I had the good fortune to meet up with talented designer/illustrator Jane Dixon at the Surtex show last year. You can find her designs on many products made for Crate & Barrel, Vera Bradley, Anne Klein and many more. She was nice enough to agree to do a special interview for our SPDG blog. Thank you, Jane!
What is your current job description and what was your career path to get there?
I began as a fine artist, a painter. I’m self-taught. My medium was watercolor, then mixed-media on paper. I began showing paintings through traditional galleries and art dealers at 16 years old. Years later, I became employed by a text book company as an Art Buyer, soon-after becoming a Designer and Photo Stylist. This was an invaluable introduction to the field of corporate design. I researched and chose illustration, negotiated contracts, styled photo shoots, and assisted in designing book and covers. I sat in meetings listening to why some designs worked and why some did not. I gave presentations of others' artwork and needed to justify my selections. I then changed companies and became a Product Designer, illustrating scrapbook products, paper party goods, bridal books, journals, and stationery. I also designed photo albums, frames, and decorative shelves. I freelanced on the side in those years, never turning down an assignment. In 2007 I started my own business creating artwork for all kinds of products. I can thank the corporate design background and moonlighting as an Illustrator for having built character and endurance. It gave me my grit and toughened my skin! I learned a lot from being behind the scenes with other Designers, Creative Directors, and Marketing Managers.My education in the art of business has come through asking questions, reading library books, and by working as hard as I can. I’m currently getting back into painting large works on paper! I hope to come full circle and begin offering those for sale this summer.
Do you do your own marketing for your design business?
Yes, I do all of my own marketing. I used to be represented by agents but found out that I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I like having control over how my business is run and feel I can sell my own work better than anyone else. Marketing yourself and your work must be an obsession to gain that initial traction. Next, a finger on the pulse of what’s current and the cultivation of a constant stream of original ideas is needed to hold the old and interest the new. Luckily, the marketing is a task I find almost as rewarding as developing the artwork itself.
You showcase your work at many of the trade shows around the world. Can you tell us which shows you like to attend and what kind of clientele and markets do you get exposure to at each show?
I’ve attended the Printsource NY, Surtex, and Indigo shows - ten shows in the past two years. There is such a great variety of clients at each show, that whatever it is that you are trying to market, if it’s original, and it’s worthy of being put on a product, chances are you'll find a client or two at any of these shows.
It’s worth saying that I did not define to whom I sell. The market decided that. I only do the work that interests me and trust that there is someone out there that will want it. My clients are primarily Home Décor, Kitchen, Packaging, and Apparel.
I loved how you hand painted your backdrop artwork with house paint on canvas for your booth at the Surtex show last year. Do you have any anecdotes you'd like to share about the creation and the setting up of your exhibition booths?
Thank you! I try to do something different for each show - a little surprise. Since my background is as a studio artist, creating these large paintings as the centerpiece of my booth is a natural. This past year, I’ve added other elements, big hand-made paper flower bouquets and paper mobiles created from the out-takes of my prints. I always hope that keeping the booth fun and interesting encourages people to come back to see what’s next.
You work with some big name clients. Did you build those relationships via trade shows?
Attending the trade shows has been invaluable to my business. My entire current client list has pretty much come from these shows.
What percentage of time would you say you devote to creating new
artwork, preparing for trade shows, and following up with clients after
I estimate that it’s probably a 50%-50% split between creating new work and tending to the business of finding happy homes for that work.
Do you license your work and/or sell outright?
Licensing works for some types of design, for some types of clients, for some types of artists .Although I do have a few licensing contracts, selling outright is best for me.
When developing your artwork, do you create collections or single
pieces or both?
Both! I create single designs that can stand alone and groups of designs that coordinate or have a central theme.
Typically how many new pieces do you bring with you to show case at
the trade shows?
I bring 300-500 pieces.
Do you have any advice for first time surface pattern designers who
plan to exhibit at a trade show?
Figure out what it is that you do like no one else and do that with all of your heart.
— Interviewer: Jill Turney
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pattern design related news, information, or tips to share? We want to hear from you!