January 11, 2015

I have a brand, I have a soul.

Hey. We need to talk. 

I have some stuff I need to get off my chest.

But before I do, let me first say this.

Thank you.

Thank you to my fans and followers who have supported me for years. Thank you for buying prints from my Etsy shop. Thank you for supporting my decisions of who I decide to partner with in business, and above all, thank you for the heaps of love and encouragement I receive on a daily basis. For this, I am immensely grateful

With that said, I need to address a few comments I received this week along with my big Barnes & Noble launch (a branded end cap in stores nationwide.) 

"Beware of becoming a 'stuff' artist."
"Becoming a brand is soulless." 
"Find a better [partner] or your work will become yesterday's news."
"I hope you appreciate your gift more than fast cash." 
"No more big box stores."

Yeah, I could just shake these things off, and believe me, I do, but this is bringing up some things I'd like to share.

I get it. I get how you could be worried. 

But guess what? (here's where I stand on my soapbox.) 

1. I'm constantly aware of the fact that I could be deemed as a "stuff" artist. Some people make "stuff" for a living and that's just fine. For me, I'm a painter first and a commercial artist next. It's a fine line to walk. It's a balancing act. I am constantly evaluating the amount of licensed goods I have in the world and balancing that with how much I paint. If wanted to become an exclusive "stuff" artist (goodness, I just love that term so much.), I would have shut down my Etsy shop a long time ago and moved the whole operation to a factory. But here's the deal. I paint what I want. I paint what comes to me. Then I sell prints of it in my online shop. And if someone inquires about using that art on a notebook, journal, or planner, they get put through a rigorous test. It's called, "Are you my ideal client/licensee?"  I ask them and myself: Are you a good fit for me and my brand? Will my art be honored on your product?  Will this product better the world or inspire someone? Can I sell the product in my Etsy shop directly to my fan base? If all signs point to yes, then YES! We might be able to work together. Contrary to some folk's beliefs, I don't just sign any agreement that comes my way. In fact, saying NO has been a trend this past year. 

2. I'm aware that becoming a brand could zap the soul right out of your business if it's not done right. But I'll let you in on a little secret. My brand is an extension of me. It's an extension of my soul. "Katie Daisy" was born one day on a sketchbook page in my product design class. I wrote down all of the colors and words associated with my brand. What does the brand "Katie Daisy" feel like? Well, obviously it feels like a summer breeze in a small midwestern farm town. What does the brand Katie Daisy smell like? Purple clover, of course. The colors? Sunflower yellow, asparagus green, strawberry red, twilit-sky blue. What type of packaging works with my brand? Brown kraft mailers and baker's twine - anything that looks "of the prairie." It has been so easy to "brand" and market my work because it's an extension of my spirit. It's an authentic, soulful business, rooted so deeply in the earth. I've also defined my brand's values (love, oneness, positivity, beauty, freedom) and anti-values (fear, hate, cynicism, anger, aggression). This helps immensely when deciding whether or not to work on a specific project. Becoming a brand is not soulless. I absolutely love branding. For me, it's taking everything I love so dear (the art, packing materials, smells, flavors, sounds, words, fonts, etc.), and wrapping it up with a big bow. 

3. Five years ago when I was fresh out of college, I was contacted by a big box store to do a page of spring-themed art for them. I did it for a flat fee and zero artist credit on the product. Despite that, I was elated. My art appeared on 15+ products in every one of their stores across the country. I was proud. But part of me felt cheated. Why couldn't I have credit? How will anyone know to contact me for further deals? I wish I had more control of where they positioned that butterfly... From that point on, I knew that I wanted to be known and not anonymous. I wanted control of my art. Becoming a branded artist isn't necessarily easy, but it is possible if you remain true to your vision and work hard. Don't follow trends, start them. Paint what you want, what feels good. Be true to YOU.

4. Things are changing with big box stores. Have you noticed the endcaps in several big chains devoted to designers or "small," independent artists? Have you noticed hang tags that actually credit the artist? Have you seen artist lines in big-named catalogs? If you haven't, try looking a little closer. They're everywhere, and will only continue to grow. I wholeheartedly believe that larger corporations are seeing the value of the independent artist.  Consumers want something more these days. They want something original. They want something with soul. They want something that can't be automated or mass-produced. They want independent. They want small. And boy-oh-boy is that good news for us, the independent artist. I personally think it's AWESOME that places like West Elm and Anthropologie are teaming up with Etsy artists so they can have a broader reach. Which brings me to my next point...

5. So you want to support me until I am too big? This is something I just don't get. People who cry "SUPPORT INDEPENDENT ARTISTS!!" and then when that artist actually does have success, there's uproar. "you're a sellout!" But wait, I thought you wanted me to have success? You'll only support me if I'm struggling?

6. This is the one that really stings... but mostly makes me laugh. "I hope you appreciate your gift more than fast cash." Really? Really...? I am incredibly appreciative of the fact that I can do what I love for a living. I would never choose an opportunity just because the cash is good. In fact, I turned down a gig a couple years ago that could've made 100k. Why? Because I strive for authenticity. That client didn't pass the "are we a good match?" test, and could've hurt my business down the road. Also, I'll let you in on another little secret... I make more money selling direct-to-customer than I do with any of my "big-name" contracts.  

So... To the few of you out there who have harsh words and feelings about what I'm up to: Please don't be so quick to judge. There is a whole hell of a lot of thought and love and soul put into every single decision I make in my business. And not to sound too proud, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job. I am a business. I will continue to grow. Please trust that I'm doing that in the truest way I know how. 

And again, thank you to those who have stuck with me since my early days. I could never have gotten this far without you. 

With Love and gratitude, always:

Katie Daisy. an artist. an individual. a brand. a business. a soul. What's the difference?