To share or not to share

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve done a post… I haven’t been sharing a whole lot lately, for a few reasons. First, I’m happy to report that I have been swamped with amazing projects (if you had told me that I would be paying my rent with patterns a year ago, or even a few months ago, I never would have believed it, so I’m thrilled). Most of this work has been commission-based, and the type of work that I have to hold close until it’s in the market, so no sharing allowed. And secondly, I’ve been trying to figure out my stance on sharing since Surtex.

When I was at Surtex, a dream client came to my booth and was interested in one of my patterns, for the kind of product that made me want to jump up and down, and they even followed-up after the show with a contract. I was ecstatic. But after reading through the contract, I noticed a clause stating that the artwork could never have entered the public forum. My stomach dropped when I realized that I’d used the image for self-promotion for Surtex, and in the end, we couldn’t move ahead with that pattern, which was a huge bummer. The good news is that the door stayed open, and I worked on a commission for them in the end (more on that when the time comes)!

But this brought up an issue I had only considered in passing: whether to share, or not to share, new work. It’s a tricky one. As someone that’s relatively new to this industry, my whole goal for the past year has been to get exposure, to get my work out into the world, to get my name out there. I wanted people to know what I would be showing at Surtex, so I had to promote my work. I’ve had a few emails from other designers asking my opinion on this too… whether a manufacturer is less likely to license artwork if it’s been ‘seen’ before. And after much consideration, all I can really say is that there is no firm answer. Of course, you should never show work that is being commissioned, but for new work that’s available for licensing, how is the world going to know it’s there if you can’t show it? How is the world going to know about you if you can’t put yourself out there?

So, after all of this, I’ve decided that for the time being, I’m going to continue to promote and share my work, but perhaps just a little less than before. For that one lost opportunity, I’ve gained many more by having my work online. What are your thoughts on sharing work?

With this, I will leave you with a few new pieces that I’ve been working on lately that I’m at liberty to share, and know that I will have more exciting things to share in the months ahead! Thanks for reading!




  • August 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm // Reply

    What an amazing post and thank you so much for writing it! I have been in this delema for about a year and mentally hadn’t made much progress around it. I really like your perspective that for that one lost opportunity so many others have come. As creative people it is an instict to show others what you’ve been doing and yet in art licensing your art is actually a commodity which to some manufacturers, they need to know they are the first getting to see it. Perhaps its a mix of things, holding some back to premeire at trade shows while still showing work that is new and exciting to you.

    Thanks again for this tremendous insight and I am so so thrilled to see exploading onto the scene! Congratulations!

    • August 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm // Reply

      Thanks for your comment and kind words Nicole! It’s a toughie but I’m slowly finding my own way of looking at things. I think you’re right — you show some, and you hold some close. I hope everything is going well with you, post-Surtex!!

      • August 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm // Reply

        Thanks so much! Its been a very busy summer. Next week will be my first without a deadline but all these things take time. I’m so thrilled to hear that you are doing commission work and getting income NOW! So, so good! I’m all signed up for Surtex, will I be seeing you?

        • August 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm // Reply

          YAY! I’m so glad to hear that things have been going well for you post-show! Yeah, I’ve been happy to bring in some immediate income, it’s tough waiting for licensing money to come in, everything takes so long, but I suppose it’s sort of an investment in the future, just feels so far away! I’m 95% sure I’ll be at Surtex next year. I’ve confirmed but haven’t sent in my deposit yet, it’s on my list this week but just having a hard time acknowledging that I’ll be broke for another year! Ha. But we gotta do what we gotta do. Are you signed up??

          • August 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm //

            Yes and my deposit check just cleared. LUCKILY it came out the same week that I had some advances come in so it was a little easier to stomach! I do think its worth the investment but you have to be a long term thinker. I know what you mean about the wait! I’m happy to have some regular income to live off but its very hard to find the time to get it all in. Its not enough to just break even on those shows but at least I’m not out of pocket. Such a hard call. I still think for me its a fit at least for one more year.

