Friday, January 13, 2017

Trend Forecasting: Yea or Nay?

Trend forecasting is something I've learned is essential to textile and surface design. It doesn't seem to be something fine artists have adapted and I wonder why?

In the design world, trend forecasting is a "necessary evil." Projections are given for up to 2 years hence and deal with color, style and other rather ephemeral factors. Upon first exploration of the world of design, it feels like there are certain influencers who decide something and then see how many other influencers they can sway to their opinion. Pantone reveals the color of the year. For the next year to year and a half, you're going to be seeing a lot of "Greenery", just as we saw a version of pale pink and pale blue this past year. Designers pay a hefty subscription fee to sites like to make sure their work is on point and marketable.

Fine artists, on the other hand, tend to paint what they are interested in. Landscape, figure, still life...with, perhaps, little thought as to the marketability of their work. Give it to the gallery and they will sell it. The work is based on what the gallery liked from you when they took you on. That's a great way to work if you've established a solid collector base that will follow and grow with you during your career. But what if you're not in that top echelon that can support themselves and their families with original painting sales?

Pandamonium comforter by Terry Stanley
A look toward trend forecasting and the reproduction industry might be the answer to artwork sales and placing your work in more homes and businesses. While fine artists generally abhor the thought of someone purchasing a piece because it matches their sofa, catering to the print on demand market may require divesting of that particular prejudice.

If you're willing to follow trend forecasting and use certain color palettes or paint subjects related to furnishing trends, print on demand sites may be for you. Print on Demand has become a real player. There are many sites that host artist websites that offer this service. Among them are (where I host my fine art site), and Redbubble, Zazzle, and CafePress do print on demand and also place artwork on products. According to their publicity pages, customers range from renters and homeowners to professional designers. Artists and designers set the markup they will receive when someone orders products with their image on them. Realistically, the fee per piece that you receive is a few cents to a few dollars if you want to be competitive. Significant income requires consistent, multiple sales.

The print on demand sites sell a lot of product or they wouldn't last long. They offer the work of hundreds - maybe thousands - of artists. Therein lies the rub. How do people find YOUR work? It is your responsibility to drive traffic to your work. On some sites, investing in a paid program can help the "ranking" of your work in the queue. All the sites offer tutorials and white papers on how to sell through their service. If you choose to enter the print on demand market, make sure you are clear on the major time commitment that success in this venue requires.

There is a downside: As with just about anything else on the internet, putting your work on this kind of site invites plagiarism. You should also familiarize yourself with copyright laws and how they can affect both your original art and reproductions. And most important of all - Carefully read the user agreements! One design site I was considering had a contract that basically claimed rights in perpetuity to any design to be sold on the site on their specific product categories and had no mechanism for the artist/designer to keep track of sales. Nor was there any appeal process if there was any kind of discrepancy or misuse of one's design/artwork, the site management's decisions were final. I'm not a lawyer, but it seemed to me that this was not a fair agreement. When they called me to follow up and see why I hadn't completed my agreement, I cited the terms in their contract. Their response was "Sorry you feel that way."

Have a great weekend. Live out loud!

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