Tara Reed Designs - Art for Licensing

Adventures of an artist at the Atlanta Gift Show

Once or twice a year, I take the trek across the country from Oregon to Atlanta for the Gift Show in Atlanta.  The biggest show of the year is in January, and the next best thing is July. (Not a lot “next best” about the hot and humid weather in my opinion… but I do love what I do and sometimes you risk the elements to do it!)

I just got back and thought I’d share a little bit about what it’s like. One thing I love about going to Atlanta is the public transportation – for $2.50 I can get from the airport to the show at Peachtree Center – and it only takes 20 minutes. Much better than the taxi lines and cost of getting into Manhattan for SURTEX in May!

The show is held in three HUGE buildings – each 14-22 floors, with space for both permanent and temporary show space.  I spend most of my time in Building 2 – where most of the gift companies are that I license my art with or hope to work with in the future.  There are lots of escalator rides and crammed elevators.  One fun bonus of all the up and down on the escalators is that you run into artists and agents that you know and get to catch up and check in.

AmericasMart - July 2014

I spent 2 1/2 days talking with clients, seeing my products in showrooms and getting a feel for what is up and coming in retail.  Get ready to want big letters, words, arrows and more made from metal with light bulbs for your home – they were everywhere!  Like the marquee signs from the movies – pretty sweet!  Chalkboard styled art is still going strong as in Chevron… which makes me happy because I love both!

By the end of the day I was exhausted and my brain was both overwhelmed and buzzing with inspiration.  It gets pretty hard to turn off so I grab a pen and start writing, and sketching and capturing all my ideas on paper – hoping that helps my brain relax enough to get a good night’s sleep and start again the next day. (sometimes yes, sometimes no)

Ack!  The “Who do I think I am?” attack!

It is also quite common to have some serious episodes of inadequacy at these shows.  You just see showroom after showroom of products with art and design and you begin to wonder who you think you are to think your art should be included.  Part of the key to success in my industry is to know that (a) this is completely normal and (b) how to overcome it and release it as quickly as possible when it hits you.  It’s not a good state of mind to be in when you are looking to find partners for your art!  If you don’t believe in it – why should they?

AmericasMart - Tara Reed Designs - July 2014

I think it was well worth the time, trek and money spent to go.  I had some great appointments, got to connect with some great clients and meet some new ones – if all goes well. The added bonus of this trip?  I got to have dinner with my niece who happened to be working in Atlanta the day I arrived and an unexpected plane delay during my connection through Kansas City allowed me to escape the airport and have dinner with my friend Kim Beasley on the way home!

Now for the follow up and time to create more and more art.  Such is the life of an artist in art licensing!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  if you want to learn more about how art licensing works – I teach that!  Head to ArtLicensingInfo.com and learn more.


SURTEX 2014 is a wrap!

My business year is pretty much from SURTEX to SURTEX.  I’m either doing follow up from one year or planning for the next… it’s the biggest single investment of time and money in my business and the biggest source of leads.

So what is SURTEX?  It’s the premiere trade show for licensing and selling art and design and it is solely focused on art.

While the Licensing Expo (held each June in Las Vegas) has an art & design section, it’s primarily for movie, television, sport and big brands… with a little part for art.  At SURTEX, manufacturers and retailers come to the show in search of art to put on their products.

This year had it’s ups and downs as any trade show does.  Getting there was fun and included an extra 5 hours in the Chicago Midway airport due to fog and weather in New York.  Thankfully I did arrive, got a cab and made it into the city.  My luggage looked like it went into the river before I got it but I was able to hang things around the room and get them to dry out before set up day on Saturday.

Extra bonus this year – my son joined me!  He is going to school in Boston (BU) and his summer term started during the show so he came down for the weekend to check it out and help me set up.  It was great to see him AND to have help setting up my booth!

My niece also came up for the weekend with my sister who always helps in my booth (and is never allowed to stop!).  Saturday night we went and saw Mama Mia! which is fabulous no matter how many times you see it.  Kyle was the only one who hadn’t seen it at least once…

I participated in a conference session and was the artist without an agent on a panel whose topic was AGENT OR NOT?  Offering the pros and cons of going it alone or working with an agent in the art licensing industry.

