Happy New Year!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, per se— I just resolve to have a better year. That shouldn’t be too difficult, since 2013 wasn’t exactly one of my favorites. THIS year, however, promises to be very exciting and full of new wonders, if everything goes even loosely according to plan.
One of my main goals is to provide you with lots more things that I know you want, and I’m not waiting around for licenses to decide to produce them (or not)!  We’re gearing up here at the ME Studios to make some of the stuff ourselves, all right here in the ol’ US of A. We’ll keep you apprised of all the details as they emerge, which will be fairly soon, and I hope you’ll be as excited as we are!
Of course, we’ll still have all our current licenses, including Andrews McMeel, who is coming out with a brand new addition to our vast family of calendars—  illustrated quotations that are printed on embossed, heavy, cream-colored paper that are easily framed. I think you’re really going to love it!

I’m doing another Christmas book for Zondervan Publishing, as yet to be named, about a bunch of young kids putting on their class play about the Nativity.

One of the most exciting things we’re doing is greatly expanding our Christmas offerings with Mark Roberts—- wait until you see this stuff! I’ll be posting photos from the Gift Show in Atlanta in early January. And Mark and I have been talking about the possibility of making year-round products, something I’ve wanted to do ever since I fell in love with the quality of his line. I’ll keep harassing him about it on your behalf, don’t worry.

Lots of new things coming to Michaels, of course, and in our major push to reconnect with smaller, independent gift stores, we have some darling enamel baby dishes coming from White Rabbit and some great printed dish towels and totes from Fiddlers Elbow that will be showing up in shops near you in the spring.

So may your New Year be as fun and exciting as I’m hoping mine will be!  All the best to you, and thank you so much for your continuing support!

~Mary

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The 12 Days of Mary is Back!

 

12 Days of Mary

Well, it’s that time of year again at our online store– time for the 12 Days Of Mary, our annual Holiday Extravaganza! It starts tomorrow, Black Friday, with a different great deal on www.maryngelbreit.com everyday for the next 12 days. Tomorrow’s deal is a free signature on any print that you buy, but you’ll have to tune in to my Facebook page (or sign up for the e-mail list) to find out what great surprises we have in store ( get it?? “In store”?? Hah! ) for you each day after that!

~Mary

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ME in VT

Art and craft workshops are springing up everywhere! I’ve even hosted several myself. They’re always fun and informative and just a great way to get together with similarly minded people and create, create, create!

But Charlotte Lyons and Meleen Dupre’s event in Vermont last weekend was something really special.

I went because, first of all, it would be a great way to spend some quality time with Charlotte, who I just don’t get to see enough, and secondly, because I wanted to participate in one of these things as a guest and see what they’re like from that end. The fact that it was in Vermont at peak leaf-peeping time didn’t hurt either!

It turned out to be a really relaxing, fun weekend. I knew many of the women attending from previous workshops and was very happy to meet several new friends as well. The food, which was included in the price, was all cooked by Meleen and was absolutely delicious! If she tires of the workshop business, she could easily open a 5 star restaurant! Her darling husband John was there to help out, and help out he did, from cleaning up after meals and putting fresh flowers and pumpkins all around their 2 cottages where all this took place. Not to mention all his fascinating and funny stories that kept us all entertained!

There were several fun outings to local farms and antique stores, and tons of art supplies to utilize if you decided to hang around the house. One of the nicest things about the whole weekend was the loose schedule. There was no racing from class to class, no frantic cleaning up between classes to make room for the next group, and plenty of time to work on whatever project interested you most at any given moment. My favorite class was the felt appliqué and embroidery– I finished one and actually started another before I left. It’s my new obsession.

Below are some photos from the trip. When Charlotte and Meleen offer another one, make sure you get on that list! If there’s any room, because I know everyone who went on this trip will be back for more!

~Mary

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Good Old Friends

blog-friend girls spreadI was having dinner with some friends the other night and there was a table full of older women sitting nearby, talking and laughing and generally having a great time. I said to my friends, “We’ll be just like that when we’re older…oh…wait….they’re about the same age as we are!” Yep, we’re old, and still having a great time together. Some of my friends I’ve known since babyhood because our mothers were friends. Some since the age of five or grade school, some I met in high school, or when my boys were babies, yet we’re always surprised we’re any older! We know each other so well and have been there for each other through every kind of life event, both wonderful and miserable. Even when we haven’t seen one another for a while, we just pick up the conversations where we left off, and it seems like no time has passed at all.

We talk a little more about our ailments, aches and pains than we used to, even though we swore we would never do that. And we commiserate about getting older because, lets face it— getting older is not for the faint of heart. But who would understand that better than the women who’ve known you since you set up lemonade stands together, experimented with you learning how to put on makeup, were there for all the different I’m Serious, This Is The One Love Of My Life and consequent break ups, marriages, divorces, children, deaths—— what would we do without our friends??! Honestly— how would we get through everything??

After the dinner, I sat in the car and waited for my friend to get safely into her apartment, joking all the while through the open car window. As I watched her fumbling for her keys, limping up the steps with her bad knee, laughing, I remembered her leaping out of my car with her book bag and her hockey stick, taking the stairs two at a time, laughing. My heart almost exploded with the love I feel for all my good old friends!

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Watch Mary’s LOUIE Award Video!

Recently Mary was awarded the Greeting Card Association’s highest award – the first ever LOUIE Award for Lifetime Achievement (the LOUIE’s are the greeting card industry’s Academy Awards!). To celebrate the event and to share a bit of background from the lady herself, American Greetings, our fantastic greeting card manufacturer, put together this fabulous video about Mary, her art and inspiration. The video was shared the night of the award presentation and ceremony, and now we want to share it with YOU!

And here is Mary’s touching and light hearted acceptance speech from the event!

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Congratulations Mary!!!!

queen beeRarely in our lives do we get to meet someone highly inspirational, unbelievably witty and funny, and yet so personal . . .  let alone get the chance to work with such a person every day!  Well . . . all of us at who work with Mary Engelbreit are blessed as we get the best of both worlds.  When you consider her massive achievements in the world of social expression, home furnishings, and overall licensing, we feel truly honored to witness all that she creates on a daily basis and to be a part of that world.  And yet she faces each day with an unabashed sense of humor and style which is reflected in her artwork – that of an everyday woman (albeit one that runs a multimillion dollar business, deals with a Studio full of crazy people, and has the same trials and tribulations of any working Mom and wife in America).

We marvel each day when Mary brings in her newest creations, and continue to scratch our heads wondering how anyone could be so creative and inventive after 30 plus years in this business.  We love what she does, we love working with her, and we love having her as a friend!

And now Mary is being honored with the Greeting Card Association’s highest award – the LOUIE for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement!  How fitting for a woman known and loved throughout the world!

Mary . . . on behalf of everyone at the Studio, and your fans everywhere, CONGRATUALTIONS on bringing so much joy, fun and inspiration into our lives, for being who you are, and for deciding to pursue art as a career!  We are so happy for the acknowledgment the industry is giving to you!

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On Behalf Of Artists Everywhere

Say It LoudWell, HERE’S an awkward subject to talk about. Please don’t hate me for bringing it up. You can hate me for bringing up other issues, and plenty of you do, but this one is an artistic problem, so I think it’s a legitimate subject for this venue.

I was talking to several artist friends of mine and we were all commiserating about the business we have chosen. Some are on Etsy selling their wares, some are licensed artists like me, and a few only sell through galleries. We LOVE it and wouldn’t do anything else unless forced to by circumstances beyond our control. One of those circumstances is this: while we appreciate SO MUCH that people like our work and often tell us so, we can’t continue to create said work unless people actually BUY it occasionally. There. I said it. I know— crass commercialism. But there it is.

In the case of my “fine artist” friends, they realize their art is expensive and will only sell to a handful of particular buyers. They have come to terms with this, and have developed relationships with buyers and galleries, and they do pretty well, all things considered.

The artists who sell on Etsy usually have other things to keep them afloat, and they also try to only make a few things at a time or make things to order, so they’re not drowning in unsold product.

Oddly enough, the artists that are most affected seem to be the licensed artists. People see the things in stores and think, “Hey, these are cute. Maybe I’ll get one later.” Of course I do this myself; it’s called “shopping”.  Unfortunately for an artist, if this happens too often, the company producing the item, who paid the artist a licensing fee, doesn’t make their money back and they very quickly stop production.  When there is no artist involved, and therefore no extra licensing fee, they’re not so quick to stop production.  To me, it seems this process should be completely reversed! Give the thing you spent more money on more time to get out there and find an audience! But not only that—- if they pull a product because it’s not selling fast enough, they just assume that artist is a dud and they won’t produce anything else, either.

