Final Neverland Collection products and thoughts on the class

Wow, those 5 weeks of MATS Home Decor class went fast! I have a couple of weeks before the next MATS class starts (Children's book Illustration! So pumped over here!), and in the meantime I'm doing a fun exercise to get ready and doing a fair amount of business housekeeping.

But I'm a big believer in evaluating progress and being thoughtful about experiences, so I wanted to take some of this time to really consider how this class has helped me, and what having taken it means for the next steps in my business, portfolio, and goals.

Also, I'm a believer in lists. So there will be plenty of those here today. If you get easily bored by this kind of thing, just scroll down to see the pretty pictures and ignore this part. I won't be offended, I promise. :)

 

Lists and Thoughts

What I wanted to get out of the class:

  • An introduction to how the home decor market works (I've never pursued the licensing direction before)
  • A feel for whether or not it's the right market for me
  • A set of assignments and deadlines to help keep me motivated and making art constantly
  • A small collection that's portfolio-ready

 

My biggest expected challenges:

  • Deciding what kind of collection to start with
  • Deciding what "style" to use in my collection (most artists have several slightly varying styles that we tend to think are extremely different, but most people don't really see that much difference. We're hyper-sensitive to it, I think)
  • Going all Hermione Granger and spending too much time on each assignment

After polling y'all lovely folks and working it through with the class worksheet, I decided to just go for it, do what brings me joy, and go all out for the Neverland-inspired Children's Home Decor Collection.


Making your portfolio is NOT the time to dumb own or make the work you THINK you should. Now is the time to do the work you love.
— (paraphrase from art agent) Lilla Rogers

My biggest actual challenges:

  • Being too narrowly blocked in by the kind of collection I set out to make. I LOVE the theory of a Neverland collection and absolutely wanted to create one, but I set myself up for what I think was probably a much harder time getting the assignments to line up well with both what I wanted to do and the assignment specifications.
  • Following a trendboard I didn't make. Lilla put together a few trendboards (basically style guides) for us to choose from, which was a great tool for the class, but I'm stubborn and used to making my own and had a hard time bouncing back and forth between making what I wanted to anyway and trying to be the perfect student who follows all the rules exactly. This is a standard problem for me, but I'm working on it, and I think more practice and confidence will help. Also next time I'll still follow the basic guide of the provided trendboard, but make my own for specifically how I want to interpret it.
  • Knowing if I'd actually successfully applied the lessons I'd learned throughout the week.  There were hundreds of students in class, and I'm a total newbie at this, so it's no surprise I didn't make it into any of the reviews. But that also meant I didn't get any specific feedback from instructors Lilla or Margo. It gets pretty hard to know how you're doing when you're always trying to interpret reviews for other people's work to see if it fits your own. 
  • Doubting my style and approach. Margo and Lilla were extremely supportive of each of us following our own style and going with what our own creativity lead us to do, but let's just face it, folks: my work tends to be much more children's illustration-focused (cue happy music for the next class coming in two weeks!). Though home decor collections have themes and can capture a certain feel, they're not the same kind of storytelling I'm used to. It was hard to get my brain into that, and I think I was only barely starting to get there by the end of the course. Which leads me to:
  • Thinking in a more generally marketable way. My work tends to be very niche, very specific, very... ...not generally marketable as home decor. I don't want to squash my work too much into a mold, but I know I need to be aware of what art directors are looking for, and make sure my work can still fit into that, even if it's not what you see on most department store shelves. I think starting over and going through the course again with a next collection would help solidify this way of thinking and help me know how to proceed with using any home decor collections in my portfolio well.
  • Overthinking. Always.  I tend to feel like if whatever I'm working on came too easily, like a simple pattern, I must not be working hard enough and obviously it's poor quality work, right??

 

The Pretty Pictures Part

I'm kind of embarrassed about it now, but in the interest of transparency and actually showing (and realizing) the growth that's happened over the last 5 weeks, I wanted to show you my first and last boards:

The very first board: metal products. I had no idea what I was doing here. 

At this point I had learned a lot, but I also knew all my boards just didn't feel right altogether, which was discouraging. I wasn't quite sure how to proceed with the final assignment knowing that, so this was me doing my best to stay positive and pull it together for one more week.

 

Week by Week

Here's an overview of each board, week by week, with some notes on what I learned and tried to incorporate fr each new assignment:

Week 1: Metal Products Just trying to get something out there and give it a shot. I had TONS of product ideas but didn't have time to get them all done, so I had to settle for this nigthlight set, which proved to be a unique challenge because I wanted to show them lit up (I liked the idea of hanging them on the ceiling above a kid's bed). I'm not sure it worked very well, but hey, I tried.

Week 1: Metal Products

Just trying to get something out there and give it a shot. I had TONS of product ideas but didn't have time to get them all done, so I had to settle for this nigthlight set, which proved to be a unique challenge because I wanted to show them lit up (I liked the idea of hanging them on the ceiling above a kid's bed). I'm not sure it worked very well, but hey, I tried.

 
Week 2: Fabric I saw from the review and class gallery that people were generally creating more art first, then putting it onto products. I felt like it was a strength of mine that I thought of the products first and designed them specifically to tell a story, but knew it wasn't reading as well or something Art Directors would be looking for as much as really good art plus the bonus of seeing it on a product. So I tried to make this one fit the trendboard better, especially with the colors, and spent probably the longest on this board. I jumped into patterns more, tried to make the board clearer even when it was small, and generally tried to have more fun with it.

