I am so excited to share that I am designing fabric for Riley Blake Designs, and my very first collection, Strawberry Jam, arrives in stores April 2020! I’ve gotten a few questions about how I got my very first licensing contract, so I thought a blog post would be the easiest way to share.
In fall of 2017, I bought and Apple pencil and started drawing on my iPad using the Procreate app. I don’t remember how I found it, but I ended up watching Elizabeth Olsen talk about being a surface pattern designer. I immediately began googling surface pattern design. I then started dreaming about designing patterns for fabric. I watched any and all videos I could find about surface pattern design, but it wasn’t quite enough. I found Bonnie Christine through Skillshare and then heard about a new class she was offering - the Surface Pattern Design Immersion course. I didn’t immediately sign up for the course, but I did talk about it constantly to my husband and also gave the reasons why I shouldn’t sign up. My husband actually signed me up for the course, and has been so encouraging ever since. During the class I learned so much about Adobe Illustrator and building collections. By the time the class was over, I had designed my very first collection - Strawberry Jam. (Yes, THAT Strawberry Jam…my very first ACTUAL fabric collection.) Towards the end of the class, Bonnie announced that she was hosting a retreat for the Immersion students and I signed up immediately. I work best when I have a goal in mind. I decided I wanted to have at least three collections finished and have my portfolio printed before the retreat. I worked on my patterns all summer and in early fall 2018, I started putting my portfolio together.
At the retreat I showed my portfolio to the incredible ladies there, and got such lovely feedback. You’d think that I would have rushed home and then mailed it out to potential clients, but I didn’t. I came home and started working on my website, trying to post on Instagram and grow an audience, (I’m still horrible at Instagram, and it’s so hard and I honestly don't like thinking about it.) I set up an LLC and and opened a business checking account. I basically did EVERYTHING I could think of to be as professional as possible. I knew that I wasn’t going to bring a huge audience with me right away, so if I was going to be able to land a licensing deal - it would have to be on the strength of my portfolio and the professional image that I presented.
In spring of 2019, I finally felt ready to at least try and send my portfolio out. My dream fabric company was (and is) Riley Blake Designs. I felt like my patterns complimented their style and I felt like it would be really good fit for me. I always want to know EXACTLY what someone sends with their portfolio, so I thought I would share. I sent my hardcover 13x11 portfolio along with a little to-do notepad & pen. I included a handwritten note, and a pre-paid return shipping label. I wanted the package to stand out, and look as cheerful and special as possible, so I ordered some custom packing tape and some little stickers with my brand patterns (the stripe and pink florals). I tracked the package and the day after it arrived, I sent an email to the art director. I tried to keep the email short and sweet (it reminded me a little bit of when I had to cold call clients in my first soul killing job right out of college). The email included a link to my online portfolio and my website and I thanked the art director again for taking the time to look at my portfolio. It took me about 10 minutes to actually hit the send button, and then I immediately had to walk away from my computer. I heard back the same day, and the art director gave me a time frame. She asked that I follow up with her in two weeks if I hadn’t heard back. I think all in all it was between 6 to 8 weeks between the initial email and when I ultimately heard a “yes.” I hardly feel qualified to give any tips on how to get a licensing deal, but I do have one piece of advice to share. You don’t need to fear the art director. A big part of their job is to find new art, so they expect to be approached with portfolios. I think the biggest thing would be to research whatever company you are submitting your portfolio to and make sure that your art would complement the company’s aesthetic. I feel so incredibly lucky and I’m so excited to actually hold my fabric in my hands and see what people create with it.
I promise to share more of the process as I go along and I will do another post with all of the resources I used to build my portfolio and packaging.