questions for Lilla? Join us for the next round of Make Art That Sells. Class begins on Monday October 20.

Book your spot here!


  • This is so informative! I’m all about color so seeing the link for colour lovers got me excited to join! I’m looking forward to taking MATS A and B this next time around. I’ve been patiently waiting! :)
    Thanks for sharing!

    October 10, 2014
  • Love these wonderful questions that I didn’t think of so I appreciate this information-sharing. Great tips and advice! I am excited to start MATS A and B soon too.

    October 10, 2014
  • Thanks for sharing this, I love the idea of sewing seeds in a garden! I’m also taking the upcoming MATS A&B and can’t wait!

    October 10, 2014
  • This is so beneficial. I have just signed up for MATS A & B which will commence in Oct 20th and I am super excited it is like a dream to be on this course.

    October 11, 2014
  • Great q and a, fab for you to post it here! Thank you.

    October 11, 2014

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