Our last Art Brand Story for this year is a very special one for me. From the moment I met Katie Daisy, I knew that she represented a new paradigm for artists, one that I would eventually come to define as an “art lifestyle brand.”
At the time, I was interested in developing a new service model for artists. I wanted to provide the support of an agent for licensing deals, but I also saw that technology was opening up so many more and varied business opportunities for artists like Katie. I wanted to be a strategic partner, helping artists evaluate all those opportunities, decide which made the most sense for their businesses, and navigate the new territory as it unfolded.
Katie was my first client.That was more than three years ago and it’s thrilling to me to look back and see how both our businesses have evolved in that time. I’m so grateful that Katie was open to experimenting with me as I defined what F13 was all about. It’s been an incredibly rewarding collaboration for both of us, and in the process she’s become a dear, dear friend as well. I’m so proud to be able to share this interview with you.
Betsy: You’ve told me that the idea of building a brand has been with you since art school. Tell us how it started, what inspired you to build a brand, and how that focus shaped your early business decisions.
Katie: I would say that it all started in my product design class during my senior year of college. My instructor was the lovely and talented surface designer & illustrator, Lindsay Nohl. In this class, Lindsay assigned us projects that I had never considered at the time: designing a home goods collection, creating a repeat pattern, and putting together mood boards. I was astounded when I realized that my artwork could go on so many products! One day while sketching, I came up with an idea: What if I had my own line of goods? What would it be called? What would the main colors be? Motifs? What typography would I pair with it? This opened an enormous box of ideas… my head was spinning! Not only could I pick and choose all these elements that work together, but I could tell a STORY with my art. This is how my brand Katie Daisy started to take shape.
That STORY you mention has captured the imaginations many, many people! Tell us more about it.
So much of my art has been inspired by my rural upbringing in Lindenwood, Illinois. In fact, I would say nearly every piece I create has some bit of that nostalgia weaved into it. At a very young age, I learned how important nature is to the soul. The farm I lived on and the surrounding landscape was an enchanting, wonder-filled world that still exists in my heart and mind. It’s so easy for me to drift away into a prairie daydream: wading through the muddy creek, falling asleep in tall grass, the song of a redwing blackbird, enormous bundles of lilacs my mom would snip for our sunny yellow kitchen, and the chippy white screen door. I can perfectly recall the sound it made when running outside to play. This world is so dear to me—so much a part of me, that I can't help but express it through art. It’s my greatest hope that this emotion and connection can come through my work and spark a bit of wonder in the viewer.
What role has your Etsy shop played in building your brand? In what way(s) does it continue to be a critical component of your business?
I opened my Etsy shop in 2008. I started out with a "You Are My Sunshine" print, which at the time was a rare sentiment on Etsy—if you can imagine! Fortunately, that print took off and my shop became quite popular. Several big-name art/design blogs featured my work, and that really got the ball rolling! With constant shop upkeep, tons of time spent working on my craft, and providing helpful customer service, my Etsy shop has been my main source of income and continues to support me and my family today.
Not only is Etsy a wonderful place to sell my products directly to customers, but it also serves as a curated portfolio in an art directory. Most all of my notable clients (even the Oprah Winfrey Network!) have found me by perusing Etsy. I’m convinced that it’s a go-to for art directors to find fresh talent.
Which social media platform(s) are most successful for you, in terms of sharing your story, your brand and your message? How about for engaging with your fans and customers?
Instagram is by far the most successful platform for sharing my story/brand/message. I love the simplicity and design of Instagram. It’s like a little portfolio/lookbook into someone’s world! It also seems to be a kinder, more intimate place than other platforms. Facebook, however, is more successful for my brand as far as reach goes. It’s also easier to target specific audiences on Facebook if you’re looking to promote a specific post or product.
What was your first licensing deal? Has your approach to licensing changed since then? In what ways? When you’re approached by potential licensees and clients, how does thinking about your brand influence the questions you ask and the way you make your decisions?
I wouldn’t call it a licensing deal, but I wish it would have been! I was asked by a big box store to paint a page of artwork and lettering for an upcoming collection. I was blown away that a company of this size even noticed me and was interested in my work! You could say I was starstruck. The turnaround time was ridiculously quick, the pay was low, and worst of all, the contract was nonexistent. In a way, I trusted this company to guide me through the process. I thought, “heck, they’ve done this a million times! This must be standard practice.” When the products were released, I had such mixed feelings. My art appeared on products nationwide, which was so exciting. Although, was it my art? Elements were stretched, colors were changed, things were vectorized, and my name didn’t appear on anything. Since this experience, I’ve come to find so much comfort in a contract and outlining terms before the project even begins. I’ve found that If a client isn’t willing to budge on some pretty harsh terms, then it’s just not a good match.
You have such a natural, graceful way of sharing your art and your lifestyle via social media. Has that always been easy for you? How do you make decisions about what to share and what to keep private?
Thank you! Yes, it has been pretty easy. I share what I’m inspired by, and what makes me come alive. I hope that those things will inspire other people as well. :) I do keep many things private from my social media platforms. I think that it’s possible to overshare, and I’m constantly trying to keep this in check. I like to keep many moments (particularly with my family) private. In a day where everything seems to be broadcasted on the internet, I want to savor the sweet moments that only we share.
At the beginning of the year you posted about being a brand without losing your soul. It was in response to some critical comments you received about a large product collection at a major retailer. It was an eloquent and thoughtful response to the criticism and it generated a lot of commentary. What made you decide to respond in that fashion, and why did it feel important to respond at all?
Thank you! I’ve had a hard time responding (or choosing not to respond) to negative/critical feedback. There’s a part of me that always wonders if there’s a bit of truth to the comments. In this instance, several folks were questioning my decision to partner with a major retailer. Some called it selling out, others called it soulless. One of the things that I strive for in business is to be transparent and authentic with my practices. I put so much thought and care into my client relationships, so to hear that a few thought otherwise was really upsetting. I hope that my blog post will open the eyes of the naysayers to realize that there’s an enormous amount of effort and care going on behind the scenes—it’s surely not about “making fast cash,” as some seem to think. I also wrote the blog to start a bigger conversation among creatives and licensed artists about the depth of a brand. Defining your brand and making it authentically YOU is a huge asset to a creative business.
Tell us about a couple art brands you love and what you love about them.
I love Papaya, Kelly Rae Roberts, Emily McDowell, and oodles more! These gals really have a way of expressing their authenticity and individuality through their art, products, blogs, photos, and more. I’m constantly inspired by these women and the brands they’ve built from the ground up.
I agree. I’m hugely inspired by all of you and consider you real pioneers. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Katie.
If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read Katie’s blog post “I Have a Brand. I Have a Soul.” I’m so proud of the way she articulated her position and helped open the conversation about what it means to be both an artist and commercially successful—they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, you know. You’ll definitely want to visit Katie’s website and especially her newly-launched shop, where she’s now selling small-batch goods like these beautiful tote bags. The shop represents a new phase for Katie: she plans to continue selling through Etsy while exploring the possibilities afforded by a proprietary online storefront.
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