Q&A with Lilla – Home Decor (pt 1)

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. You can see what a wide variety of topics are covered – and you might even find the answer to that burning question you have been wanting to ask! Next up is the hot market of HOME DECOR, which is covered in Make Art That Sells (MATS) Part A.  There were so many great questions to share we have split this into two parts. Here’s the first part:


Q:: Do you have any suggestions for writing a good submission letter? Should you say different things for different markets? What if you’re resubmitting new ideas to a company that rejected you in the past? How many submissions/images should you include in a single email?

A: The good news is that the submission email letter is short and sweet. You simply show 3 – 5 lo res jpgs with a link to your site. You mention that you love x company (assuming you do), and that you’d love to work with them. If you have clients, mention them, or anything noteworthy. (“I just finished illustrating a book for blah blah which you can see here.{link})

You do not need to talk about your work, like “My style is whimsical and shows a love of trees”. We can see that. Make a plan to send out work on a regular basis. You mostly will not hear back unless interested, but we (agents and clients) do look at these emails, and we expect to see you again.


Q:. I’ve fallen deeply, madly in love with vintage tea towels. When designing a piece, I’ve always tended to think of repeating patterns for the bolt market. How can that translate for tea towel type designs? (which to me are more of a single illustration) If you design something that is more of a single tea towel-esque illustration, can you still market that to fabric companies when looking for representation?

A: You want to have a variety of pieces in your portfolio. You can’t anticipate what the manufacturer or agent is looking for, so just show lots of wonderfulness. I would say to have both repeats and non-repeats in your portfolio.


Q. Can you be on the payroll (receiving royalties) with multiple companies as long as you’re creating different work for each?

A: Yes.


Q: What does ‘scale’ refer to?

A: Scale is the size of the icons/motifs.


Q: One of the interviewed specialists advised us to review fabric sites. Why is that?

A: The reason to review fabric sites is to get a sense of what kinds of art they buy, and what is trending. Every market requires the artist to have savvy about what the vibe of the market is. (In fact, that is what MATS aims to do.) Checking out sites and fabric shops gives you savvy over time. You needn’t worry about how many collections they expect and so forth. Your concern is making pieces with plenty of well-drawn icons on themes that are marketable.


Q: When posting portfolio pieces on your website, is it industry standard to keep them a strict 8×10? I realized I designed my fabric print at 8×10, then left no room for putting any coordinates!

A: 8×10 is what I have all my artists do, because then the client can print out on a US Letter size paper. In the class Art Review you can see how to pop in coordinates.


Q: When you license artwork do you only get royalties or are there other payments or fees I should be asking for when negotiating a contract? FROM:

A: There are three ways: Flat one time fee, Royalty for each item sold, and Advance against royalty, which means you get an amount of money in advance and then a royalty, too. Guess what? No one way is necessarily better than another way. A nice fat flat fee paid up front can be better than small royalties that trickle in. However, if something sells well, then you like those quarterly royalties. Your client tends to have one or two ways of working, based on their accounting system. If they give you a choice, ask the art director which they think is better.


Q: When contacting a company with bolt fabric designs, how much should the designer bring? Is a proposal for one collection already interesting for a client? Or should I bring like 6 collections to show I am reliable in keeping work coming?

A: Six collections is better. They want to see that you are someone they can grow with, and are committed and have a body of work.


Q: Many of us with a creative job get told to have a portfolio that shows a variety, a range of styles and techniques to show clients everything that we can do. Does that apply to marketing yourself to licensing clients?

A: If you want to be a branded artist, known for your style, (which this course helps you do!), then you want to get good at your style. Out of that, you want to have a range of subject matter and market subjects, hence, the 10 markets of MATS. (There’s method to my madness!) If you work in-house, they may want you to have a range of styles and techniques. So the question becomes, which way speaks to you?


Q: When you submit samples to a company (or list them on your portfolio), are they supposed to be new, non-licensed patterns, or are you just submitting them to show your style and hopefully get the company to commission you for future patterns?

A: Let’s say you send an email or newsletter. You can always show any work. If it’s only new work, you can say so. “Here’s my latest work, available for licensing!” Note: Do NOT show work that you’ve just licensed and the product is not yet on the market. Wait until it’s on the market.


Q: If you carry a print on Spoonflower, how do fabric companies view that? Is that print now considered non-viable?

A: Believe it or not, fabric companies and agents check out Spoonflower to see artists. We look everywhere. The client may have you do something similar or related if they don’t want to print the same thing. My business motto is to abundance, not scarcity. What that means is that get your work out there. You can always make more pieces for clients.


Q: How important is it to have coordinate prints on your fabric swatches? Do they have a higher percentage of getting picked up then prints that don’t have coordinates listed with them?

A: Yes, it’s better.


Q: Will you cover rates and contract negotiation later in this course? I am always confused what and how to negotiate with my clients as every contract may have different condition. I have no idea how flexible they are in price, especially for big manufacturers. Or sometime small question like how many free sample products I should require on my contract?

A: More on negotiating in MATS B, Week 4, and my book I Just Like to Make Things. Feel free to chat with the art director and ask what they typically pay, or how they work. Allow yourself to be a beginner and be open to learn from your art directors. They are mostly a very nice breed. They’ll also tell you how many samples you can get. Of course, having an agent is great for this, too, because they have years of experience, and in fact, in our case, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies so we know who offers what, what is standard, and where we can and cannot push.


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!

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