Interview with Jen Rome
First, I'm going to talk a little bit about my career and how that has continued, and then I'm going tio, we're going to call in a few different guests. We're going talk to jen rome at one o'clock, and we're going to talk to kate murray. So jen, room of anthropology at one o'clock and kate murray at one twenty from blend fabrics and then kate woodrow at one forty or so, who is the editor at chronicle books? So talk through my career as a surface designer, so it began in april of two thousand ten when I was approached with with an opportunity from a table top buyer at anthropology, and I was they approached me asking to see if I would be interested in working on a product collaboration with them after seeing my pottery in a gallery in new york and up until this point in my career, up until two thousand ten, I was really making my work on dh, living as a studio potter, making a living off of the sales of my pottery both through, etc and through gallery sales, and what you're seeing here ...
in the slide is a group of mugs that I made for an exhibition of my work in two thousand ten and my career. Uh, the buyer from anthropologie, like I said it's first seen my work in a shop in granite pass pottery in new york, and they thought the work would fit and well, and they came to the exhibition of this work in philadelphia on dh these mugs were exhibited, and they were so excited about them that they wanted these designs, including a few others for my first project with license of licensing with anthropology, and so that we worked on an exclusivity agreement with them and worked forward from there on designing a bunch of things, and pretty much from the start, I started to feel like immediately after they approached me, I started to feel like I knew that umm they offered me anthropology offered me an opportunity to sell directly to them what I was making the handmade pieces, or to design some things, and I knew that I couldn't make a large enough quantity affordably in my studio by hand. And so that large volume um and that decision to design rather than make them something t have themselves a handmade piece in the store it I needed to try it, and I was cautiously open to the idea of this mass production because I felt like if I couldn't make that order by hand that there was it was sort of inherently problematic to continue a career doing things by hand at that price point because I was I was struggling to make a living even though I was selling everything I could make and so um that interest in surface design and patterning that I've developed so much over the last five years or four and a half years really has really sort of gentle like it was started with my surface design of my own ceramic things but then it sort of transition into making these other pieces for for sale through my collaborations and then additionally you can find out more about my my one of a kind objects have continued through sales uh sales in my gallery and that's a whole another career that I'm balancing at the same time is this you can see that on my website or go to mali hatch studio dot com and that will show you my one of a kind work so I decided to sell anthropology my designs rather than the handmade pieces and on the left you see a detail of one of the five months that were put into production so this was my first a collection that I did with anthropology and the prototypes I gave them were so well replicated by their factory it's quite amazing to me like how close they could get and it really started to rewrite my understanding of what was possible in the factory versus what I had the perception academia had given me of what was possible and the production team and anthropology and I both thought originally that what I was doing was going to have to be made into decals, which are applied to the surface. A printed decal that's applied to the surface of clay, but the factory was able to re even reproduce my process and hand paint the pieces affordably so e mean, it rewrote their understanding of what was possible to and that that's amazing to me, and I'm really excited about how far we've pushed it since then and on the right is a catalogue shot of the styling of the product, so that first group of objects that you saw was my show in two thousand ten, and these were on shelves in july of two thousand eleven, so it took a full year before people saw them, but I was doing design work during that whole time, so it was a little over a year between so this dinner plate and salad plate were also from that first collection, and when I first saw the samples of these and they had come back from the factory, I just that first meeting where I saw them, that they weren't decals, those mugs and these plates. I had a moment in my career where I had to really realize that because the factory was able to do that and make it affordable. I was committing to being a designer like I couldn't afford to make them in my studio anymore, right? Like I needed to be able to hand that off to the factory. And so then I had this question of, like, what do I retain this handmade and and what what do I give to the good give to design that could be designed? And so it allowed me to separate out and put mohr energy and more value into the handmade work that I was selling with my gallery. Rather than try to make a lot of little sales, I could focus on letting this part of me the surface designer, become a surface designer and that the fine artist can start to make more high and more conceptual, one of a kind objects. And I think it's something that comes up for a lot of us, like who start out as makers who transition into being artists and designers on sharing the two. So it was a natural transition that design work became pretty quickly, and I usually work and, you know, as I talked this morning by sourcing historic imagery, and in this case you can see the drawings or tracings from a source image that I had taken photos in a museum, and so then these became templates for transferring imagery onto the surface of, you know, bass collection. So this is one of the prototypes that came out of the sketches that you saw, and then turned into a whole collection of aces with anthropology and my interest in all the work that I do is to create on object that references drawing and