I am very pleased today to be able to highlight artist and designer Alex Colombo. Alex is the designer behind the popular blog, “the moon from my attic”, which has been so helpful to people in the art licensing community, publishing interviews with successful artists and designers who license their art, as well interviews with manufacturers, retailers and agents in the art licensing market. Now the tables are turned and we are interviewing the interviewer!
I met Alex before she started her blog and before she started in art licensing, and I am thrilled to create a space for Alex to tell her tale as she has done for others in her own quest to understand this market. And we all wish her much success for her Surtex debut!
Alex, you are debuting at Surtex this year! Very Exciting! Are you all ready yet?
No, not really! I am still working on some design details for my booth, painting new collections and contacting manufacturers for appointments at the show. It’s just crazy-busy but I am very excited to soon launch studio•Alex (it’s going to be a surprise!) and debut my new designs!
What collections are you most excited about and what products are you hoping to license your work onto this year?
I created several new collections that are suitable for kitchen and textiles and I am very excited about a potential contract with a great company that really likes my work. I hope we will be able to partner on some smashing products! I am also very interested in some new collections for home accessories, fabrics and cards that I have been preparing to show at Surtex this May.
What is your design process? How do you get your art from inspiration to a file the customer can use?
It varies. I mostly use my “mental library” to create art. Sometimes I get inspired by my travels around the U.S. or Europe, or by the beautiful nature I am surrounded by. Other times inspiration comes from a good book or magazine I am reading, and often by my childhood memories. There are so many stories to tell so I usually sketch something out very fast if I don’t have time to fully explore my idea right then and there, or I do a more detailed drawing if at all possible. While I do that I mentally work out a color scheme and I paint it before I start the final artwork. Sometimes I just paint the new art without testing the colors if I know exactly what I want to do.
Afterwards I manipulate my art in Photoshop or Illustrator. I work in layers and create repeats as well as full images depending on what product I want to see the design on – the product is always the first in my mind. So when I create the mock-ups to see how the whole collection works together, I often tweak the designs to better fit the product. It is a constant back and forth until I get it right, the way I want it, for colors, composition, use and style. At times the painting or drawing doesn’t work out so I put it aside and start a new one. It’s important to walk away from what I paint or design if I feel there is something out of kilter so I can later look at it again with fresh eyes and correct what is not working. I seldom throw away a drawing or painting but it does happen, too.
Most people are probably familiar with you from your blog “The Moon From my Attic”. How did the blog come about and how has it informed your understanding of the art licensing market?
I love to write so in 2010 I decided to blog about art; I had no idea about art licensing at all. I was just creating illustrations for my first children’s book and doing some freelance graphic work; I also sold my hand painted cards on Etsy and at various local shops. One day I ran into a blog about art licensing, although I can’t remember which one. My interest for it grew very quickly so I decided to write about it as I felt there were only a few published stories to read and learn from. And I love tales! Then I decided I would also make art for licensing and so The Moon from My Attic blog became my main voice for my own journey as well as for the many others I publish. From there it grew into a blog encompassing everyone involved in the industry – artists, agents, manufacturers and retailers from around the world!
You’ve had quite a journey with your art and design. Tell us a little about your experience in other areas of art and design before you started in art licensing.
I mostly did interior design for many years and loved it – long hours, tight deadlines and budgets to meet but fun and very rewarding. I worked in various studios with other designers, architects and professionals and shared ideas, collaborated on projects and designed displays, office spaces and houses. I learned from the bottom up so I can honestly say I did about all the jobs in an architectural firm, including how to develop productive, long-term relationships with clients. Prior to doing that I did hand painted textile design in Italy but that was a long time ago and now-a-days the techniques are much different and mostly done by computer but it’s a good background to have.
How is it preparing for Surtex the first year? I saw you walking the show floor last year. I imagine you are pretty well prepared with all the footwork you’ve done in advance?
You’re never prepared enough but walking the show did help in getting some ideas on what to expect, such as the importance of Surtex as a vehicle for developing relationships with potential licensees. That’s to me the real purpose of a trade show like Surtex. It’s the best time of the year when I get to meet with manufacturers in person and develop potential partnerships – or deepen existing ones. This being my first year solo, my goal is to start building such relationships that will last for years to come. I have specific companies in mind I want to work with.
Any scoop on your booth design or activities? I hear there might be a surprise in store…..
Yes, we will have a special (or maybe two…) surprise! Can’t really say much at this point but it is very exciting and I hope it will be as fun for others as it has been for me to create it. So if you happen to come by my booth, you’ll see what I am talking about!
Being in the position you are in as an experienced artist and designer, and a blogger about art licensing, what tips do you have for aspiring artists getting into this market?
I can only speak out of my own experience; there isn’t a set way or path to follow but one can develop a creative mind and travel the journey they set for themselves. I always strive to learn and improve, no matter how much I already know. My best advice: be open and willing to experience anything and respect the work of others as if it were your own.
Anything you’d like to say to manufacturers looking for art?
I am open for business so come and meet me at Surtex, booth 446 – and share in the special surprise!