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WOODSTOCK, Vt.-Art publisher Wild Apple Graphics, which specializes in discovering and promoting the works of talented contemporary artists, is doing more than publishing posters.

The company, which was founded 10 years ago by a young couple who left their jobs in banking to pursue their interest and love of art, has built a strong business in licensing some of their artists' work to other product manufacturers. In short, Wild Apple is responsible for bringing art to all areas of the home -- including Kleenex boxes -- and for helping these artists make a living in their lifetimes.

"The number of categories you can put art on is phenomenal," remarked Laurie Chester, co-owner with her husband, John Chester. She pointed to a room full of licensed goods adorned with florals, landscapes, folk art and other motifs: furniture, rugs, lamp shades, table linens, fabric, wall paper, dinnerware, books, calendars and gift bags.

Wild Apple Licensing, created nearly five years ago, represents several active artists and is always looking for fresh talent, different types of artwork to publish and represent, and of course, products to carry that artwork.

"My attitude is that any product that has a surface to which a design can be applied is a candidate," added Deborah Leggat, director of licensing.

At last month's Surtex show, Wild Apple Licensing introduced Cheri Blum, whose muted orchids and narcissus prints are best sellers for Wild Apple Graphics.

"We have very high hopes and expectations for Cheri Blum," noted Leggat. "She has a very elegant look that combines Old World techniques with a contemporary take. It's reminiscent of Italian frescoes and has broad appeal. We think the look will translate well for many product categories."

Already, Blum's work has sold extremely well in paper products. A calendar is being made under an exclusive arrangement with a large retailer; and Wild Apple Licensing expects to soon sign on licensees for wall paper, stone coasters, rugs, paper napkins and plates, gift boxes, needlepoint pillows, and perhaps even a Kleenex box.

Leggat has observed a marked increase in the acceptance of licensed artwork throughout the home furnishings business. Companies are recognizing the limitations of in-house artists and designers, and the need for trend-right designs, which are constantly changing, she said.

Leggat pointed to such talents as Mary Englebreit, Tracy Porter and Raymond Waites, all of whom have validated and popularized the licensed home goods concept.

"There's been enough success and proof of the value of outside licensed artists that it will just continue to grow," she said.

Wild Apple Graphics and Wild Apple Licensing have a knack for recognizing talent, but also for knowing that an artist's work doesn't always translate into posters or to certain product categories.

Wendy Wegner and Nancy Shumaker Pallan, Wild Apple's leading licensed artists, have proven themselves very versatile, Leggat said. "They're very talented and hard-working," she said. "They have a very detailed hand, a very commercial look with broad appeal applicable to a number of products. Their work sells very well in stationery, gift books and other areas."

Wild Apple matches the artists' work with compatible licensees and always provides the look the manufacturer is seeking. "We try to listen very hard to what people are looking for and match our artists' work with a licensee where there's compatibility, but where we can provide something that's new and fresh," Leggat said.
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Author:Meyer, Nancy
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 7, 1999

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