painting, and retains that hand in the final project. And so it's, a knob decked that is a drawing that is also an object. So what's become exciting for me over the process of the last four years of developing a designer on licensing for many companies. Now I work with about fifteen licenses, which has really grown a lot has been figuring out how to translate that surface of that original work that I was doing, which we talked about this morning into a product, and this is an early drawing of mine, and trying to figure out some of that which do I keep, which is mine, which is, you know what? Which of this, you know which dog sort of implies the design process on dh? Then this is the final design, once I turn sort of scan that drawing that you just saw into photo shop, and played around with it, and then the final the product was a little cup that I made in my own studio using geek house um and I think I even have these for sale on at sea the moment, but there are a couple more at its even for myself in the process so it's nice to even be able to take a process that the factory uses and apply it in my own studio. S o this was made with decals using print out of my artwork through a company called milestone decal, which I haven't listed in the bonus materials, but if you're a ceramic person, you khun get one sheet at a time printed and then for like, thirty dollars and cut up that one huge sheet and make a ton of different product off of that. So if you're someone who knows someone who's a ceramic artist or you want to start playing around with it, you can make your own imagery happen in your studio and then having figured that out, it's opened up the licensing. Like I said, teo products well beyond ceramics. So these air some glasses that I've done with anthropology that are like the best thing that we've done together, I'd say to fabric um and even lampshades and then product beyond that this is a wallpaper collaboration with a company called chasing paper and it's, a removable wallpaper and then a fabric collection and beyond and so you know, we're going to talk with kate from blend and you know, in about half an hour twenty minutes and right now we probably have jen rome on the phone s o I know there's not a lot of time for you all to ask me questions about this but we'll talk about that after after the factory this afternoon while I'm drawing and keep your questions or send them in so that we can talk more about some of those things that I have the challenges and the bigger things that that brings up but I want to take advantage of having jen rome on the phone hi molly hi jen are you there's our picture of done I know everyone's dying to talk with you and I thank you so much for talking with us today we only have fifteen, fifteen minutes or so um so could you just tell us a little bit about what you do and anthropology? Sure. So I actually handle all of our artists collaborations and artist relationship so I've worked with the company for close to ten years and start as a buyer um always working in the home categories and the more we were looking for artisan special handmade product the more important this new role sort of emerged out of a need that we had and molly was certainly one of our pioneers I would say in that you know, we just worked with so many different artists all around the world and we needed one point of contact to make it just much easier for the artist you know, streamline process between the buying teams and the artist making sure that you know the artist was always getting their questions answered we explain timelines you know, help give direction with artwork and and then help on the you know, the backside here at the home office where we're communicating with the buyers we work with the production team to make sure that the artist's vision lives out in the product so kind of take it from start to finish really so I know people are dying to know how to get themselves in front of you but on anthropology in general but I want to know what you're looking for when you're looking at artists and like what you're actively seeking out or if there is even a way to answer I mean, there might not be an answer to that yeah, you know it yes there is not supposed to weigh to answer that you know, we are kind of always looking you know myself and my team are looking for new ideas and new people to work with but as are the buyers you know we do a lot of travelling we do the trade shows but you know we also just want to get out and meet people as much as possible we have artisans who even work in our stores, so we try and spend time in the field and, you know, doing different research online, you know, everybody is, you know, into the blogging community these days, so we've found people even through blog's and pinterest and social media has just become huge for everyone. So it's just about finding unique new ideas that we can either buy from the artist directly or collaborate them, collaborate with them on reproduction product, so I think maybe you could speak a little bit tio what you're looking for in an artist's in regards to the hand because I know that a lot of what you're reproducing can be a challenge for your sourcing team. I know early on, I just finished talking about that initial tones that we had in sourcing a factory that could do my process by hand, and I think there's an amazing commitment that anthropology has teo following through to reproduce what the artist does, and I want it would be awesome to talk about, you know, you also work with artists who sell directly through you, so you buy handmade and you also do design, you know, you, and we'll work with artists with on a design basis, so it may be interesting to hear a little bit about some of the parameters of that yeah, I think you know the biggest thing when we're looking for artists to is finding those interesting techniques that maybe we haven't been ableto execute before especially in a collaboration it might help us to push our sourcing and how we create things um you know, the biggest I would say special thing about when we you work with artists is that we just want what they do to shine through the product and it might be a hard good designer and they want to see their print that they put on you know, a ceramic plate they would love to see that interpreted