Moving to Facebook

A Laughing Gate has been fun and I will be keeping this blog up for past content but will be moving my design news and inspiration over to my facebook page: CarolVanZandtDesign

I also will be keeping my newer blog active, The Plaid Portico.  Its covers fabric, fabric design, sewing, quilting and the stories of the people who do it.  And I may stray off topic occasionally!

So like my Facebook page or follow my blog or tune in to either one from time to time.

And don’t forget to keep on looking for things that inspire you!


Carol VZ

Surtex 2013

Well, this post is a bit late, but the after show work was just as busy as the final days before the show!  It feels like its been 24/7 for the last 6 weeks. Yes, Surtex was great this year. Fun, lots of meetings with good companies, great dinners in NY, and time with my east coast based niece and nephew.  I saw some licensees again or met them in person for the first time, and met lots of new people from companies with very cool products. That is the thing about Surtex.  It may be a lot of work and a lot of money, but every year I realize again, that no amount of my own research would have unearthed some of these companies and contacts. More importantly, if people stop at your booth, that means that there is interest already in your work or style, unlike blind submissions.

So this year I had Jack, of course, and also designers Caitley Symons and Kim Andersson helping out  and learning the Surtex ropes for their possible Surtex future. They are both very talented!  It sure made it fun having so much help and support.  So here is the white box of the booth when we first arrived for set-up.  I ordered shelves and an extra counter and chairs which were all there for us.


And here is our motley crew when we arrive for set-up.


Then the work begins! I made small mock-ups of the banners which we put on the wall for a final check and group-think about the placement of the banners. We tried to set up the products and prep the booth before we take out the banners, and then put them up last.IMG_9461

And voila!  Here it is all done.  We did a chevron concept for the booth design.  I was torn though–I know it is still trending but I was worried that people in the art and design area might be totally sick of chevrons, but in the end it was still my best idea so I went with it.  Hmm…what should I do next year?  I go someplace else to print the banners, but all the art on the counters and thin panels I print myself. So I have to splice some things together. It looked fine.

So besides the booth cost and extra furniture, my only other costs were the 5 large banners and business cards, and lots of command stripes and gaffer’s tape.  I also printed up my takeaway piece myself, along with the hard copy artwork, tear sheets and folder covers.  Luckily since Jack is a frequent traveler, we were able to check 5 bags between us for no cost (including the banner tube)  And we used miles for the flying and points for hotel. Hey, it allows me to justify the 10×10 corner booth!  (which I love!)IMG_9496

All was good on our little corner…  and we thoroughly enjoyed our neighbors, Josephine Kimberling, Caleb Gray, Kate Spain and Lucky Day Studio, all of whom we have been neighbors with either the first year or the second year also.  It was a good time in our neck of the woods, and it seemed like we all had steady traffic to our booths. Though one never knows the success of a show until months later even more! Its all in the follow-up.

I was also invited to speak in one of the Surtex conference sessions, “An In Depth Look at  Art Licensing Basics” along with Ellen Seay, Director of Licensing at Cruise Creative Services. It is great to share information and I love to do it.  And I learned a lot myself listening to Ellen! I walked Surtex in 2009 and went to some of these seminars myself. We had a full house and some good questions.  I was itching to get back to my booth though!  This year I didn’t want to miss anything – and its so hard to do follow-up when you actually never met the people! So I spent very little time walking the show myself or even the National Stationary Show, which I have walked the entirely of in years past.  This time I only went over there to visit a few potential licensees who asked me to stop by.


In the next couple of months I do plan on adding a page to my website in the “For Artists” section on Surtex to answer common questions they have.  I already have ones on fabric design and art licensing.  I have no plans to offer consulting or other services to artists, as I think there are already plenty of good people doing so, so I just point the way back to them.  When you are exhibiting it IS difficult though, when so many artists come by and want to ask questions. I am hoping to do my part sharing information in other ways than talking with artists at my booth.  Every second at my booth I want to be available to potential manufacturers and retailers.

Now to really pack everything up that I will use again and store it safely.  See y’all next year!

Surtex debut of Alex Colombo and Studio•Alex

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!


Cards are ready!

I have had fun recently working with Studio SENECA fine art  to create collections of greeting cards in a variety of sizes–blank inside!  That is the way I always like them myself so I was totally on board here.  And they are now available, soon to be in gift shops everywhere, but also online in boxed sets of 6 at Studio SENECA Fine Art. Stay tuned for gift wrap and more card collections…

I would also like to invite you to “like” my facebook design page, where most of the activity on this blog will be moving over to in the next few months.  This will not only include updates on my design business, but also reviews of art shows, photos of design inspiration, highlighting other blogs and cool design sites and links, etc. Please hop on over by clicking HERE!

I haven’t decided what I will be doing with ‘A Laughing Gate” blog, but I will be keeping up with The Plaid Portico blog–on fabric, fabric design, sewing, quilting and the stories of the people who do it. To check that out if it interests you, click HERE!  A Laughing Gate may become a more focused blog on a specific topic….thinking maybe Asian Arts…which is an interest of mine. Any other suggestions?

And check out the new cards!

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CAROL VAN ZANDT Collection ©2013 for Studio SENECA fine art

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CAROL VAN ZANDT Collection ©2013 for Studio SENECA fine art

senenca cards53-01

CAROL VAN ZANDT Collection ©2013 for Studio SENECA fine art

This Week’s Blog I Dig: Wafu Works

Well, Patti Gay just alerted me to this bog thinking I would like it and she was right!  Vintage Japanese textiles are right up my alley.  Wafu Works is a store in…Tasmania!   They also have an online store and website  The blog shares info on new things in the stores, but all sorts of other things about Japanese textiles in general. Check it out!

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Wafu Works Blog

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Wafu Works Blog

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Wafu Works blog

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Wafu Works Blog

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Wafu Works Blog

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Wafu Works website

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Wafu Works Online Store

Surtex prep is ON!

Ok, it is March.  The heat is on. Now its really time to get that Surtex prep going. I have a new time management plan for the month of March.  Sometimes its good to change it up a bit. Mondays will be my Surtex prep days and I will just dig in and check everything off the list until all that is left is printing my banners and I will leave that and a few other things for April.  So for those following along with their own Surtex prep, here’s a window into mine:

Ok, today I:
•updated my directory listing (online)
•printed out the booth description and specs document
•filled out the Credit Card Authorization Form
•E-mailed Mike Edson to make a formal request to change the size of the return panel on my corner booth (I wanted only a half meter, the default is a full meter. If you want to change it you need to contact Mike in writing)
•Filled out the Service Order Payment Form (since I will be ordering services)
•Played with my diorama and decided on how I want to configure things in my booth
•filled out the Booth Package Optional Items Order Form (I’m getting some angled shelves a skirted table and a couple contour chairs)
•Completed the Booth Package Selection Form online–confirms whether you want the high counter and stools, or low table and chairs for your booth (part of the booth cost)
•Filled out the Electrical Request Form
•Ordered more supplies for hanging things in the booth (Command Strips)

One thing to realize, there is GES, and the Javits Center–they both take care of different things and some forms go to one or the other, and sometimes it feels like duplication. It isn’t.

Phew!! A couple more logistical things to go, but this gets a lot of it out of the way.  Many of these deadlines aren’t until much later, but just want to get them done! Next week I will send out my press releases and finalize my advertising plan. I may go smaller this year. Maybe not!

Onwards, Surtex Artists and Designers!

Previous posts about Surtex:

Surtex Prep, follow along with us Feb 22-2013