Post-Blue Print and Pre-Summer

What a crazy time of year! Spring always flys by because May is one of my busiest months: two of my kids’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, end of the school year hoopla (which gets bigger every year!), soccer, dance recitals, school concerts, a Memorial Day family road trip, and, oh yeah, the trade show season! Yikes! I’m not gonna lie, I’m really looking forward to my lakeside vacation coming up in . . . 12 days (but who’s counting?!).
Blue Print Show 1 in New York was pretty fabulous. It was wonderful to re-connect with my art collective, Pencil Parade, in person! We have so much fun together. We had a great show meeting new contacts and connecting with existing clients. And it’s always wonderful to see other artists and agents who have become like a little family. I sold some art at the show and immediately following the show, which is always nice! (I’ll share when and if I can.) And I hope that more opportunities arise in the months to come. Getting ready for a show is so much work that I do breath a sigh of relief when it’s over.

The Pencil Parade art collective! From L to R: me,  Betsy Siber ,  Brooke Glaser , and  Megan Dunagan

The Pencil Parade art collective! From L to R: me, Betsy Siber, Brooke Glaser, and Megan Dunagan

The weeks following Blue Print have been full of email follow-ups and artwork “delivery” along with some much needed downtime to catch my breath a bit. Now here we are at the end of the school year! Ack! That always means a big change to my schedule and this year will be even more so because we’re finally finishing our basement (where my studio is) so that means I have to pack everything up! I’ll be working from a tiny desk upstairs for the next few months but hopefully I’ll have brand new digs by the end of the summer. I can’t wait! I’ll be sure to post about the process here so stay tuned. In the meantime my Etsy shop will be closed as long as we’re “under construction.”

As much as summer can be frustrating at times, trying to sneak in work time, I've learned to adjust a bit and use the summer to explore new things, paint a lot, and remind myself to enjoy this time with my kids. My oldest will go off to college in a short 3 years! You can follow along with both my sketchbook explorations and my studio updates on Instagram (and probably here too). If you're heading into summer too, enjoy! 

See you at Blue Print!

I’m so excited to return to Blue Print Surface Design and Print Show next month! I’ll be exhibiting with my art collective, Pencil Parade, at Show #1 May 17-19 in New York City. 

Last year was the first time any of us had exhibited at a trade show and we had a great time. We learned a lot, met some wonderful people, and it was a fantastic way to really step up our game in our work as independent artists and designers. On the one hand I feel immensely more prepared for this year: I know what to expect and I have a lot more confidence in my work. On the other hand it’s always daunting to prepare for a show like this. I inevitably feel like I want to bring my very best work and that just has to be the next thing I make. So I’m constantly chasing my own tail. But I’m bringing some fun new work and I’m looking forward to being in New York again and seeing some friends.

If you’re an art/creative director or an art buyer you can register your team for free and please stop by the Pencil Parade booth (#44!). And if you’re a fellow artist who’s going to be in town for the shows, stop by and say hello!

I’ll be busy busy for the next few weeks finishing up collections, but here’s a sampling of some recent work I’ll be showing at Blue Print! 

KatherineLenius_Pheasant Folly
1018_Buttercup Llama.jpg
4031_Christmas Crate.jpg

2017: Good Stuff from a Good Year

2017, you had your moments! For all the upheaval in the world my business had a good year. I reached a lot of goals I set for myself (and heck, came up short on some too, but that’s life!). The first week of the new year I’m always in planning mode. I grab all that NEW YEAR ENERGY by the tail and try to make the most of it. I also feel that reflecting on what I’ve done, writing down my goals for the year ahead, and coming up with some strategies to accomplish those goals is really important. Especially as a solo entrepreneur, I’m the only one who’s paying attention and holding myself accountable! 

Here we are, let’s look back on my year! Some really great stuff happened and it was fun to think back on 2017.  So if you’re interested, here are a few of the highlights:


From the top (kind of chronological, not in order of importance):

  • I got myself a new website last January! I switched over to Squarespace, and oh, Squarespace, how do I love thee? So easy and a good investment on my part.  
  • Then I got to see my work in the Print & Pattern Nature book by Bowie Style (a.k.a. Marie Perkins from the Print & Pattern Blog) - dream come true! She was also kind enough to feature me on her blog in March - how cool is that?
  • That big mug up there is ME at BLUE PRINT, my first trade show I exhibited at with my awesome art collective, Pencil Parade. That was by far the most important (and scariest) thing I did for my business this past year. I’m really happy with how it went and in fact, I’ll be back there later this year with Pencil Parade from May 17-19! 
  • Another perk of Blue Print was meeting my Pencil Parade comrades (Betsy, Megan, and Brooke) in person for the first time! These ladies are awesome and I’m so glad I have them! This pic also represents all the other artists I got to meet this year in real life, from international online acquaintances (even some art/design heroes) to some new local artist friends. This profession of mine has an incredibly supportive community and it’s important to connect with and support each other.  
  • Yes, that’s my iPad up there. I got my iPad Pro at the end of 2016 and it’s become such a valuable tool I had to include it. (I’m using it right now) It’s given me more flexibility, it helps me work more efficiently, and I actually love creating art on it too. I can make art wherever I am: with my kids, on the couch, in a coffee shop, or in bed (?!). 
  • My first greeting card with Design House Greetings for Trader Joe’s came out this past summer! It’s been SO fun to start working with them (did you know they’re based in MN?) and I have a number of new cards coming out with them in 2018.
  • Another great new client, Mpix, who make customizable photo cards. I was able to order Christmas cards for my family that were of my own design. More designs to come this year!  
  • My 30 Days of Patterns Challenge! This past fall I made a new pattern every (or nearly every) day for 30 days. It was a way for me to speed up my workflow and be really productive in a fun way and it was a good (but manageable) challenge. I made a lot of that work on my iPad too (wink, wink).
  • Also this fall I started the Yellow House Post! This is a newsletter for friends, shop customers, and art aficionados. I share new art and shop items, special promos, and free printables. I love sharing that kind of stuff (what else is the internet for anyway?). Sign up here if you’d like to receive it!

There you have it! 2017 in a pretty little nutshell. There are of course other good things from the year, including some art opportunities that won’t come to fruition until this year. Now I’m looking forward to another great year of art making and growing my business! Thanks for coming along for the ride! Happy New Year!

The Post-Blue Print Post! My first art trade show experience

It's been well over a month since I returned from Blue Print in New York! My calendar has been full of follow-ups, catch-ups, a vacation here and there, and some much needed "brain break" time. I'm now on my summer schedule, which is always a little scattered, but I wanted to give a little re-cap of the show and let you know how it went! 

The  Pencil Parade  Collective! 

The Pencil Parade Collective! 

First of all, you should know that I've been very cautious about exhibiting at a trade show and I felt strongly that I didn't want to exhibit before I was ready. I think sometimes the rush or pressure to do a trade show can be premature. There are a lot of ways to get your work in front of clients and a lot of ways to get yourself a client base without attending a trade show. The time and money spent in preparation for a trade show is significant and for myself I wanted to feel like my work was ready for the market and that I had some experience in the industry to help guide me. So when my fellow art collective partners from Pencil Parade expressed an interest in doing Blue Print this year I was still hesitant. It took a lot of processing, thinking, and a lengthy pro/con list to make my final decision. In the end I'm really happy I decided to jump in, but I don't think I would have wanted to do it any other way (which I'll explain in a bit). 

Me and my portfolio book (created with ). 

Me and my portfolio book (created with 

If you're not familiar with Blue Print, it's a trade show for artists, studios, and agencies to sell and license artwork, textile design, and surface pattern design. It's similar to Surtex with a few exceptions: it's smaller (exhibitors are capped at 30), the venue (it's held in smaller gallery style areas vs. a large convention center so the show set-up is considerably less complicated), the up front cost (it's significantly less expensive for a booth at Blue Print), and finally, it's newer to the scene (the first Blue Print show was in 2015). You can learn more about Blue Print on their website but I was extremely happy with the show itself. I thought it had a great feel about it, the other exhibitors were exceedingly friendly and helpful, and the buzz around Blue Print seems to grow every year. That results in a higher number of attendees and a great quality of buyer - so you get your work in front of the people you want to connect with most. 

We decided early on to exhibit at Blue Print (which is necessary because spots fill up fast) so we had about 9 months to prepare for the show. This gave us a lot of time to work on our portfolios (filling in the gaps, rounding out collections, doing more and more - and more Christmas designs) and do ALL the other work that's involved in getting ready to exhibit. For me this included sprucing up my website and online portfolio, printing promotional items and banners, figuring out a pricing strategy and plan, and then promoting the hell out of our collective and the show. There are a lot of great resources out there if you plan on exhibiting and I just started bookmarking everything I could find online about trade shows. Jennifer Nelson's Advice for Artists group and Prep classes were fantastic, and the Shine Circle Guest Expert Webinars from Dari Design were also helpful. I've always been someone who wants to go into something new OVER-prepared but at a certain point you just have to trust in that preparation and jump. The most stressful thing about the show was easily the anticipation. I definitely had some nervous moments, hesitations, weird dreams (!), and excitement. In the end, once I got TO the show, I was good to go. 

The Pencil Parade booth set-up at Blue Print (2 tables + 4 banners) 

The Pencil Parade booth set-up at Blue Print (2 tables + 4 banners) 

It feels rather ridiculous to skip now to the show itself because most of the work of exhibiting at a show happens before you ever step foot in the venue! That being said, the show itself was pretty great.  Starting with meeting my art collective friends! We've been together as a collective for over two years now but we've never met in person. It was kind of surreal and of course really exciting to see each other face to face. We got along really well and we work together SO well that it made the event much less stressful and incredibly fun (reason #1 I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way). We all stayed together near the venue and I thought the venue itself was great: near the convention center, bright and open, and right next to a small cafe (hello, lunch!). 

Overall we felt really good about the connections and contacts we met at the show. There were times when the show was slow (how long a lunch break do people need?!) and times when we had to tag-team talking to clients. There were a lot of promising opportunities, some immediate and others that might take awhile. We've been told, and I think we (Pencil Parade) would agree, that your first year at a trade show seems to be a bit of a testing ground. A lot of this industry is about forming relationships and as the new kid on the block a lot of us being there was an introduction to who we are. A couple things did surprise us: we had been told that clients would be more interested in full-buyouts at Blue Print and we found it to be more 50/50 with buyouts and licensing. We also learned a lot about this business: what's typical pricing (p.s. It's all over the place!), what are companies actually looking for, what's the best way to present your work, when are companies looking for specific art, etc. etc. All of that information will definitely inform both how I make my art and collections in the future and how I approach companies. 

Pencil Parade at The Press Lounge for an artist meet-up! 

Pencil Parade at The Press Lounge for an artist meet-up! 

Finally, some of the fun tid-bits from my time in New York. I got to meet so many online artist friends and mentors! That was really fun and there were a number of meet & greets and get-togethers where I got to meet people from all over the world who do what I do (!). I had a total fan-girl moment when I met Lotta Jansdotter, who I've admired for years! I also got to meet Rachael Taylor from Make It In Design, who gave me a scholarship to one of their courses years ago and got me started on this path. Being in NYC at the same time as Surtex gave me a chance to walk that show (as well as the National Stationery Show - hello, heaven!). Special thanks to some of my fellow Blue Print exhibitors: Dot & Flow, Kerrie Satava, Abby Zweifel from Pomelo & Pomelo, Anne-Marie Byrd from Dusty Pony Design, Nikki Upsher, Ine Beerten (Zesti), Nastja Holtfreter, Muffin Grayson and Kim Hawes (there with Cinnamon Joe), and of course Cinnamon Joe Studio (Andrea & Paul Turk) who started Blue Print and do a LOT of work to make it happen every year. 

There you have it! My trade show experience in one big wordy nutshell. I said earlier I wouldn't have done my first trade show any other way and there are a few reasons for that. Exhibiting with a collective was a fantastic way for me to exhibit. Everything from the preparation to the nuts & bolts of daily exhibiting was easier with a small group. It helped tremendously that we could help each other with everything from pricing strategies to artwork critique to "what shoes are you wearing?" Of course we were also able to share the cost of exhibiting as well. Secondly, exhibiting at Blue Print was a wonderful introduction to a trade show - like wading into a pool vs. jumping in the deep end and that made it easier for me to feel both prepared and successful.

I came away from the show having met some wonderful artists and some great potential new clients. I'm already working on a couple new things which I'll be sure to share with you in the future! I also think it might take 3-6 months to see how everything shakes out and to have a better idea of how much the show will pay off in a professional sense. One important thing I DID learn from exhibiting at a trade show: my work is ready for the market. It's really easy for me to be timid and think that I'm "not quite there yet," but this proved to me that I'm ready to go. I still have LOTS to learn and many ways to improve, but I'm ready. 


See you next year Blue Print!  

See you next year Blue Print!