in textiles so we really work with the artistas well, teo, you know, push them in a new direction that they've never you know, maybe worked before you know, or there might be someone who has always just done pillows but we do a wallpaper with them so we definitely always want to twist and try something new but also work in a medium that they feel comfortable with or would love to see their work in yeah so hi dan this canna hear created five asking questions for the people at home and again the biggest question is why? What is if you're approaching anthropology, what is the best way tio contact somebody are how do you how do you look for portfolios or if somebody is submitting a portfolio? What are the is that email is a portfolio sending in what people do yeah we definitely get submissions all the time you know a lot of times they're just sent you know directly to our corporate office and then if it's in in regards to home it gets filtered to me and then I kind of you know look at the work reach out to the artist maybe just asked some questions talk to them about their medium and their process and then what I do is disseminate information to the buying teams on dh then you know each each team obviously handles a specific category so something's might weren't work in one area but not in another I also always tell artists that you know just because something maybe doesn't fit into a specific season that we're working on right now we always keep people in mind for future projects and I feel like that's one big thing to stress because we have different seasonal concepts four times a year sometimes something might fit in otherwise it might sit in two years from now so just being open to the fact that you know it might sometimes be a little bit longer of a process but we try and keep it like a family teo once we start a relationship with someone we really want to keep it going for as long as you know we both feel comfortable so you kind of become one of the family like you know, molly said she's been working with us for many many years now a great many questions from our studio audience yes over there um my question is, um when people send you submissions do you like for them to send like, actual samples or is like an email with pictures sufficient like what's the best way to get those submissions to you usually I would say pictures and email we can get a really good head start I mean, that gives us you know, a good sense right off the bat a little it will be something that would work for us you know? We know our customer very well and you know we'll know pretty quickly if we feel like it's something that she might respond to and I would say from there you know, if we kind of start a relationship it is typically helpful again depending on the medium if there are, you know, actual physical samples or prototypes you know, for hard goods we definitely do want typically a prototype we just find that it there's much better execution when we sent to the factory. But then for someone who might be a textile artist, we would just need the flat artwork so it can be different based, you know, upon the area and you've been able tio it's molly again you've been able teo translate sometimes like a serf surface from one medium to another through sand and another thing you know so I've seen you know recently like starling michelle hoffman who's done a lot of product with you recently with like pleats and pillows and like all of wall art and she's the painter mostly but it's been really applied across the across multiple categories that's really citing you see exactly and what's nice here is that we actually have an internal design position that helps us with a lot of the artist collaboration so you know for the starla example you know we get artwork from her and then we have a team here who manipulates it and applies it to product on dh then the artist has kept very involved throughout the whole process so you know on this specific project she saw all the cad renderings of you know what everything would look like and approved even you know prior to us going into sampling um so it's really exciting and she's a great example again of social media I actually found her on pinterest we have more questions coming in now you jin won from mel is and this has some votes so remember to vote on these questions too what are the qualities that you're looking for not only in the design but in the artist him or herself so are there things do you research the person the artists and their backgrounds in addition to just the work that pops out of you that you like we do but I feel like you know the work really is our guide on dh and we really you know like I said use the customer as a filter when we're looking for things so you know she tends to really gravitate towards happy optimistic colors you know, interesting shapes and materials we know our customers well traveled so she really loved the feel of handmade and respects the stories behind it so you know once we start a relationship we always dig more into the specific artist background on dh there's ways that we love to communicate that with our customers either through a blogger post something on facebook a sign in the store toe us it's really about celebrating the artist as well as their work and getting their name in their story out there that's great there's another one that's coming that's that's shit and I love jen heger referring teo presuming your target customer as she and that ship is asking do you look for artists that have a more popular appeal or more niche specific like folk are or ethnic art so can you tell us even more maybe about that target customer that that therefore you find artists to combine with I mean I would say to we use a lot of our in house seasonal concepts to kind of help us too so there might be one season you know we might take a trip to indonesia making it up and you know we might find an artist that we feel really fits within that concept and that would be more of a niche project where you know it is pretty seasonal on dh then there might be something a program like let's say we wanted to do a new mug siri's we might want to live for more than one season so we might look for something that's not two seasons specific with color palette and iconography um and then just more in terms of