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!

39 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Make That Product Anymore (When We Never Actually Did)

  1. So disappointed with the elimination of your Home Companion magazine. I have everyone I ever received and yet I realize that this particular magazine was and is the only one I really spent time, reading and re-reading. I miss it.

    • Shirley, maybe you can help me. I have a lot of her magazines also, but I have lost the one that has her house that she did in red and it showed the den. If I could just find out the date I could probably find the magazine on ebay. I would really appreciate it if you would find the date for me. I am also a big fan and really miss the magazines. Thank you, Patti

  2. Thank you for the update. So tired of the impersonal designs on the market. Always enjoyed your designs. Have many fabric pieces on display in my home. The sensibility mixed with humor. Fantastic.

  3. As a few of my fellow artists have commented- I hope the tide will turn back to more originality, and people vote with their wallets. I am preparing for a “certain trade show” right now- and I hope the buyers will be as excited about my new images as I am!
    I might just start selling art direct to customers if things don’t change…

  4. Thank you, Mary, for the clear explanation. I truly appreciate your time in telling us this. I do miss all the kinds of things I used to be able to find years ago of ME products. I’ll just have to appreciate them even more!

  5. OH Mary, how I would love to see your jammies back in production. They were sold here in California in “Mervyn “stores. My jammies are all wearing out. Of course i bought enough to last through this century.
    I will always love your style.

  6. That’s exactly what I was thinking … Go on “Shark Tank.”! Seriously. Take us all with you!!
    However, I have a question … I have recently discovered ebay. Yes, I know. What century do I live in? I have been burning up the computer and parcel post with my ME “finds.” Such wonderful treasures! (I do get irritated with the people who buy things at Michaels for $1.00 and post them on ebay for $4.99.) What I want to know is: Could any of my recently purchased items be counterfeits? I really haven’t paid much, so I doubt it. But have you heard of any ME things being faked??

  7. Mary, your words paint a good picture of the retail and manufacturing enviornment today. The retailers today are under such pressure. The “bigs” have boards and VP’s of everything to answer to, and the “small mom & pops” have landlords squeezing them left and right. BUT, consumers, collectors and artists alike can move the dial with enough persistance. A few comments by consumers to retailers goes a long way. I look foward to building our brands together, even if we have to fly solo across the plains of Texas.

  8. Dear Mary,
    My family and I use your Sakura dishes every day, purchased in 1995. (My husband bought them the day my third child was born, as a gift to me, so I know they are 17 years old. : ) They have a pink/red gingham pattern with gardening theme. I still love them as much today as in 1995. We moved across the country a few years ago and we’re still in temporary housing. My ME products keep me cheery in this small apt…and the house we’re building is designed to accomodate ME cheer in the kitchen and all around. (White cabinetry and counter tops in a granite world – I know I have to fight my designer/advisor for simplicity. I am bringing in a few ME things so she can see why I don’t want brown granite.

    Thank you for your cheery pictures, design and bright colors. You keep me and countless others in a happy place in our homes.

    Diane O.

    • That was a very good explanation of how the designer/manufacturer situation works. Times change and force us to try new angles, not all bad just harder than it was before, right?

  9. Hi Mary,
    I miss your Home Companion magazine; hope they are reissued as emagazines. I hope you become an artist for http://www.letteringdelights.com…the digital world would be a much more beautiful place with your drawings…I like you new cat and dog drawings plus the fashionable young adults…I miss your scotties, birds, birdhouses, flowers, mermaids, etc. There’s something very special with the way you breathe life into your characters. I fervently hope your art can be more accessible. More power to you!!

  10. Dear Mary,
    The product that I wish you would still make is your magazine. I miss it so much. The way you introduced us to artists and showed us their studios and/or homes was my favorite. Will it ever return?

  11. Laura – “Shark Tank” is appropriately named. You get bitten. The show gets rights to your entire catalog of products you make and a percentage of your sales. The guy who makes Scottevests clothing applied for the show and quickly backed out once he realized all he would be giving up.

  12. Dear Mary,
    Over the years 10 to be exact I have done some of your crosstitch patterns and have loved every one. I purchased all the books that were put out with patterns. I wish that you would do more books or at least put out some individual crosstitch kits.
    I miss having new artwork of yours to stitch. They will be handed down generation to generation. Marcia- Sacramento, CA

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