“I didn’t know what I wanted to do at 21,” Libby Wilkie said, “You do a lot of thinking in those days.”
Wilkie graduated with a sociology degree from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. Shortly after, she got a job at a consumer products company. She even started to get her masters in marketing.
It seemed like she had it all, but there was only one problem.
“I hated it,” Wilkie said.
So, Wilkie did something that not many people have the courage to do. She started over.
First, there were classes at Parsons New School for Design in New York because she had always had an interest in art.
Then, there was an intense career aptitude test that spanned over several days in order to tell her what jobs would fit both her skills and personality best. She scored very high in applied design… as well as a librarian.
Her epiphany moment came when she was applying for a job at a rug company.
“I saw an artist in a studio and then it all came clear. I thought, ‘that is what I want to do- I want those tubes of paint and canvas,’” she said.
Fast forward through a couple of moves, a marriage, and the birth of her daughter. Through the years, Wilkie enjoyed creating art of her own, until one day a fellow artist asked Wilkie to help with her art sales.
Wilkie helped the artist, and soon began an art licensing company, which consists of submitting art to manufacturers, who then choose specific art to show to buyers.
If you’ve walked through a Target recently, you may have noticed the festive Thanksgiving dinnerware. The art on these plates was created by one of the five artists whom Wilkie represents.
“When you submit the art to manufacturers, it goes into a black hole,” Wilkie said.
But sometimes, the manufacturers strike a deal with the buyers.
The Thanksgiving art was submitted to the manufacturer around a year ago, and plans for the dinnerware collection weren’t finalized with Target, the buyer, until around this past June.
Seeing her artists’ work come to life is exciting, but Wilkie notes that just one deal doesn’t pay much. “You have to have a lot of programs going on in order to make good money,” she said.
Wilkie has an accountant, but she is completely in charge of all of her company’s finances. It may seem complicated, but Wilkie’s enjoyment of the field seems to overpower that.
“What I do is so much a part of my life that every time I walk into a store I flip over a plate to see who made it. My daughter thinks I’m nuts, but I call it market shopping,”she said.
Wilkie’s workplace is a studio that faces the Hudson River on the west. Around 8 AM each morning, she enters the building and turns on her Macintosh computer, which she spends a majority of her time on.
Although she does email many manufacturers about her artists’ work, she also is busy working on her blog- a wonderful blend of color, culture, and design that makes you forget you are staring into a computer screen.
What personally inspires the woman who works in a field based on inspiration?
“Travel feeds me.” San Francisco, New York, and Paris are the favorites of the licenser, who also happens to speak French.