our customer like I said you know she's typically well traveled she loves the feeling of handmade you know she goes to flea markets and love to cook in her kitchen she loves to entertain she wants her home to be a place that is an expression of her on dh she loves to take people on a journey when they're in her home so she likes to tell the stories behind the product whether it be you know a rug that she got on a personal trip to morocco or you know sharing a story behind an artiste of a product that she bought for I think it's been really clear that to me the anthropology has been at the forefront of a trend in having artist's work with companies and and stupid and sort of a you know larger story that's happening out in the you know art and design community in general and I just just for a quick minute talk a little bit about where you see it going and how you see that continuing moore if you think it's something that, you know, has it been so successful that you'll just you don't think it's going anywhere I love to hear what what anthropology feels about the future of that? Yeah, I think it just be it's continuing to get bigger and bigger, and we're continuing to look for you. No more new people, new materials, new artwork, just people to collaborate with because I think, you know, like you said, there's, a huge trend in the market, but I think people want to feel a personal connection to teo, the maker of the product. Um, and so I think for us and being that we are such a storytelling brand, I think it becomes even more important for us to create these relationships and celebrate them in our store for the customer. That's perfect. Thank you so much. Yeah. Thank you so much for participating. I don't do you want? Oh, yeah, thank you so much. Gentle behalf of our audience is there again just sort of to summarize for all these people that are saying, wait, how do I how do I get in touch with whether it's you or is there a particular place for the best way for artists to communicate once again and then also if we just want to follow you is there somewhere that we can keep in touch with you yeah definitely you know anyone can always send things along to our corporate office with my attention you know and everything will get filtered through me and you know we also share ideas across the brand as well so there's different artists that you know we feel there might be something really great for a print and apparel we try and share that with the team is well so things could definitely get filtered through me fantastic well thank you again general but thank you um how cool is that that was so cool I think that was amazing and I think she spoke really well to a lot of the things that I've been talking about today um and I'm excited to hear what these other folks are saying as well and I don't know there might be we have a couple of minutes before our next call if you guys want to talk about anything that came up I'm curious on dh maybe you've heard this from from other people or yourself or what some of the mistakes that artists make when trying tio contact people like anthropology yeah I think that would be a good thing to ask the next collars I mean, I uh you know I think it's something that you know, I think she was saying, you know, email and images is enough like she doesn't necessarily need samples and um they will know pretty quickly intuitively whether it's someone to hold onto our move forward with conversation with or or not and I think some of, like my recipe for the a lot of the companies that I worked with our approach about working with is about whether or not I would shop there do you for me like I'm making my my person who buys the things that I make her are typically like me and and I think it's a good recipe for success I mean, we're not all we'd like to think that we're completely individual and there's nothing like us out there and there is in many ways, but I think if you're making something for your lifestyle and your your interest in and doing making, you know, whether it's something that fills a niche in design new your life for something that you'd like to see out there that doesn't already exist, you're most likely goingto have someone who's goingto follow suit and wantto buy it back. So I think that if you can approach companies that you know, because you shop there or you know, because you like what they're doing or you or you feel like your aesthetic fits in, then I think you're probably in a pretty good position and I think knowing I would say knowing what who you're approaching before you approach them is probably like don't just approach anyone on even just I loved how she talked about the target customer and getting those insights to know what it is that they are looking for that particular company like you said and that I think we're almost ready with kate however, our next guests really quick question and don't want to we don't have time to go into specifics, but several folks were asking about we talked copyright earlier does anthropology actually by the copyright to the art or you paid a royalty percentage? How do these arrange its work? How do you go about negotiating that's a big top? It is a big topic and we can talk more to it, but maybe after a man as I'm working through the afternoon, but I can say in a quick short answer that, um every company works differently and every every category of product works slightly differently. And while I have a boilerplate agreement that I smile, my and my agents send out when we are initially you talking with someone that you know, there are people always come back with our own limitations are ways of working, and I think that's where an agent can help you advocate for yourself better on dh know the ins and outs of every category but also like there are industry design standards that you can look up on. You know, there there's the designers handbook, which has guidelines about what, what the industry standards are. An anthropology has their own formula of working with people, and you know, everybody has a slightly different way, and it it tends to be individual to different artists. Even so, knowing what you, what you need to out of a process are out of a particular collaboration can inform how you advocate for yourself in negotiating what you got for your compensation.