On the Surface


What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten? Are you still thankful for it? With gratitude in season this month, we asked a few professional friends in the surface design business to look back over their careers and pass their best professional advice on to you.


TARA REED, Tara Reed Designs, Inc., Portland, OR: 
“The best business advice I have ever gotten came before I exhibited at my first art licensing trade show back in 2004.  I was trying to decide if I should take the plunge, and the SURTEX show rep asked if I would like to talk to someone who had exhibited before and get some advice.



Well, of course, I jumped on that!  It was an agent — I can’t remember who — and he told me this:
“If you are not ready to commit to exhibiting for at least 2  3 years, don’t do it.  It takes time to see how things will work for you in art licensing and you can’t judge it by one show.”

This advice helped me set my expectations and shaped the way I still look at my business.  I wish I could remember who it was who gave me that advice… but I am forever grateful for it.”

CALEB GRAY, Caleb Gray Studio, Tampa, FL:  
“Over the years I’ve received some great advice and support from fellow artists, for which I’m enormously thankful — especially as I was starting out.
Even though I worked in-house at a giftware company for several years and actually attended SURTEX to buy and license art, I still had a lot to learn when I decided to go out on my own.  There are so many questions when you’re new, and having other, more established artists take the time to not only answer questions but give reassuring advice was so helpful. That camaraderie has even turned into some great friendships today, which I’m thankful for, too!”

NANCY FIRE, Design Works International, New York City:  
“The best advice I have ever been given was ‘to stay true to yourself’ and ‘believe in your talent.’
That’s important advice because when you are in an industry that is ‘hyper creative’ you can really lose your sense of self.  If you lose these qualities, you lose your passion, and without passion, I feel that my day would be about just existing, not creating!”

SUZANNE CRUISE, Suzanne Cruise Creative Services, Overland Park, KS:  
“The best business advice I ever got was from industry pioneer, Kay Yearick. I was new to agent-ing but I knew Kay a little bit. (When I found myself) standing in a line in front of her, I turned to ask her questions about negotiating some contract points that I was clueless about.
My heart was in my throat as she had no reason at all to answer them. Without missing a beat, she answered every one. I could have kissed her. She put her hands on my shoulders and said, ‘There’s plenty of business out there for all of us.’

What a class act that was, and that she was. From that day on, I have always taken the high road in my career as a licensing agent. It has served me very well, and for that I am quite thankful.”