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How I Licensed a Fabric Collection

Getting your pattern collections licensed to fabric companies is a huge goal that I know many surface designers are working towards, so I wanted to share my experience with you all and give you some tips for getting your first collection licensed!

Check out the video below or keep reading to see it in text form!

See My Deep Forest Collection

Check out the whole collection on Hawthorne Supply Co here.

How It Started

I started out making repeat patterns for my print-on-demand shops on Spoonflower, Society6, and Redbubble.  I made 5000+ patterns (including lots of color versions!) so that helped me “grease the wheels” of my pattern making process.

Enter the iPad

When I started making patterns on my iPad I started making a lot more patterns because it was so much easier to quickly build a repeat using the app Affinity Designer.  I share my whole process for how I make patterns here.

Start Working in Collections

Collections are a powerful format for presenting your art in a professional way BUT of course your first few collections may not be very good!  When I started working in collections my work improved greatly, and I started making more patterns because I was allowing myself to create some simple blender prints and coordinates.

Tip: Jump in and make your first few bad collections to get those out of the way, then you are making way for the great collections that show your style!

Start Emailing Companies

It is very common for new designers to send out emails to art licensors and not get a reply, or get a “no thanks” reply.  It has happened to me (many times) and to most designers I know.  This is also where most people give up!  When I first sent my early collections out to art licensors, I didn’t get any replies.  Over time though, I improved my work and kept emailing out each new collection until one of them intrigued an art licensor!

There are a lot of reasons why an art licensor may not accept your work, and sometimes it’s a matter of budget, schedule, or what specific themes they are looking for at the time.  So try not to take the lack of replies as a negative reflection on your work!

Create, Email, Create, Email

This is the process that can be painful for so many artists.  We want to just sit in our quiet studios and make art all day, not email a bunch of people who won’t even take the time to look at our work!  BUT over time if you keep improving your work and making highly searchable designs, eventually you will find a company that meshes well with your style.  

Eventually, you’ll have a few companies that you work with regularly, so you won’t have to live in the constant state of emailing to no avail.

Go Deep on a Theme

Art licensors love cohesive themes (think jungle at night or rooftop garden).  This makes your work both marketable and searchable, so it makes the companies life so much easier!  I love abstract geometric shapes as much as the next designer, but the algorithm does not.  So try to integrate some searchable stuff into your designs to make it easier to find and market!

Keep Going Even After Losing Hope

Remember that you don’t have to hold onto hope each time you email an art licensor.  Just make it part of your process (think “I am a robot that makes art and emails it to people”).  Getting too invested in the result will cause unnecessary strain that dampens your creative drive.  So try to take the emotion out of the process.  The more you do it, the easier this will get!

Keep Learning

I share my whole process for creating cohesive collections and building patterns that stand out online and in print in my membership The Studio.  Check it out to start learning with me! 

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