Q&A with Lilla – Home Decor (pt 2)

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! This is part 2 of our questions from the Home Decor week in class. You can see part 1 here.


Q: Is it better to focus your energy on trying to get an agent, or on approaching companies directly?

A: Do both at the same time. It’s the same kind of approach. Many eggs in many baskets. Plus, it can take years to get an agent, so you need to make money in the meantime and get better at your work in the interim.


Q: When a company offers you a percentage in royalties, is this usually a percentage of the retail price?

A: Wholesale.


Q: I have an agent for dinnerware in the US for nearly a year and a half. But she is a very small company and caters for “middle America”. I feel that I am dumbing my work down to try and license work, but in doing this, I am losing the joy of creating art, (hence doing this course!) and not selling. I’m not sure whether to take some time and develop my style, then look for a different agent? What would you advise?

A: Sounds like you know the answer. Life is a gift. Why not make it as special as you can and work hard to get what you want?


Q: What is the best way for a beginner to get most bang for the $275 Surtex entrance fee? My portfolio is slim still – could you share best strategies for attending my first Surtex?

A: Attend the lectures, walk the entire show plus the Stationery Show and International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). Take notes. Look at what art is being displayed in the booths at Surtex. Check out agents (without disturbing them while they do their business).


Q: There is a potential opportunity to license my art to a napkin company. They offer artists flat fee US$500 / per design buying worldwide outright for napkin. Is it a normal for napkin companies not to offer royalty? Does $500 sound like a reasonable price?

A: Sounds like it’s a boutique company, and yes, that could be right. If you sell well, over time, you can ask for more. Napkins are a very small market, so that’s why the fee is what it is.


Q: I have found that it is equally difficult to get licensing contracts in home décor whether or not you are represented by an agent (compared to licensing for stationery etc). You are doing very successful in this area, do you have tips to share with us?

A: Time and hard work! Make great art! Keep taking MATS!


Q: Did you have an agent when you were working as a full time illustrator? If not, did you have to exhibit at Surtex (assuming they were already around!) and other trade shows, buy trend reports and all as a solo artist?

A: When I was an editorial illustrator, I first was on my own, and then over time I had an agent in NYC, Paris, and Tokyo. We weren’t doing Surtex back then. Back to your question, I would exhibit at Surtex WHEN YOUR WORK IS READY. Don’t buy trend reports—too expensive. It is important to me that I give you trend in MATS.  Also, look, look, look everywhere for trend.


Q: If you can go back in time, would you prefer to have an agent so you could concentrate on creating art? Or would you do it all by yourself? Why?

A: Such a good question! My artists love representation for that very reason—they can focus on artmaking. But more than that, you are getting a business manager, an art advisor, legal advice, and a group of artists that you are connected to.


Q: Would you recommend a beginner to reach out and work with an agent, or would you recommend that they stay solo for a while and attempt to reach out to the various markets on their own?

A: It’s very difficult to get a great agent, so you may need to be on your own for a while. Not all agents are equal. Do your homework. Ask the artists they rep what they think. Check out their websites.  Who shouldn’t get a rep? Someone who likes complete control over every aspect of their business and thrives on the all aspects such as negotiation, managing rights and images, contracts, invoicing, promotion, web management, etc. I obviously love all this stuff, so I do it and hire great people to do it as my team.


Q: What is the percentage of time would you recommend an artist to do for marketing (contacting / emailing companies…etc) vs. the time to use for creating art?

A: As you go on in this course, a lot of this will become more clear. The short answer is 50/50. It’s really hard to say. You can have fun with marketing as much as you have fun with your art. You can make newsletters that are really creative and show what you’re working on. Great art gets jobs. You are in the right place to work on your art. There are lots of opportunities. It gets really exciting as you get more and more jobs. But be sure you have an income while your build up your creative business.


Q: For the home decor category, do we submit directly to Anthropologie / West Elm / Crate and Barrel…etc., or does everything go through an agent / design house they use regularly? Do the same rules apply, that we should submit (bother) them with new work every 1-2 months, or is there a different strategy that we should keep in mind?

A: You submit to them directly, absolutely. The strategy is the same. Rarely does one get Anthro, Crate or West Elm right off the bat, so do not be discouraged!


Q: You suggested that we submit new work to art directors every 1-2 months and include 3-5 jpgs of our very best work. I’ve never licensed any of my work before so I’m nervous about sending that first submission and wondering about the companies who say they prefer not to get unsolicited emails unless they are from artists they have already worked with in the past. So for submissions sent by post, what do you suggest? A new postcard every couple of months? And what about the verbiage of email and post submissions? I would think short and sweet since the art will pretty much speak for itself?

A: You are correct. The art speaks for itself. And you can always call and ask what their submission policies are. We will be interviewing an art director every week in MATS, and you’ll see that generally they want to get your submissions since, as I always say, clients NEED great art.


Q:  I only work traditionally. How much of a disadvantage will be as I look to the future in hopes of submitting work in hopes of ‘making art that sells.’

A: As you have seen, and will continue to see, in MATS, traditional media is fabulous and appropriate for every assignment. That being said, you want to be sure your STYLE and IMAGERY (subject matter) is something that can be sold. Is your style updated? Current? Appropriate for markets? I am confident that this is doable if you really want to do so. Hang in there!



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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