Country Business Magazine 2001
by Patricia Fry
Artists on the Move
American consumers are buying more art. In fact the latest Unity Marketing
Research Report shows that art sales reached $33.7 billion in 1998a 35.6
percent increase over the previous year.
Home décor items are also selling briskly and much of it sports
designs by well-known artists. The fact is that even folks who dont
consider themselves art collectors may actually have a lot of art around their
homes. The flower design on your favorite vase and the motif on your new
bookends were most likely designed by artists who have licensed their work to
manufacturers for use on home furnishings.
Licensing means that we dont have to visit the artists studio or
attend a gallery show to see and purchase his/her work. We can enjoy their art
on our sheets when we make the bed, on the cards we send and receive and even
on our dinnerware. Lovely art has become a part of our everyday lives.
The practice of licensing is growing in popularity, which means that Country
Business readers are being exposed to more fine art in their home furnishings,
decorations and gifts. In light of this trend, we have decided to showcase some
of the artists who license their work. Watch for our Artists on the Move
feature each October.
In this issue, we profile three artists. Joy Marie produces inspirational
artwork for everything from desk accessories and lampshades to decorative
flags. Cheri Blum has developed a technique of painting pictures of flowers and
related items so that they look worn and weathered. Her art graces linens,
photo albums and rugs, just to name a few. Suzan Riggsbee Whites work
reflects the natural world and appears on items such as ceramics, furniture and
throws. Meet this years featured artists on the pages to follow.
A Celebration of Blessings
According to Joy Marie Heimsoth, her paintings reflect her Christian faith,
her love of family and her appreciation for natures bounties. She says,
The stories I tell with my art are about inspiring others to look for the
good. Its easy to be too pessimistic, too sad and hopeless. I hope my art
and messages remind others of the blessings of everyday living.
The messages she mentions are present in verse form on some of her paintings
and are written mostly by T.J. Mills. She talks about this woman who happens to
be her aunt, I love her expressions and poetry. She has a very unique
voice. She can make you laugh and cry with a few words. Im fortunate to
work with her and to be her niece.
Joy Marie has always been interested in art. She says, I cant
remember a time that I didnt want to paint or draw. Its just part
She believes that her upbringing influenced her art. She explains, I
grew up on a small farm in rural Missouri. I loved to be outside, to walk in
the woods and to try to see something different than the time before.
Joy Marie majored in art at Central Missouri State University. She taught
art for a while, but she didnt really launch her career as a professional
artist until 1993 while staying home and caring for her first child. In 1998,
she signed with CP Licensing and has over thirty licenses now representing a
wide variety of products including calendars, greeting cards, gift books, desk
accessories, tapestry pillows, needlework kits, rubber stamps and keepsake
Joy Marie still lives in a small town in Missouri with her husband and two
small children. She spends most of her day in the 1885 circa general store that
houses her studio, the Joy Marie offices and a gift shop. Joy Marie says they
didnt plan the gift shop. It started as a display area so we could
easily see all of the products on the market. But we had requests for
purchases, so we bought a cash register and hired a gift shop manager.
Joy Marie explains how licensing works, A manufacturer may contact us
agents expressing an interest in my art. After they review my portfolio,
they will select artwork that they would like to use on their productsbe
it greeting cards, pillows, calendars, journals, etc. We then supply them with
the art, they fit it to their products and the program is off and running. This
manufacturer then becomes a Joy Marie Licensee.
According to Joy Marie, her licensing agents, Chris Peterson and Peter
Spader, do all the legwork involving negotiations, meetings and shows. Her
husband, Chris, works with the agents and the manufacturers. This allows
me to spend most of my time painting, says Joy Marie.
When asked on what items she most enjoys seeing her artwork displayed, she
says, I love Christmas, so I love to see winter and holiday products
created with my designs. Christmas is the coziest time of year. It brings
thoughts of family and feelings of love and hope. These are things that I think
of often when Im painting.
What does it take to grow as an artist? According to Joy Marie, Time,
patience and a lot of persistence. Time to develop a style, to watch trends and
to allow creativity to develop. Patience to keep you going when things
dont seem to be working right. And persistence in working toward a
While this artists customer base includes a number of mom and pop gift
shops, Joy Marie products are also available in large chain stores and through
catalog companies the likes of, Hamilton Collection, Wellspring, Dimensions and
When asked what she is trying to accomplish with her work, Joy Marie is
quick to answer. Art that creates joy in peoples lives is my
underlying theme. I try to incorporate this in all my work. Ive also
worked to develop a style which allows people to see a piece and say,
That looks like Joy Marie.
Timeless Blooms Are Blums Forte
Much of Cheri Blums art celebrates the beauty of flowers in a style
that depicts something old, weathered and worn. She says, I think there
is a comfort level with my art that I like to achieveI mean comfortable
for me and those who view it. I am a great believer in celebrating the
intrinsic value of an object that is flawed or worn. To describe her art
she uses phrases like, Muted beauty. And Appreciation or
celebration of imperfection.
She says, Floral images come very easily to me but I have also painted
objects that are sympathetic to the gardeniron furniture, garden paths,
fences, bird baths, rustic objects and even birds and bees
Having achieved her Fine Arts Degree from the University of Delaware, Cheri.
left college with the idea of going commercial. In fact, even as a youngster,
she seemed destined to become an artist.
Like Joy Marie, Cheri has always had a love affair with art. She says,
When I was a child I remember hoarding pencils and pens and writing and
drawing with them to experiment with their properties. I have always been drawn
to art and artists. She talks about one of her first art teachers.
I used to watch her hands move with fascination. She was influential in
opening my eyes to the world of art.