The show was great – I think most exhibitors were more excited about the connections and potential from the show than they have been since before the recession in 2008.  Yeah!  Now it’s time to get organized and turn those connections into cash!

Here are a few photos from setup and the show… now I better get back to my follow up!

– Tara Reed

Surtex 2014 - Tara Reed Designs Surtex 2014 collage - Tara Reed Designs


The annual pilgrimage to SURTEX

For the tenth May in a row, I’m about to print my boarding pass and head to the big apple for the SURTEX show.  SURTEX is a premier trade show for artists who license their art to manufacturers to put on products – which is what I do.  My business year seems to go from SURTEX to SURTEX… the ebb and flow of following up from the show to preparing for the show.  It’s a BIG DEAL.

It’s a BIG DEAL in that it is an investment of time, creativity and of course money to exhibit.  There is the emotional roller coaster of “am I ready? – am I good enough? – will it be worth it?” that each artist goes through.  So why do I do it?  Because it works.  SURTEX has played a key role in my ability to build my business and live the creative life of my choosing.  It’s pretty amazing really and sometimes I don’t stop long enough to take stock of how far I’ve come!

Power of Choice - Art & Design Licensing Sourcebook 2014I was quoted in one of the art licensing trade magazines – the Art & Design Licensing Sourcebook – and it really sums up why I go.  Exhibiting at a show allows me to meet and interact with a lot of people in a short amount of time – that gives me choices.  Choices about who I work with, what projects and art I work on and more.

So on Friday I will be catching a plane and heading to the Big Apple.  As always, I get to see my sister who so graciously (and expertly!) helps me in my booth each year!  Added bonus: my son will be joining me Friday and Saturday to help set up, to visit and to get a taste of the show he’s heard about for half his life.  Extra bonus: my niece (my sister’s daughter) will also come help for the weekend so it stands to be a great time on both a personal and professional level!

If you are an artist and you want to learn more about how I do what I do – I teach about it!

Here are a few of my websites that are a great place to start:





If you are at the show – stop by and say hi if I’m not talking to manufacturers – I’ll be in booth #513.

If you are a manufacturer looking for art for your products – come see me!

I will be in Booth #513.

- Tara Reed

Tara Reed Designs will be at SURTEX - May 2014

Jungle print kitchen storage available for a limited time on Zulily!

I’m back on Zulily!  I’m thrilled that this time it is through a client and I don’t have to do any fulfillment personally. :)

If you love jungle prints and great deals you might want to add a touch of wild to your kitchen!  These products are only available at these prices Friday, April 25 – Sunday April 27, 2014 on Zulily.com

What are you waiting for? Go grab yours before the deal is extinct! 

Zulily - Animal Print Kitchen-Tara Reed Designs

Hop on over to Lowe’s for a fun two-sided flag for Easter!

I’ve been designing garden flags for several years now… this most recent flag was an artistic challenge that was worth the result!  I was asked to create the “back side” of the Easter bunny and chicks that were selected so the flag could be two sided.  While I normally don’t have to do that and make sure everything lines up, it was an effort of trial and error.

But now that I have this flag in my front yard it makes me SMILE every time I leave the house or return home. (Honestly, I think I’m more enamoured with seeing their little bottoms when I head out the door than their smiling faces when I return!)

Easter is quickly approaching (April 20, 2014 – are you ready?) so if you want these cute characters in your yard too, it’s time to hop over to your local Lowe’s and put them in your basket!

Happy Easter Flags at Lowes - design by Tara Reed Designs - 2014

– Tara Reed

Easter is coming! Celebrate with my new Easter Chick paper party goods!

One of my favorite little animals is now on paper plates, napkins and more from Unique Industries!  Bright greens and yellows dominate these party products and honestly make me want to have a party. :)

Easter Party Goods - 2014 - Tara Reed Designs

Of course one of the tricky things about what I do is that while I know these fun products are out there, since I don’t manufacture and sell them myself, I don’t know everywhere they can be found.  I found some on OrientalTrading.com and am told they are also at Party Zone.  If you see them somewhere else too, let me know so I can spread the word!

Wishing you a bright and happy Easter!

– Tara Reed

This week – save on checks, address labels and checkbook covers!