Week 2: Fabric

I saw from the review and class gallery that people were generally creating more art first, then putting it onto products. I felt like it was a strength of mine that I thought of the products first and designed them specifically to tell a story, but knew it wasn't reading as well or something Art Directors would be looking for as much as really good art plus the bonus of seeing it on a product. So I tried to make this one fit the trendboard better, especially with the colors, and spent probably the longest on this board. I jumped into patterns more, tried to make the board clearer even when it was small, and generally tried to have more fun with it.

 
Week 3: Glass. My literal notes for what I wanted to do differently for this week after the fabric review were "Focus on 1-2 products. Kill it." There ya go. I don't feel like I killed it here, but at least I tried.

Week 3: Glass. My literal notes for what I wanted to do differently for this week after the fabric review were "Focus on 1-2 products. Kill it."

There ya go. I don't feel like I killed it here, but at least I tried.

Week 4: Ceramic.  I set out on this one to focus on the art, and make it saleable. Friends, it is really hard to reign in my imagination here. Especially when it comes to Peter Pan. Not that I'm trying to make everything just like anything else you'd find out there, but I'm definitely not great yet at finding the balance between the crazy (and crazy specific) things my brain comes up with and what a fair number of people out there would actually buy. So I did three products and barely planned anything. Really. And I didn't even try more than 2 backgrounds, which is really weird for me. I just kinda went with it and didn't super try to match it with the week before, either. This is where some of the trendboard confusion really started showing up. Later in the reviews I heard how they don't really tend to like the super dark backgrounds (they read it as "moody," which I didn't set out to do at all).

Week 4: Ceramic. 

I set out on this one to focus on the art, and make it saleable. Friends, it is really hard to reign in my imagination here. Especially when it comes to Peter Pan. Not that I'm trying to make everything just like anything else you'd find out there, but I'm definitely not great yet at finding the balance between the crazy (and crazy specific) things my brain comes up with and what a fair number of people out there would actually buy.

So I did three products and barely planned anything. Really. And I didn't even try more than 2 backgrounds, which is really weird for me. I just kinda went with it and didn't super try to match it with the week before, either. This is where some of the trendboard confusion really started showing up. Later in the reviews I heard how they don't really tend to like the super dark backgrounds (they read it as "moody," which I didn't set out to do at all).

Week 5: Wood For this one, I was really discouraged my boards weren't cohesive as a collection, at least not as I designed them already. It's really demotivating to keep working when you know you're probably going to have to re-design anything in order for it to be useful anyway, but I pushed through, following the assignment and just had fun making marks. Yep, that was literally the assignment. "Mark making on wood." I honestly didn't know what to do with that since I tend to think if it's easy it's not good. But I went with it, had fun, and pushed more on the bright tropical kind of theme for what I hoped was a more marketable collection.

Week 5: Wood

For this one, I was really discouraged my boards weren't cohesive as a collection, at least not as I designed them already. It's really demotivating to keep working when you know you're probably going to have to re-design anything in order for it to be useful anyway, but I pushed through, following the assignment and just had fun making marks. Yep, that was literally the assignment. "Mark making on wood." I honestly didn't know what to do with that since I tend to think if it's easy it's not good. But I went with it, had fun, and pushed more on the bright tropical kind of theme for what I hoped was a more marketable collection.

Week 5: The Overall Collection with a product from each board. My attempt at putting it all together. This is totally not the direction I would have taken this collection if I hadn't been following a trendboard, or if I had known better what I was doing, but I do like how some of the products turned out, and despite it's somewhat erratic style I think it's probably decent as a first attempt. I tweaked several products to get them to feel a little more cohesive.

Week 5: The Overall Collection with a product from each board.

My attempt at putting it all together. This is totally not the direction I would have taken this collection if I hadn't been following a trendboard, or if I had known better what I was doing, but I do like how some of the products turned out, and despite it's somewhat erratic style I think it's probably decent as a first attempt. I tweaked several products to get them to feel a little more cohesive.

 

What I learned/Realized/Re-realized as part of taking this class:

  • Following directions and being aware of specifications and boundaries is good... but so is my creativity. Don't hobble it too much.
  • Decide what you are and are not going to do (as far as fitting into those standards and specifications) before you design the next collection.
  • Make your own trendboard interpretation guide before you start
  • Review what you've learned and celebrate victories
  • Trying new things is a wonderful way to keep things fresh
  • I actually do like lettering
  • Things don't have to be matchy-matchy to work together, even to Art Directors
  • Good enough is good enough
  • Each new piece or art I create doesn't have to be the end-all, best-of, culmination of everything else I've ever done or learned. Each piece is just a new thread is the great tapestry that will be my portfolio and experience. One paragraph in a whole story. One brick in a...brick wall? Ok, you get the idea.

 

What am I most proud of from the past 5 weeks?

  • I finished and uploaded every assignment before the deadline
  • I showed up and did the work, despite some setbacks
  • I drew a lot of stuff
  • I actually designed a Peter Pan collection, even if it's not what I hoped it would be (there's always next time)
  • Making the time to invest in my career in a whole new way
  • Asking for help and feedback in the class Facebook group
  • Finishing this giant blog post ( ha ha!)

 

What's Next?

  • Taking the MATS Illustrating for Children's Book class. I think this one will be a more natural fit for me, and I'm more familiar with how these classes work now.
  • Going through this class again on my own and creating at least one collection that incorporates everything I've learned
  • Updating my portfolio to reflect al this new work I'm doing
  • Contacting Art Directors and getting my work out there to be licensed!

 
 
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