BLOG*June 29, 2010

Samantha Walker
Owl Prints on Tin
Client: VIP International

When I submitted the BYU Artist Survey a few weeks ago I received an email from an artist who felt she had created her own Art Empire. I was curious. I checked out Samantha Walker’s story, and social media. I was impressed, and decided to share her journey of creative perseverance and prosperous love affair with licensing.

“After graduating in 1994 I was frustrated, yet determined to make an active living in illustration. I did not build my art empire overnight…but rather it has been a surprising journey including many “mini careers” that paralleled my art along the way.  I quickly quit my first job out of college at a graphic design service bureau just two months after I started. I realized that I was just part of an assembly line printing and proofing other people’s art finding no time for my own.”

She ran off to Montana, Colorado, then Japan with her husband making folk art wood crafts and selling them at craft shows.

Samantha Walker
Pear Prints on Tin
Client: VIP International

“After the birth of my first child…I stumbled into the scrapbook product market…creating more with graphic design skills rather than my illustration. Okay…I didn’t exactly stumble into scrapbook product licensing…I built a product line proposal, researched various scrapbook companies, then found the one that I wanted to target. I flew across the country from Washington state to Atlanta to attend a trade show where it took me 10 tries to get a moment with the president of the company to view my proposal.  Did I mention I have severe anxiety?  I did this anyway despite my nerves because I am such a determined person.  We signed a 3 year renewable licensing contract.

Eventually,  I sold my home decor business to dedicate more time to my suddenly booming scrapbook product line. The scrapbook market bottomed out and I scrambled to think of new ways to market myself, as my income from scrapbook products was dwindling (I still design it, it just doesn’t pay like it did.  The exposure alone has brought so many opportunities that I will continue to do it, and it helps me build my brand.)  I truly believe that downturns can produce upturns if you work your angles right.  My angle was debt and hunger…didn’t like being there.”

Samantha Walker
Digital Die Butterfly Basket
Client: Silhouette America

“I networked like crazy, and then one of my other illustrator friends told me of a fabric company looking to license local artists.  I introduced myself to this company, and I got a licensing contract designing textiles for quilt fabric.  Meanwhile, I had a whole portfolio of die designs that I had done for another company that pretty much used and abused me, and so I revoked my designs, and called their competitor. Which turned into another solid licensing contract for an electronic die company. With all these successes, enjoying what I was doing, and money being much better, I still felt like there was even more that I could offer…something a little closer to my heart.

Then it dawned on me…I found that I could combine my textile designs with my simple die designs and invent an illustration style unique to myself–something very marketable as well. My new style caught the eye of a home decor company and they became interested in working with me and offered me a licensing contract doing my own line of home decor items. Not so surprisingly, creating home decor products fits so well with my other past experiences. Recently, I added a rubber stamp licensing contract to the mix as well.”

Samantha Walker
Enchanted Garden Fabric Line
Client: Riley Blake Designs

Licensing can work if you hold onto your copyright and you construct a contract that will procure you a healthy percentage of the company’s sales, otherwise you are better off doing it yourself.

“I own my copyright on everything!  I just sell limited usage rights. At this point in my life, being a busy Mom of 3 little kids ages 8, 4, and almost 3…I am grateful that I have other companies selling my designs for me.  I do get competitive royalty rates and I’m happy with what my designs bring in. This continues to be a remarkable journey, which I hope will someday lead to even more opportunities.  I think when I am able to work faster and more efficiently (I’m always looking for ways to streamline my design process in Photoshop and Illustrator) I want to look into doing a children’s book, look into stationary and greeting cards, and possibly create a conceptual editorial portfolio as well”

Kokeshi Paper and Sticker Collection
Creative Imaginations

I am also grateful for the struggles and hard times. Without those challenges, I may not have been as motivated to think of new ways to market my work.  Even though I feel I’ve built an Art Empire, (which I am defining as a good solid income, constant work, and recognition within the industries which I work) I feel that my illustration and my new empire is still in its infancy with so much potential as there are so many areas that I have yet to tap into.”

Samantha is an eloquent writer and has much to share! I encourage all of you to continue a dialogue with her. You may find your calling in the world of licensing! Go to her Blog.

Thank you Samantha for your tireless commitment to creativity and the art spirit!

To artist empowerment!

Greg