The other problem is that companies that have already spent money on a licensing fee are reluctant to spend any more money on publicizing the product. It’s a vicious circle! How can you buy it if you don’t know it’s out there?? How are people supposed to find out about it if its only out there for 10 minutes??

So it seems that the first two groups of artists, who are more in control of how they sell their art, are able to be a little more relaxed about things. Licensed artists (and their customers!) are at the mercy of both manufacturers and retailers. We are not relaxed about anything. Ever.

I know no one can afford to buy everything they want. But if you really, really like an artist’s work, and you have a little extra spending money, show your support, not just by liking it, but by putting your money where your like is!

 

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Why We Don’t Make That Product Anymore (When We Never Actually Did)

Arts and CraftsWe’ve been getting a lot of questions and comments lately like, “Why don’t you bring back your nativity scene?” Or “You should make your dishes (cookie jars, dolls, etc.) again.”

I thought I should explain what exactly it is that we do here at Mary Engelbreit Studios. We don’t manufacture anything. I draw pictures, and then we hope ( and make a million phone calls and presentations) and wish and pray that some company will decide to license my artwork to put on their product.

Believe me, we would like nothing more than to have our designs on every product imaginable, like we used to! But things have changed, as they inevitably do. Now most companies only want to license if they have a retailer already lined up to carry it. And retailers only seem to want things that people have seen on their favorite TV shows or in movies. This is why you are able to find all kinds of Swamp People and Twilight merchandise (lucky you!), but very little of mine in any of the big retailers.

I, of course, think the retailers are being extremely shortsighted about this, and are ignoring a HUGE base of shoppers— like yourselves—- but I have no control over the situation. Neither do any of the other fabulous artists who are trying to license their work. And trust me, we are all missing out on what would be truly amazing products, if the retailers and manufacturers would just open their minds a little bit, and realize most people are smarter and have more sophisticated taste than popular TV shows would indicate.

I also believe people have longer attention spans than stores give you credit for. Leave product on the shelves longer than 4 weeks, for crying out loud! (Although, giving credit where credit is due, Target has done that with the wonderful Rachel Ashwell and Dwell Studio).  Let artists build a following. Thanks to all of you, I’ve been around for 35 years, but believe it or not, in our “Whats new? What’s new? What’s new?” culture, that is seen as a detriment by the big retailers.

The other sad side of this is that there are many fewer small gift stores than there used to be, because of the competition from the big box stores and because of the economy. This makes manufacturers leery of producing anything they don’t already have a commitment for, since the small “mom and pop” stores tend to come and go quickly.

Sigh. Whine.

For the second act of my career, I’d love to get into manufacturing and produce all the things you and I both want to see in the stores! But that’s a whole different business. Right now, we still have lots of new products coming out all the time, and we’ll certainly keep you posted as to when and where you can buy them.  But if one day you wake up and think, ” I’d sure like to start some kind of manufacturing business”, give me a call. My mind is always open!

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Introducing Breitville — A New Paper Doll App from ME!

BreitvilleSo you thought the paper dolls in the magazine were fun, eh? Well, we are introducing our brand new paper doll app for the iPad today, called Breitville, and these digital dolls can actually speak! You can dress them, talk to them,  pick out houses for them to live in, decorate those houses, take them to the playground and the beach, and put on shows! Once you make a show, you can send that video to family and friends. And I can work it, so that tells you how easy it is!

Our friends at Auryn developed this app based on our most popular dolls from the magazine, including—of course— Ann Estelle. My favorite part, though, is decorating the houses. Some things never change.

Give it a try! It’s a whole new way to play with paper dolls!

Buy the app here! http://bit.ly/paperDoll

And this week, we are giving away two free copies of the app! So enter the giveaway now!

And check out these videos we created explaining the new app!

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Winter Schminter

I really loathe this time of year. The charm of the holidays is long gone and all we have to look forward to, realistically, is 2 more months of winter. Sure, the first 2 weeks of February are taken up with Valentine’s Day (my favorite holiday!), and there is always the promise of spring break at the end of March, when, if you’re lucky, you can go someplace warm and pretend it’s summer, but basically it’s the longest, darkest, boring-est part of the year. In my opinion.

Have Faith

So I get through it by looking at photos of gardens no one could possibly maintain without the help of at least 5 professional gardeners and wait impatiently for spring. In the meantime, I work on cards, calendars, and books for release sometime in the future, buy pots of forced spring bulbs at the grocery store , and try not to look out the window.

Faith

A girl can dream, right?

~Mary

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