Deborah Kruger

Designing Merchandise Using my Artwork

Even though I am enjoying a lot of visibility these days (I was in five exhibitions this year!) sales are slow and like most artists, I need a steady revenue stream to support my habit. 

For many years I thought about designing some commercial items to sell. Simple things like mugs or bags. Over the summer, I started to activate this idea and I was quite surprised to see how the field of print-on-demand has exploded. 

Although there are many print-on-demand companies to choose from, I decided to start my collection using Printify because they have 250 items and I found them very user friendly. Here’s how it works. You choose an item, say sneakers, and upload your design. In a few moments, you can see a 360-degree model of the item and can easily edit the design.

Cambodia- 2018 43.5 X 52 X 1 screen--printing on fused plastic bags, sewing

Click here to see 360 view of Cambodia Boot.

The harder part is uploading this to your Store, in our case WooCommerce, as well as our new Save The Birds Design website. Fortunately, I have a great team. Sandra and I develop the designs and Tyler handles the technical back end. 

Designing the items is fun.  We use details of my fine art pieces like Cambodia (pictured above). We have used this detail on journals, cell phone cases, latte mugs, sneakers, high heels, and boots!  actually shop on our website by each design! 

Since nearly all of my silk screens are developed from drawings of endangered birds, we used the drawings on tee shirts and mugs and grabbed a detail of the drawings and enlarged this for its design impact. Here you can see an example of a detail from the Shoe-Billed Heron and how we used it on bags, aprons, shower curtains, laptop cases and sneakers and boots.

When we create the silk screens that we use to print on the sheets of fused recycled plastic bags, we shrink the drawings into smaller silhouettes. Our Save the Birds Logo features six endangered birds: Bengal Florican, Kagu, Maleo, Madagascar Serpent Eagle, Giant Ibis, and the Shoe Billed Heron. You can see the logo printed on bags, mugs, water bottles and of course, tee shirts. 

Abstract Wing Design: Shoe Billed Heron

Sandra and I spent two months designing items for our collection and when we launched the Save the Birds website, we had 123 items for sale! We had a great time and you can see how creative you can get using snippets from your own work. 

On our mugs and tee shirts, we have paired the drawings with inspiring quotes by environmentalists like Rachel Carson (we sure didn’t listen to her when she published Silent Spring in 1962), John Muir, Julia Butterfly Hill, Wangari Maathai, and our youngest muse, Greta Thunberg.

One of the big benefits of print-on-demand is that Printify and its affiliate printers produce each order as it comes in, packages it and mails it out. There is no inventory or shipping for us and we end up keeping about half of each sale. Kind of like a gallery split. I think it’s a great arrangement.

Since I give a percentage of all my sales to organizations that protect birds and their habitats, developing this new line not only gives me a steady income, but it also enables me to raise more money to protect endangered birds. Some of our favorite organizations are Audubon, Bird Conservancy and ProAves.

So if my original artwork is out of your budget, take heart. Now you can buy merchandise for your closet or home and gifts that feature my artwork and bird drawings

Click on our logo below to visit the Save the Birds Design website: