At November’s Monthly Meeting, illustrator Laura Fisk took us
down a “Different Road to an Illustration Career.” Her debut book, SLEEPING BAGS TO S’MORES, a camping guide by Heather Balogh Rochfort and William Rochfort, was recently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Find it here!
Laura explained how her route to illustrating books began as a small business owner of Fisk & Fern, “a little paper and household goods company.” Drawing with her iPad Pro, pens, and pencils, Laura’s work is informed by a printmaking background. Check out her clever line of tea towels, magnets and more, sold all over the country.
Takeaways from Laura’s journey:
LEARN LESSONS ALONG THE WAY
● Self worth: take the work seriously (it has value), realize your concept may not be for everyone AND that’s okay!
● Creative discipline: even if you do not have formal art school training, you can do it; learn to work with deadlines; work even when you are not inspired
● Self-sufficiency: make it happen, figure things out yourself; ask for help when you need it; outsource aspects of the process; get good childcare
● Accepting failure: learn to take criticism; there will be bad days; keep going!
● Community: find other artists; utilize customer feedback
● Incredibly satisfying: making stuff is fun and feels great!
● Evolve: expect your work to change A LOT along the way; streamline and focus product lines
● Is there space for you? The answer is YES. It always seems like the market is too crowded and seems to never need anything new; not true!
HOW TO START YOUR BUSINESS
● What do I want to make and why?
● What are some brands that I admire/what core things inspire me?
● What are some retail spaces I want to be a part of?
● What is my goal in starting this?
● Where do I see this business going in 2 years – in 5 years?
● Who do I think my customer is?
Pick 3-4 words that describe your work to help define and streamline
LIFECYCLE OF A PRODUCT
● Pick ONE product
● Do ALL the research
● Play around with ideas
● Do MORE research – go deep
● Finalize creative
● Order product
● List and sell items:
– Packaging and display: almost as important as the actual item; take your time with it; add personality
– Pricing: do the math; don’t undersell yourself; price as if you are going to sell wholesale
– Shipping: important to inventory-based businesses; can be a hassle, but there are many resources
– Keeping up your website and relationships are critical to success
WAYS TO SELL
1. Direct to Consumer – through website/trade show
2. Print on Demand – you put your work on something (tee shirt, mug, yoga mat) and then the site fulfills it for you and ships it to customer
3. Wholesale/Consignment – you sell to retailer at half of retail price and then retailer sells product online or at trade show
● As an illustrator: know how to talk about your work; make your work consistent; build up a body of work; treat your art like a business
● Remember, bigger isn’t always better
● Have fun!
● Persistence is better than talent