A Sign of the Times

CBH Licensing will be exclusively representing the art of Barbara J. Schonberg. The agency has made the strategic decision to devote its efforts to the promotion and licensing of two portfolios: Schonberg Sign Art, which includes Schonberg Naughty Signs, and the work of Barbara J. Schonberg. While both portfolios are created by the?same artist, the style and composition of the artwork are different enough to be offered separately for licensing.

"We had always limited the number of artists we represented at one time so that we could provide optimum market exposure and opportunities for each," says Ann Bracken, president of CBH, a division of Coal Bank Hollow. "Recently, we found that most clients were gravitating to BJ's portfolios. We have a tremendous relationship with this artist and we are committed to each other, so it made sense to concentrate our efforts exclusively on her."

Schonberg's period-appropriate themes, imagery, lettering styles and messages are so historically accurate, the Schonberg Sign Art portfolio is often mistaken for original sign art from the 1940s and 1950s. Her inspiration comes from her own library of cards, newspapers, magazines and other paper collectibles from the early to mid-1900s. Her sign art—particularly the Schonberg Naughty Signs collection—often has a humorous edge.

"Everybody wants the comic part. It's the collection most requested by licensees," says Bracken. "The Naughty Signs portfolio includes 57 completed images with more on the way. In addition to five new signs for the Naughty Signs collection, Barbara is working on a series of signs for football fans called Armchair Warriors. We expect the most activity from this category since there's a lot of opportunity for licensing." Barware, bar décor, T-shirts, wooden signs, calendars and magnets are all areas of interest for licensing in this collection.

Schonberg Sign Art's portfolio includes more than 200 vintage sign images. Tin signs, according to Bracken, are the top-selling product license for the portfolio, but the artist licenses her images in a number of different product categories, including coasters, beer mugs and framed prints.

CBH currently works with 24 licensees for Schonberg Sign Art/Naughty Signs, and Barbara J. Schonberg images and products are sold in the mass market in retail chains such as Target and Walmart, as well as in specialty stores. The Barbara J. Schonberg collection is a portfolio of watercolor images in holiday and everyday themes.

Most of Schonberg's licenses are by design, so there is opportunity for new licenses. "Barbara works with a graphic designer to take the elements of her images apart so they can be reformatted to create borders and repeats for a variety of products," says Bracken.

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