Setting The Record Straight For Licensed Artists

July 18, 2013

setting the record straight about China, Made in China, setting record, manufacturing, artists, art licensing


Setting The Record Straight For Licensed Artists


Often I get questions from folks asking why I have my products made in China or why did I quit making the Primitively Whimsical calendar or when will I create scrapbooking papers & accessories? I know I’m not the only artist that has been asked these questions so I would like to set the record straight on some of the most commonly misunderstood facts about licensed artists.

What is a licensed artist?

A licensed artist provides artwork for companies to use on the products they create. The artist is simply giving the company the right, through an agreed upon licensing contract, to feature their art on the products the company makes. The artist retains the copyright; they are merely giving permission to the company. The company then pays a royalty (percentage of sales) to the artist on a quarterly basis.

So the artist creates art…..and that’s it.

Why do you have your products made in China?

I recently had a very sweet customer ask me this after she purchased some of my licensed products. She was very disappointed that the items were made in China and was curious why I didn’t make them here in the USA.

This goes back to the above question….we licensed artists have no control over where a company manufacturers their products. Of course, we could only agree to work with companies that make their products in the USA, but we would literally go out of business. I would love nothing more than to have all my licensed products made here in the states, but at this time it is unrealistic.

My husband and I had a small framing business. We framed prints of my artwork and sold them wholesale to gift shops across the nation. Around 1995-96 our competitors moved their manufacturing of framed prints over to China making it impossible for us to compete and we ultimately had to close our business, Primitive Folk. I saw first hand how manufacturing in China changed the game. If you didn’t "go with the flow" you couldn’t compete with the low prices your competitors could offer customers, therefore, leaving you in the dust. So, we can’t blame companies for moving production overseas. They, too, are just trying to survive.

There is an upside….eventually, as the workers in China demand higher wages, manufacturing will begin to move back to the states and create some much needed jobs! I recently spoke to one of my licensees and they just moved the manufacturing of their paper napkins back to the USA because it was more cost effective.

Why did you stop making your (fill in the blank)?

Back to question #1. An artist signs a licensing agreement with a company usually for 2-3 years. If the product sells well enough, they will not only continue to manufacture it but add more products. On the other hand, if it doesn’t sell well, they will quit making it. Again, we artists are powerless when it comes to this situation. We are at the mercy of the retail stores and the consumers.

Guess who holds some of the power? You, the consumer! Yes, YOU! When you’re out shopping and you see something you like by one of you favorite artists, if there’s room in the budget, purchase it! When the store runs out the items, they will re-order…. and the more they sell, the more likely you will see more products featuring that artists work from that company.

I loved painting the Primitively Whimsical calendar and I also loved the Angel Blessings calendar Legacy Publishing produced, but they didn’t sell through so they were discontinued.

It can be one of two reasons…..either the retailers didn’t buy the product for their stores (meaning you never even got the chance to purchase it) or the retailers bought it and the consumer didn’t purchase it. Either way, it’s the same outcome. The product is discontinued.

When are you going to create scrapbooking supplies?

If I had a dime for every time I was asked this question, I could retire! For the record, I would love to see my art featured on scrapbooking supplies, but I have never had the opportunity to work with a scrapbooking company.

I hope this information helps to set the record straight. We artists are grateful to be able to share our art with the world but in order to continue to do so, we need consumers to buy products that feature our artwork. It’s that simple. AND to all of you who do purchase products featuring your favorite artist’s work, we appreciate YOU!

 Do you have any other questions about licensed artists? I’d love to hear from you here in the comments.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

carol vandenbosch July 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Enjoyed your article and further explanation on your art and its reproduction to we, the consumers. Oh, China, Oh, China……..did I tell you they have now bought my favorite ham company ? Smithfield Ham! I also learned China is now buying their wine from California because they want quality :), hummmm, what does that say? So, you said it yourself……some companies are locating back to the usa because the Chinese workers are demanding more money, the bottom line of it all is greed…..not on your part, but that middle man who sells your art to the factory to make goods. Your beautiful work is compromised because of other people’s greed…..I wish there were cottage industries in usa to accommodate artists such as you! I love your angels and enjoy the little card you tucked in my order, it is my favorite and is on my vanity mirror with “Reflection” on it….I think of you every day with such tender and sweet thoughts.


tkogut July 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Thank you Carol for your support and kind thoughts. Greed is a part of it but also since manufacturing moved to China, many people in the USA lost jobs so they can’t afford products made in the USA. The China made products are cheaper and more affordable. It’s a vicious circle but one I see possibly working out in the end. Think about this scenerio (not sure if this will happen in my lifetime or not)…when the Chinese workers demand more pay, then their standard of living goes up….manufacturing comes home to the USA so it creates jobs here…..then the Chinese will buy products from us and look at what a huge market that is. Time will tell but we are stuck with it for now. Blessings my friend and again, thanks for commenting and being such a great supporter :)


Michelle Palmer July 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

LOVE your articles! Very well said, Teresa~


Teresa July 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

Thank you Michelle :)


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