With an art background in big business, Clint Eagar was prepared to make his own entrepreneurial foray a success. Here’s how he did it.
I spoke with Florida-based artist Clint Eagar about his successful design studio, and how he’s been able to work with major brands, and expand his business in other ways, too.
AS: How did your educational and work background affect your mindset and the way your art business has evolved?
CE: Attending the only art magnet school of its kind in South Africa at the age of fourteen, I was formally trained in many mediums and subjects. I realized I had a passion for anything creative, and if I was going to make a living, it had to be commercial to some extent.
After migrating to the USA, and attending art college in advertising design, the commercial side was obvious. I had to pursue what clients needed. Not going after the traditional Fine Arts degree, I trained myself in college to get any kind of work I could, and to learn as fast as I could. Expanding my skills in painting, design, packaging, and industrial design of all sorts, I found it made me a well-rounded designer, through hitting so many freelance industries.
After school, I was offered a position as key designer for an upscale art/graphics and gallery firm in Dallas, based out of Miami. I was exposed to designers coming in and looking for all things art. I was the man! Learning a lot from this experience and having to be very creative with all the requests, I was hungry for more. So I went to California, a creative hotbed for all things cool.
I was soon offered a position with a large publishing company as an in-house artist and designer. I was exposed at an early age to Art Expo New York, and many clients carrying my work, which by now had been published internationally. After doing this successfully, it was time to grow and learn other industries.
I became Director of Product Design and Development for a large gift company in San Diego. Due to handling multiple categories and divisions for the company, I had a creative staff and worked with outside designers and artists to round out my product lines. This was an incredible chance to learn and absorb many facets of the business and product development on a domestic and international level.
I attended trade shows and was always observing the competition and what was missing in the market. I was asked to travel to Asia in the late 1980’s, to manage vendors and assist in setting up factories in the South Pacific Rim. I designed all the products they were producing, so who better than I to manage it all?
The one thing I learnt very quickly was the timing of business and when to pull the trigger on certain plans and product lines, depending on the industrial and political climate. I found I had great success at doing this, and once again needed to pull the big trigger and launch my career to the next level.
I was excited at the idea of being a creative person, but at the same time, having a great business plan to synchronize these two together, to optimize my ideas and channel them into that business timing plan. I started an international design consulting trading company based in Taipei, handling a multi-million dollar company in three countries and doing business all around the world.
Today, I have come back to my roots and am now doing completely hands-on painting again. Due to all these accumulated years of consulting, design, development and manufacturing, I am enjoying expanding my original works of art onto other products, in the home decor and textiles categories. My gallery now shows works of art, sculptures, dimension art, pillows, placemats, accent furniture, and more.
AS: How many ways are you currently selling your collection?
CE: One thing I enjoy about owning a gallery is the ability to test market my new ideas and pieces. We are located on the Emerald Coast of Florida, and I am fortunate to meet clients from all around the country, not just coastal clients. I sell my works of art and home accents in my retail gallery to the public, but also sell them wholesale to certain online accounts, such as Google Merchant Center, Houzz, Amazon, and Wayfair.
Considering current purchasing trends in the market, you have to be an internet player to round off your wider scope of sales. Having a presentable and interactive website is key. One of the features I feel is a nice touch, is to give customers a personal interaction, such as linking YouTube videos of myself in the studio. This has an emotional connection to my work, and gives them an inside experience of who I am.
I have also found it imperative to connect with your local audience, and attend the little shows and the local events. Expose your brand name to your community. Handshakes and small talk often go a long way, and I get many commissioned works through these local channels. Also, think outside the box about who and what other markets might be receptive to your work.
I do coastal-themed work, so I attended an international boat show, and landed sales in resorts in the Caribbean. Advertising in the small local newspapers and up to the high-end glossy magazines that target your audience, I feel is well worth the investment. When someone says “I just drove sixty miles to see your work, from your ad”… I love it.
AS: What is the main objective you have when designing?
CE: My main objective when designing is to first understand the market I am designing for, and the timing of when and where it will be released. I look at trends, demographics, and ask, “Who is my end consumer?” In my area, I do coastal themes, seeing as how many of my clients have second beach homes in the area and have a widespread budget.
It is also important to offer products not only in original form, but to design for giclee reproductions and smaller scale price points for that tourist market – traditional lower-end spontaneous purchases that are an emotional buy, not a planned one. I have pieces I design for the national market, that would have a wider appeal. Another key thing is to follow Pantone color forecasts and different industry trends and look a year ahead, not what is happening now. If you look now, you are too late.
AS: What have you found to be your most effective marketing methods?
CE: My most effective marketing methods so far, is selling “Clint Eagar” as my brand and my story that goes along with it. People are very receptive to the story behind the product. It is a warm embrace into the purchasing experience, and an understanding of why and where the work of art or item originated. Marketing this story locally has been the biggest immediate response I have experience so far.