I’m excited to be the featured artist over at CheckAdvantage.com this week and that means savings for you!  With code CAFA you save $3 off any order of checks, address labels and checkbook covers with my designs on them.  

There are 10 themes to choose from: Cowgirl Boots, Queen Bee, Chevron, Houndstooth, Sunflowers, French Influence, Pink Ribbon, Modern Dots, Lime Animal Prints and fun flowers with zebra print accents.  

Which will you choose? Click here to check them out and order today – sale ends on Monday, February 24, 2014.

Save on Check Advantage products by Tara Reed Designs

Be changed but don’t be reduced…

Quote by Maya Angelou

I saw this quote on Twitter the other day and was struck and inspired by it.  It is yet another reminder that while we can’t control everything in our lives, we can always control our reaction and affect the outcome.  

Everyone has gone through something – or many things – that could have turned them down a road of bitterness, defeat, depression and anger.  Some go happily down that road and build a house and stay there.  

Others take the road that is a little harder in the short term but makes for a happier life in the long term.   Work through the pain and find the lesson.  Become stronger and wiser and learn to forgive.  

This Saturday marks 10 years since my ex-husband and I decided to divorce.  10 years ago I was a puddle of a person – I felt sick to my stomach for months and couldn’t eat.  I lost some weight and a neighbor told me “Divorce looks good on you!”  That was even more depressing because I knew that at some point I’d eat again and what would that mean?? :)  I had a 10 year old son to stabilize and my own sense of being to recover.  

I look back and still remember how hard it was but am also amazed and proud of where I am now.  I’m proud of how my ex and I put our son first and never in the middle.  I am stronger for the experience – but now look for more productive and gentler ways to build my strength. :)

Another huge life event that could have gone either way for me and my family emotionally is the more recent and still present experience with my dad and his “journey” with Alzheimer’s.  We went through all of the usual emotions – disbelief, questioning, despair, fear… and now I have come to a place of relative peace.  Rallying against Alzheimer’s doesn’t help.  Accepting it and showing up where my dad needs me to be – either talking or sitting quietly, playing dominoes or looking at flash cards and talking about trips – that is a more peaceful way to be.

My wish for you (and for me) is that we meet our experiences and challenges with grace and an open mind.  Allow them to change us for the better but never reduce us.

Thank you Maya Angelou for these wise words.

– Tara Reed

Focus Word of the Year: RELEASE

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of choosing a word – ideally a verb – to serve as a focus for the year.  In the past I’ve chosen CREATE and LEARN… I’ve finally decided on my word for 2014 and have chosen RELEASE.

I’m excited that I found this typewriter key that I bought years ago with the plan to turn it into jewelry.  It has been sitting, waiting, in my drawer.  I am determined to find a way to make it happen so I have a very real and physical reminder of my intention.  I plan to release the margins and the heart of things that keep me down, make me doubt and don’t serve my vision of a happy life.

Word - 2014 - release

A few things I plan to release include…

  • self-criticism
  • self-doubt
  • concern over what others think… (as someone told me, it’s really none of my business!)
  • fear of failure
  • fear of success
  • fear of judgement
  • fear of things I can’t control
  • habits that don’t serve me
  • beliefs that hold me back
  • beliefs that make me feel bad


Do you have a “word” for 2014 and if so, what is it?  If you were to think about things you want to release – what would they be? 

– Tara Reed

My fabric is featured in a fun new quilting book – Panel Play by Barbara Becker of Four Paws Quilting

I love designing fabric!  I think the puzzle of putting together repeat patterns and then coming up with combinations of patterns that quilters and sewers can use to create is so much fun.  It’s also fun to see what people do with the fabric once it is out in the world.

I’m excited to announce that several of my fabrics are featured in a new quilting book – Panel Play by Barbara Becker of Four Paws Quilting.

Panel Play - quilting book - Jan 2014


It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious quilting so I loved the pages of “Nuts and Bolts” that talk about everything from figuring out quilt sizes to cutting, blocking, sewing and more.  She then shows a variety of projects and variations.  While fabric comes and goes faster than I ever imagined, the concepts will work with any combination of patterns or themes you want for your home or gift giving.

Thank you so much for including my designs Barbara!  If you are a quilter, you can click here to find the book.

Happy Quilting!

– Tara Reed

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