Cultivating a Recognizable Signature Look with Jackie von Tobel
If there’s one person you want by your side in this design industry, it’s Jackie von Tobel. Our dear friend, Jackie, re-defines what it means to be a generous partner, contributor, and industry triple threat. She’s an award winning interior designer with over twenty years of experience and a passion for learning all corners of the design world. Jackie is a leading authority on soft treatment design and construction and travels extensively teaching at various trade shows, schools, and design centers across the country. She’s a product designer and artist as well!
Jackie discusses her artistic vision, her latest art collection with Left Bank Art (catch her at LVMKT!), and her relationship with interior designers.
Lead Image: Jackie Von Tobel for Left Bank Art
Jackie – how did you get where you are today?
That is a complicated question! I had a full-service interior design firm with a large showroom in Las Vegas for many years and I loved the process of design, particularity the creative output and the ability to design our own custom products for our clients. However, after a long run, I became a bit stifled by the everyday management and non-creative workload that came with working on large multi-million dollar projects and high-end homes. I longed to spend more time in purely creative and artistic work which has led me to write a series of illustrated reference books for the trade; The Design Directory of Window Treatments and The Design Directory of Bedding which became the standards for the industry.
At the same time in 2007, the economy in Las Vegas had taken a turn for the worse and I had a big decision to make in renewing my showroom lease and continuing to operate my Interior Design firm, or, striking out into the unknown and following my heart to pursue more creative outlets. I followed that inner voice that told me to let go and take a risk and I closed my design firm without having a clue what I would do next. I knew I wanted to design products in multiple categories and I set out to learn the skills that I would need and to make the contacts that would allow me to succeed at that goal.
Fast forward ten years later and I have secured over 30 licensing contracts including the award winning Jackie Von Tobel Collection for Helser Brothers, tabletop for big box stores such as Peir I and Hobby Lobby, my own fabric collection, The Haute Trends Collection for Feizy Rugs, and my newest collections of art with Prestige Art and now Left Bank Art. In short, it took some time. But ultimately, I had undaunted faith that I could succeed at my goal. I put in a ton of hard work, a massive amount of networking, gave back to the industry as much as I was gaining from it, and tried at all times to stay true to my own artistic vision while not folding into the pressure to blend in.
Can you explain your artistic process?
My process begins with researching emerging trends, colors, and consumer behavior and applying that where it is relevant to my designs. Once I have zoned in on a theme or style, I dive in with tons of sketches that I refine through a series of re-draws into what the final design will be. I work a lot in Photoshop, and over the past few years, I have made it a priority to learn the program inside and out to use it on an expert level. This skill has really allowed me to stand apart from many other designers trying to break into this field. I also hand draw and paint most of my work in watercolor gouache and acrylic which has allowed me to cultivate a strong recognizable “signature look” that is apparent across all of my products.
How has living in Las Vegas inspired your work?
Las Vegas is a wonderland for designers with world class hotels and restaurants designed by some of the most talented artists, architects, and designers in the world. It is ripe with inspiration and it is always changing and adapting to trends. I grew up in Vegas and my family had a chain of large home improvement and hardware stores that I spent my early years working in. There was a lack of design resources here for years and it made me look to unconventional materials, many of which I found in our hardware stores, to solve my design dilemmas. I continue to think out of the box when designing product and I like to incorporate the unexpected.
Tell us about your latest series/collection…
My new collection with Left Bank Art is twofold. First, I have several series of coastal watercolors done in a loose and painterly hand, depicting sea plants corals and shells. Some of these are embellished with gold or silver leaf to add dimension and richness. I like to work in large sets of nine or twelve in a collection so the buyers have the maximum flexibility when choosing for their customer. The second collection I am thrilled to say has really struck a chord amongst buyers. They are digital collages of richly colored dark florals taken from “Old Master” Dutch and European paintings of the 17th and 18th century. I isolate individual blooms and elements form over twenty paintings and re-imagine them into fluid, more contemporary compositions that bring new life into these brilliant masterworks from long ago. There are many pieces in the collection and each has its own personality and draw to the buyer. My favorite is a large collection of twelve framed botanicals that will cover an entire wall. I plan to hang it in my dining room soon. Look for more of my new work that will debut at High Point Market!
How do you market your product design and art?
For the most part, I rely on the manufacturer to promote and market the product that I design for them, although, I back them up as vigorously as possible. Social media plays a big part in that these days, as does making regular visits to the design markets and taking part in speaking opportunities. It is vital for anyone producing signature collections to be visible at market; to represent your product and connect with key buyers and clients. It is also important to live your brand. By that I mean that your social media, presentations public appearances, etc. should all reflect your brand aesthetic. I go as far to always wear florals and bright colors as that is the mainstay of my design style and I am sure to always be consistent with my message and my brand.
Based on your knowledge of the industry, how has technology or social media changed the way artists and designers do business?
I cannot even begin to describe how impactful technology has been for the industry, and for myself. Technology has transformed the way we work everyday and has made the level of work that can be generated by any individual superior to what most of us could without it. I personally could not have had the success that I have had as a designer, author, and product designer without it. Social media has brought designers out of the sometimes lonely bubble most of us work in and allowed us to network easily with our peers across the world. Technology is building a powerful group of professionals that are finally realizing that there is power in numbers and hopefully will lead to some standardization of practices in our industry. I look at Ivy as a leader in that realm and I can’t wait to see what Ivy does next.
Do you attend markets? If so, what’s your market strategy?
I am a big believer in markets and I have been an industry advocate for years. As the Co-Founder of Soft Design Lab, The HPMKT VIP Experience Tour, and The LVMKT Market Red Carpet Tour, I have dedicated much of my time over the past four years to bringing hundreds of designers to markets that have never attended before and have shown designers how to navigate markets successfully while building networking peer groups. My strategy is to plan ahead and take advantage of the online market resources to create a plan of attack of what showrooms and events you want to attend so you aren’t going in blind. Reach out to your community of peers and meet up with other designers who are planning to attend. It’s much more fun and productive to take on market with a wing man than on your own.
If you’re heading to LVMKT this January, make sure to join me to celebrate the launch of my latest collection with Left Bank Art on January 29 at 4 PM, Suite A254 & A229. They throw a heck of a party so don’t miss it!
As an artist, how do you typically work with interior designers?
As a product designer and artist, I do not work directly with artists. I work with my manufacturing partners to develop and produce product and then leave the sales to them. That is why it is so important for me to connect personally with designers one on one through education, our tours, and other events so I know what they are looking for in product. This helps me to produce work that is relevant to them and their clients.
What are 3 tips of “best practice” you can offer interior designers for choosing the right artwork for a space?
Art is so personal and what is meaningful to one person is not necessarily meaningful to another.
Help your clients choose pieces that “have legs”, meaning that it will be relevant over a long period of time. Fads do fade and art is something that you should collect for the long haul.
Variety is the spice of life so mix it up with different mediums, subjects, styles, and colors. Nothing is more boring than a whole house full of huge abstract statement pieces.
Size does matter so just because big canvases are in right now doesn’t mean that is right for every client. Sometimes a collection of smaller works can be more impactful than one big grand gesture. Be sure the work your client chooses is size appropriate for the space and isn’t overpowering.
What are your artistic goals for 2018?
I hope to expand into more categories of product including furnishings, lighting and bedding and to build on my collection for Left Bank Art. My ultimate goal for 2018 is to break into textiles and wall-coverings with a signature line. A girl can dream!
Here at Ivy, we’re more than just an interior design software. Our mission is to provide interior designers with the community, resources and tools needed to manage your business beautifully. Are you searching for a business management tool to help streamline your workflow as an interior designer?