  • August 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm // Reply

    Gorgeous new pieces! I love the 1st one! Thanks for sharing! :)
    Your post makes me wonder.. if we should put some work online but rest some in a printed/private catalog? And how to decide which one goes where?
    But I totallyI agree with your decision. I think it is important to share your work to show especially what you’re able to do and expect some comission based on them. For sure, if someone liked one of your works you can definetely make another one “exclusive”! It’s sad for these beautiful ones that are now your “business card” but, maybe, after some contracts, you will have a lot of comissioned on portifolio and then it will make sense to have a private selection.
    I have one curious question: your work is copyrighted? It was considered in this situation?

    • August 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm // Reply

      Hi Malu — well, everything we create has automatic copyright as soon as we create it, but there’s always an option to copyright, but I haven’t gone that route yet. The very nature of surface design is that you create a prolific body of work… but copyright is done per artwork, so it would be very expensive and time-consuming thing to do! I’m still trying to find my place on this one :)

      • August 9, 2013 at 6:20 pm // Reply

        oh also you can copyright by collection or quarter to reduce your costs for registering. $35 a collection is much more manageble than per image. Can you even imagine! We’d all be copyright poor!

        • August 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm // Reply

          Thank you for the replies! :)
          Sorry it looked as silly question….I was just wondering if we copyright some collection this will have some influence in cases like in your post. I mean, if it’s ok if it’s “public forum” since it’s copyrighted or doesn’t matter at all. Just a tough how we could manage this… But Nicole made a good point up there and hold some for premiere sounds a very good plan!

  • August 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm // Reply

    Hi Elizabeth, I´m happy to hear that you participation on SURTEX has been very succesful. Your work is wunderful.
    Lilla Rogers was asked this question in her MATS course: share or not share? She clearly encouraged us the show our. How should we convince potencial clients when we don´t show them our abilities?
    Can you specify why your client had a problem to licence a work you already showed in public? I hope that a great new project will work out with this client in the future.
    Good luck,

    • August 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm // Reply

      Hi Petra! Thanks for your note :) Good to hear Lilla’s perspective on things. It’s true, nobody is ever going to know what you’re capable of unless you can show them (a picture speaks a thousand words!). The client that I was working with had had a tricky situation happen in the past, where they went into production for a product with a pattern that had been seen online, and another company copied it. It was a messy situation so moving forward, they only use ‘unseen’ artwork to avoid a situation like that happening again.

  • August 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    Dear Elizabeth, thank you for posting this topic. I’m new to licensing also, so I never thought about this situation that a client could decline using a design just for not being ‘for his eyes only’, although the reason you mentioned makes sense. I like your work and your honest posts about the licensing business as well as preparing for Surtex. I wish you all the luck and success and will be following your blog. Just to add, not only you’re showing the world what you’ve got by posting your work, but also inspire many others along the way.

    • August 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm // Reply

      Thanks for your lovely comments, Antonija!

  • September 4, 2013 at 10:54 pm // Reply

    Your work is wonderful how do you get your shapes so close together

    • September 5, 2013 at 2:09 am // Reply

      Thanks so much! And it just takes a whole lotta love :)

  • September 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm // Reply

    Thats how I do it Elizabeth!

  • July 30, 2015 at 7:27 am // Reply

    I think the fact that the potential client did still become a client by commissioning work from you, shows that it is still valid to share. I don’t share studio work, even though some of them are kind of OK with it, and only tend to share personal work. It depends how you make money from your work, I suppose. If you have lots of repeat clients, maybe sharing is less important, but if you want to be ‘found’ by potential clients then they only way to do that is to put yourself, and your work, out there.

    Oh and I also really hate not being able to share – I just love the instant gratification of putting up WIP images on Instagram and Facebook and getting immediate positive feedback. Working in complete isolation without just a little bit of that would be painful.

    [Ooh, just noticed this is an old post. Sorry.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *