On the Surface


Named after Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings, January is the month when we resolve to change past patterns and move in new directions. How do artists plan to change their ways in the New Year? We asked five super-creative SURTEX exhibitors three little questions:

1. What’s new with you for the New Year?
2. How are those resolutions working out?
3. What quality sets your work apart

"Kelly_Ventura_Freeing_01"KELLY VENTURA, Kelly Ventura Design, Milford, MI: “2016 is all about organization. Implementing new art management systems and making my studio space more efficient are two areas that I felt overwhelmed with in 2015. Those tasks are a priority (so) my creative energy will be able to flow more seamlessly….”I am currently in the throes of my organizational resolution, so stay tuned. These foundational changes certainly don’t happen overnight…and unrealistic timelines will only hinder your creative spirit.

“My signature quality? Spontaneity and use of color. My work has become less and less about a specific subject matter and more about the detail within a piece and/or pattern. The combination gives my work a fresh perspective.”

ZAKIA, Zakiaz Designs, Freehold, NJ: From the very first day of the New Year until the end of May my mind spins with business ideas and visions for the future. In the first weeks of January, I make my plans and goals for the year. The brisk cool air and my desire to curl up under blankets allow my imagination to soar. From January to May, I create my new collections and designs for the year — this is my most artistically productive time!

"Zakia_Plans_01"“My 2016 business commitment is to network with and submit to every company I am inspired by or think my work would resonate with, (especially) home furnishing manufacturers and buyers. I love bedding and bath in particular, and feel that with the chaos of the world around us everyone should have a peaceful, relaxing, calm home ‘base’ to sooth their stress away. My design focus the next few months will be on serene and happy colors with classic design motifs, (fostering) tranquility for mind, body and spirit through home furnishings.

“My signature look? Combining hand painting with Photoshop — I LOVE the tactile feel and smell of paint; working with different textures, paintbrushes and techniques, and then translating it into Photoshop. The possibilities are endless….”

"Anne_Bollman_01"ANNE BOLLMAN, Anne Was Here & There, Greater Los Angeles area: “I made two significant New Year’s resolutions for my art business this year. The first was to slow down and choose quality over quantity. I often feel as if I am churning out art instead of being thoughtful and deliberate. When I slow down, I am much happier with the results. The second resolution, is to hand-paint more. Aside from painted work currently being in demand, it also brings out the artist’s unique hand in a way that purely digital work doesn’t.

“Slowing down is difficult when deadlines are constant, but I made it a priority and I’m getting better at it day by day. Even though I end up with less work, what I have created is better quality and in more demand across licensing categories.

“What sets my work apart is my ability to create product-appropriate artwork that is multigenerational and stylish with a sense of humor. Having worked directly with buyers as an in-house designer for a manufacturer before starting my own business, I understand what kind of art sells products.”

"Maret_Hensick_01"MARET HENSICK, Maret’s Art, Woolrich, ME: “I’ve done three things for the New Year: Updated my website; increased my free-hand painting, and focused on a less fussy, “back to basics” look.

Free-hand poster painting is a new way of working that lets me see my work anew. You never know where it will lead. I have expanded, using the iPad Brushes program. Free-hand painting gives my work a fresh, immediate feel. Dry humor, composition, and color define my work, whether I am drawing Christmas flamingos on paper, cakes on paper bags, or designing on the iPad.

I was born in Detroit, raised in Europe from theage of nine, then return to the U.S. to study studio art at the University of Pennsylvania. Then I worked as a graphic artist in Germany for two years, coming back to the U.S. with a European sense of design and art. After living in five different states, I settled in Maine with my artist husband, Tom Paiement. Rather desperate to make a living in the back woods in the early 1990s, I hand-painted tee-shirts directly and sold them at craft fairs throughout New England. That established my style, which leans heavily on free-hand painting and whimsy, if not wackiness.

Encouraged by my sister, I sent photographs of the shirts to perspective companies. My first license was to L.L.Bean down the road in Maine. In l991, I walked the NY Stationery Show and discovered SURTEX, where I’ve been exhibiting (with a two-year hiatus) since l992. I have licensed work to more than 30 companies. SURTEX is a fabulous show for contacts with both companies and colleagues.”

"Jenean_01"JENEAN STEPHAN-SUSTARIC, Belly Acres Farm Studio, Seville, OH: “We DID make several decisions that we hope will not only improve our business, but our health and lifestyle, as well.

“First, we had made the mistake of allowing the business to rule our lives by not taking time to invest in ourselves. Working constantly or worrying about work is NOT the way to be fresh and creative. So, we built a schedule. Sounds counter-intuitive, but, it’s working! We still work everyday, but we also go to the pool, enjoy the farm, and are even taking a vacation this year!

“Our signature style is ‘humor’ and ‘masculine’design. Now, because we’re following a tighter schedule, our work is lighter, fresher, and we have had the opportunity to try new technology and techniques, We are also energized with new ideas, and following through on a job is more fun!

“As a result, our sales have improved!”