Cheri licenses her work through Wild Apple Licensing. She says, My
first job out of college was with a stationary company so I was exposed to the
licensing side of business early on. The really important decision was to go
with Wild Apple. I recognized that their commitment to art and people far
surpassed that of any other company that I either worked with or was contacted
by. It is important to me to trust the instincts of the licensing agent. If his
or her vision is in sympathy with mine, then everything else follows.
This artists is still somewhat in awe of how many different ways her art is
perceived and used. She says, What I find interesting is how a large
retailer can come up with new twists or designs or manufacturers that enhance
the brand and offer quality products to their customers. Bed bath and Beyond is
perhaps the most comprehensive program that we are involved with because they
take the initiative to present the whole Cheri Blum image to their
Cheri doesnt take her success for granted. She says, I still
havent gotten over seeing my art in peoples homes. I guess
its all one huge complement. I dont think I will ever get used it.
But I do know that my art is an extension of me and Im extremely thankful
that so many people appreciate it.
Orchids and narcissus are Cheris signature prints and theyre
still some of her most admired. She says, Those two prints were my first
big break. When I painted them I loved them, but had no idea that they would
become as popular as they have. They led the pack in licensing when I first
started to get into that.
Cheri doesnt design art for a particular purposeto adorn a
headboard, for example, or for a line of clothing. Rather, she says, I
concentrate on painting. I generally have so many ideas in my head that I
cant paint all of them. But this process evolves and the ideas evolve.
What actually ends up on canvas is a synthesis of everything around me.
Im not overly conscious of whether an image is good for a poster or
wallpaper. I let the licensing experts work that out.
This artist has a reputation for painting on unusual surfacescracked
linoleum and other old items she finds. When asked what she sees herself
painting on next, she says, I will rule out nothing. I may someday paint
on concrete or an old door or copper or any surface that inspires me and easily
translates what it is that I am trying to say with that particular
From her historic farmhouse in Georgetown, Maryland, Cheri continues
expressing her love of antiques through her work. She says, I try to
approach each project with dedication and inspiration. Dedication to the art of
creativity and inspiration from all of the influences around me. I hope that
everything I paint is a new expression. I want to keep moving forward. While
Im painting, I am at my most relaxed. It is a very calming and peaceful
Shes Inspired By Nature
Suzan Riggsbee White planned to follow in her grandfathers footsteps
and become a doctor until a serious car crash dramatically changed her career
path. She says, After the accident, I realized that becoming a doctor was
something I was doing to please my father and my grandfather who was a noted
surgeon. Art had always been my first love. According to Suzan, The
blow to the head must have knocked some sense into me.
Having scratched the idea of medical school, Suzan began searching for a
doorway into the world of art. She says, I sent for information about the
Vermont Studio Centers Program and they sent me back an application for a
Master of Fine Arts. I applied and was accepted and completed the program in
1997. That was my first step to taking art seriously as a career.
How does she feel about her change of heart? I am grateful to be doing
something I enjoy. I was foolish to think I could really do anything else.
Painting and drawing help my soul to breath. I feel most connected to something
bigger than myself when Im working on a painting.
But Suzans challenges continued. Once established in her field, she
developed an allergy to the paints she was using. She says, Oils and
acrylics disagree with my system these days, so I have wholeheartedly embraced
watercolor. Im also getting more comfortable manipulating images on my
computer. I recently purchased a graphics tablet for the computer and it has
opened up a new world for me.
Nature and wildlife are this artists inspiration. She explains.
Reflecting on nature restores something deep within me. I spend as much
time as possible outdoors. I am fortunate to live on an island in
Vermonts Lake Champlain and that allows me to take in the splendor of the
molten sunset on the water or the quiet of a walk in the woods. I love being
surrounded by animals. When I glimpse a loon on the lake, hear the hoot of an
owl or spy a moose in the cattails, I feel as though Ive received a
special gift. Deciphering the crisscrossing deer, wild turkey rabbit and mouse
tracks in the snow around the house, also gives me a thrill.
Shortly after Suzan began taking her art to shows, she was approached about
licensing her work. She says, I met several licensing agents at the gift
show in Atlanta. I liked Debby Leggat from Wild Apple and was thrilled to
discover that Wild Apple was based in my home state of Vermont. I have enjoyed
working with Debby and the other good people at Wild Apple. Likewise,
Wild Apple Licensing was wild about Suzan. They could see that the home
décor market was trending toward the Big Sky/Lodge look and Suzans
art fit right into that niche.
Designing for the gift industry has been a lot of fun,
says Suzan. She describes her latest project. Im working on a new
set of dishes featuring a nautical theme to be sold by Zrike. Mohawk Industries
produces a number of throws and pillows featuring my work and they are
expanding my designs onto tabletop accessories. Blue Ridge Designs has done a
lovely job of adapting my work to their furniture and boxes. Santa Barbara
Ceramic Design has a great collection of clocks, wall plaques and other ceramic
accessories. I have designed a number of sets of coaster for Hindostones. In
addition there are hooked rugs by Big Sky, greeting cards by Graphique de
France, prints by Wild Apple Graphics and new projects are always in the
When asked about her favorite art subjects, Suzan tells this story,
Once, while riding my bicycle I turned a corner to find a bobcat lapping
at some trickling water on a rock face. The bobcat, startled, turned to stare
at me for a moment before hastily retreating. Ill never forget the
piercing yellow eyes or the long hairs rising from the alert ears. A rush of
adrenaline shot through me and I was transfixed. This type of momentary
connection reminds me of the richness, variety and beauty in the natural world.
Something untamed and free also strikes a chord in me. These are the things I
like to paint.
Patricia Fry is the author of A Writers
Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press,