Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tara Reed

How is it that you came to be an artist?

I actually have a degree in Marketing from Penn State and went into sales after college.  Got married, had a baby, became a stay-at-home mom / corporate wife.  My then-husband changed jobs a bit climbing the corporate ladder so we moved every 3-4 years.  My creative outlets included decorating the house, having great kids parties where I would make everything from invitations to decorations to piñatas, and I also got into scrapbooking.

My first ‘professional’ art job was designing things for the scrapbooking industry – working as a “Creative Alliance Partner” for EK Success. (That was their term for licensor I guess.)  I then worked with Simple Scrapbooks Magazine for 2 years as a Contributing Editor – designing, creating & teaching classes and writing – pretty much whatever I was asked to do.

In 2004 I learned about the wider-world of licensing and exhibited at my first trade show – Licensing International Expo.  At the same time I was also going through a divorce and had to decide to really go for it or get a more traditional job with a boss and benefits.  I am SO HAPPY that I went out on the limb since I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way!

Who influenced your art career?

There were many different influences in my life that led me to where I am today – from my parents getting me arts & craft supplies as a kid to teachers, friends and more.  One friend in particular helped me get started in art licensing by refusing to listen to my “I’m not good enough” fears and continuing to tell me to look into art licensing.  Without her I probably wouldn’t have given it a shot – my life would be very, very different!

Then there are artists who I’ve admired and been inspired by – Paul Brent was one who I always admired in the licensing industry and now I consider him a great friend and mentor.  It’s awesome when things work out that way.

What inspires you?

The creative challenge of designing new collections that will work for products keeps me going.  I love working with manufacturers or coming up with an idea on my own and then figuring out who to pitch it to.  

I am also inspired to do what I do so I can have the lifestyle I want.  I was basically a single mom for 8+ years and wanted to be at home with my son – licensing my art has allowed me to work from home and have a lot of flexibility with my time.  There is definitely a trade off between having a more traditional job and being self-employed.  I provide my own benefits and never really “punch the clock” and leave the job.   But for me, the trade offs are worth it and I enjoy the challenges that come with it.

How has your background in marketing helped you?

I think art licensing is a great fit for me because of my background in marketing and sales, and my overall love of business.  I enjoy learning about my clients businesses as much as I enjoy creating the art collections.  To be successful in this competitive industry it helps to understand the full chain of people involved – not only what a client makes but who their client is (what types of stores they sell to etc) and what the end consumers want.  The artist is at the end of a chain of dominoes and understanding the wants, needs and motivations of each helps everyone be successful.

My background also helps me understand how to spread the word about my business – how to attract the attention of the clients I want to work with, how to talk to them and to feel comfortable talking “business”.  It seems like many artists are intimidated with the business side of things but it is a very necessary skill to have.  Or – if you really don’t want it, it’s important to find an agent that can do that side of things for you.  I feel fortunate that I enjoy both sides of the equation – no one has a more vested interest in my success than I do and getting to both create and interact with clients keeps things interesting!

What do you think are the most effective tools for marketing yourself?

There are so many ways to market yourself as an artist or to market any type of business and finding the right mix can take some experimentation.  A person or business’ personality will also affect what tools will work best.

For me, face-to-face and personal interaction has been the best for my business.  While I do postcard mailings, have a website and an eNewsletter, the more personal communication is what I see as making the biggest impact.  Art Licensing, like so many businesses, is a relationship business.  Building a relationship of mutual respect, trust and often friendship can make or break a business.  There is a lot of competition in licensing and there are always several art choices that will likely work just as well as the next – so how does a manufacturer make a decision? It often comes down to the relationship.  Can the artist be counted on to make deadlines? Are they easy to work with and willing to make changes if needed? 

My biggest and best marketing investment each year is exhibiting at the SURTEX art and design trade show.  I am able to meet a lot of clients and potential clients in person.  I can see how they react to things, ask questions and begin to build a bond with them (or further a relationship if I have met them or worked with them before).  Having a marketing and sales background makes this type of interaction easier for me than an artist who is reserved and uncomfortable outside of their studio.  There again – there is no “ONE WAY” to do things – each person has to decide what will work best for them and that is often done through trial and error.

What types of markets do you create images for?

One thing I love about licensing my art is that I don’t have to focus on only one type of product or market.  I can be creative and let the manufacturers do what they do best – create the products and get them into the marketplace!

I’ve had my art on all sorts of products – from fabric to garden flags, coasters, kitchen textiles, gift bags, greeting cards, and more.  You can wipe your feet on my art (rugs), blow your nose in my art (tissues) and feed your family on my art (dishes).  This is why when asked what I do I say, “I create art for stuff that you buy in stores” – I simply don’t know what cool product it will be on next. 

Are there links to your images you would like to share?

My art website is and has some samples of my work on products.  I also have a Facebook page at  

Do you do other things regarding art like teaching?

I do!  I have taught all sorts of things over the years – from how to make balloon animals and cake decorating for the local park and rec to color classes for scrapbookers and more.  I pretty much warn people that if they hand me a microphone we just don’t know what will happen!  

Being an artist is often a very secluded job – I work out of a studio in my house so many days the only person I would see was my son or the checkout lady at Target.  Being able to teach and share my experience and insights is a great way to connect with the wider world.

Since 2008 I have focused on teaching about what I know best – the art licensing industry.  I blog, write eBooks, have teleseminars every other month and sometimes speak and teach at live events like the SURTEX trade show I mentioned before.

My main websites for artists interested in learning more about art licensing are: and 

In addition to teaching about the art licensing industry specifically, I have also created a few educational products for any type of artist or creative person – regardless of what they do.  They include a goal setting system that allows you to still work from inspiration (, a time management tool ( and how to get press (

Do you currently have product with your images on them in the market?

Yes!  I have a lot of different products – from garden flags at Lowe’s to coasters and wine accessory lines to full lines of gift products in dog, cat and wine themes.  New gift lines that will be released soon include patriotic barbeque, and bridal shower/bachelorette party.  Art licensing is about building a “pipeline” of deals so you hopefully have new things coming onto the market each season.  One downside to licensing is that you often don’t know where the products are for sale.  Since the manufacturing and selling are left to other companies, I have little control – and sometimes low visibility – of where things end up.

What is the think you love best about what you do?

What I love best about what I do is the ability to control my own direction, growth, opportunities and time.  I have so many friends with more traditional jobs who feel like they could be laid off at a moments notice, who don’t like their boss and dread going to work.  While I have my days where I am less optimistic and don’t have the same creative energy and enthusiasm, 99% of the time I know I am doing what I am meant to do and  really enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. Tara Reed shares so much of what she has learned as a licensor with other artists so they can take the plunge to license and sell their work. Bravo, Tara.