Searching for Fresh Talent/Interview with Brush Dance President Christine Witt

By Carolyn Edlund

Christine Witt

Christine Witt

Artsy Shark loves Brush Dance and the incredible art of this joyful line.  President Christine Witt spoke with us recently, detailing how she finds and selects the talented artists who design for them.  Visit their web site – they are looking for artists now!

 

AS:  Christine, how do you go about finding artists you may want to use for your Brush Dance products?

CW: Two basic ways.   First, artists find us. We regularly receive submissions from artists who have seen our products and feel that their work fits well with what we are doing. Increasingly, though, artists are finding us through Facebook and Twitter.  At least a few times a week, I get questions about how to submit art.

Second, we search for artists. Etsy and independent artist websites have been terrific resources for us, but we also keep an eye on design blogs and a variety of magazines and other publications.

 

journal

 

 

AS:  You do not generally go to trade shows. Why not? What are you finding, or not finding at trade shows?

CW: My feeling has been that artists exhibiting at trade shows are generally a bit more established – their works have been seen out in the marketplace. (This is probably because it’s so darned expensive to exhibit at trade shows that only more established artists are able to afford to exhibit).  At Brush Dance, we have always strived to feature art that has not been seen. We are looking for original themes and ideas.

Having said this, however, I was once approached by an art licensing firm at a trade show. The owner told me he had the perfect art for us. He was right and the line is one of our better selling lines.

I’m willing to be wrong.

AS:  Talk about your focus and your themes at Brush Dance. What is the “look” you are seeking? What makes one artist’s work stand out and speak to you?

CW: This is a very difficult question to answer!  We don’t always know exactly what we’re looking for– but we know when we find it.

Generally speaking, we like art with lots of details. Give us (and our customers) something new to see each time we look at the image.  Make us wonder how a piece was created. What was the inspiration? Surprise us in a pleasant way. 

AS:  Many artists state that their work comes from personal inspiration. In the business world, we have to produce merchandise that customers will want to purchase. How do you guide your artists to produce work which will have appeal in the marketplace?

CW: Most of the artists we work with are not production artists. They started creating their art because they had to. These artists have a calling that is deep within their hearts and to not answer that calling was impossible for them.  Talking with an artist about changing a color or even cropping (!!) their art can be a sensitive topic.  Once the idea is gently introduced, though, most artists are open to most changes.  It is important to us that it be a conversation, a collaboration, between us and the artist.

AS:  Talk about your customers. Your line sends a positive, loving and very affirming message. Who is looking for this?

CW: One of the reasons we sell into such a variety of stores (from huge retailers such as Barnes & Noble to small specialty stores) is the universal appeal of our products.  People are looking for encouragement, hopefulness, joy, and intimacy in their everyday moments.

Even though our biggest orders, of course, come from those huge retailers, I have to say that I most enjoy seeing the orders from our website customers.  Connecting with the woman who will be writing in the Journal or sending the Greeting Card – it really is very special to me. Even though I never talk with most customers, I see each order as it comes in.  I know by looking at one order that a woman in Iowa is up late and that she finds a certain comfort in butterflies.  Another woman from California is having her order of ten calendars and date books shipped to her work address – I love to imagine them brightening offices or cubicles.

 

Rumi

 

 

AS:  The Brush Dance product line includes many greeting cards. Are any of your artists providing wording for those cards? If you are using their images and choosing wording for cards, what are your sources and inspiration?

CW: Some of the artists we work with also write.   Other artists will include quotes with their work or make suggestions for quotes.

For most, though, we choose the words that go with the art. We have searched through literally hundreds of books looking for quotes and words of wisdom.  The magical part is finding the right words for the right piece of art.

AS:  What would you advise emerging artists to do to get connected with buyers such as your company, for submitting their work?

CW:  There are three things:

  1. Be easy to find.  If you don’t have your own website, join Etsy. (Even if you have your own website, join Etsy.) Get social with Twitter and Facebook .  Start a blog, make connections, get your name out there. Talk with people – lots of people.
  2. Develop a portfolio/presentation. The best portfolios include at least 12 pieces of art and something about the artist.  We’re interested in you, your story, and your art.  Tell us why you think you’re a good fit for Brush Dance.  Spend a serious amount of time on your portfolio so we know that you’re serious about your profession.
  3. Follow Up. Make sure we received your submission if you don’t hear from us. If your art has changed substantially since your last submission, feel free to resubmit.

Each of these items has the same basic theme – make some noise. As an independent artist, you’re going to have to be comfortable tooting your own horn in order to get the attention (and licensing deals) you deserve.

AS:  From your Facebook page, and comments by fans, it easy to see that you have a relationship with your customers that goes beyond being buyers.  Was this by design? How did you go about making these connections? Why is this important for your business?

CW:   Absolutely by design.  I wanted us to know our customers. Not to just have a feeling for who they are and what they are interested in, but to really and truly know them.  Facebook, Twitter, and blogging have all made this easier for us.  Much like the artists we work with need to create, I need to be in touch with our customers. I need to hear their stories.

AS:  You look at many artists, and their portfolios. What in your opinion are the biggest mistakes an artist can make when presenting their work for consideration?

CW:  Easy answer!  The biggest mistake artists make is not making the presentation easy for us.

If you have website, it must be easy to navigate.  If you’re sending a link, make sure everything you want me to see is right there – or clearly labeled.  If you find that you have to send along instructions to your website, it’s time for a redesign.

We get so many submissions and our time is limited. Make it easy for us to see your work and you have a much better chance of your work being seen.

AS:  Brush Dance has had some long relationships with artists who design for your line. Can you discuss this?

CW:  Relationship building is important to us – corporate buyers, retail customers, vendors, and artists. In fact, some of the artists we work with have been with Brush Dance longer than any of our employees.  It is really is our honor to work with so many talented souls year after year.

 

AS:  This past year has been difficult for many businesses, and yet Brush Dance is doing quite well. Can you give your thoughts on how you have created this abundance and what your plans are for the future?

CW:  Year after year, Brush Dance’s success can be attributed to the same thing – we have a terrific team of people (employees, artists, vendors, and more) completely dedicated to our success. When everyone is working in unison to create high-quality products, at a price people can afford, success follows.

In 2010, we will continue to grow our line – we’re adding new Calendar, Journal, and Magnet styles this year. More importantly, though, we will continue our focus on customers – on connecting with the people who are using our products.


Christine Witt writes a blog for Brush Dance which gives more insight into the company and the spirit behind it.

Comments

  1. Great interview.

  2. Good afternoon,

    Just read that you are looking for someone to interview. I just wanted to let you know that I am always open to be interviewed so if you are interested in featuring my art and me please contact me. I will be glad to answer all you questions and make an Interview interesting for your readers!

    Sincerely,

    Tatiana Roulin

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