Meet Dena


A Design Powerhouse

What is it about Dena that makes her artwork so irresistible, to the tune of $400 million in career worldwide sales? It’s gotta be the paintbrush. For those who are not familiar with this design powerhouse, Dena is an award-winning artist, illustrator, TV host, syndicated newspaper columnist—and celebrated author.

Products from more than 35 leading licensees take Dena’s art into the daily lives of millions of consumers who relish her signature style—bright colors and joyous prints—on everything from stationery and fashion accessories, toys and books, to gifts and a wide range of decorative products for the home.

What is Dena’s secret to building her vibrant and colorfully patterned brand? It really is the paintbrush: Dena creates each and every one of her studio’s pieces of artwork herself, a design process that is becoming “rarer and rarer these days,” according to the artist.

“I start out with a big stack of white paper and a few guidelines—I ask myself a few key questions before I begin designing. Who is my consumer? How can I make this product special? What kind of unique embellishments can I add to make this product jump off the shelf? I take all of these things into consideration before I begin to sketch. I try to think of how I want my consumer to feel when they see my products. I try to develop something that is unique and special.”

Dena’s hand-painted designs are inspired by gardens, flea market finds and a constant interpretation of the latest trends, which are then applied to product by a core team of production designers.

How does Dena keep things fresh with so many demands on her time and creativity? “I’m always looking to see what’s out there, and I keep an eye on the fashions and trends. I read a million magazines!” explains Dena. “But, I think essentially my style has stayed the same from the very beginning, and everything I do has that hand-painted touch.” Dena’s trademark combination of floral patterns and geometrics combine traditional elements with a modern twist, and that’s what has made her work so popular—and unlikely to change any time soon. “I like designs that make you feel happy. I try to design products that are all about making you feel good.”

Dena’s remarkable longevity and continual growth reflect her ability to deliver the brand experience consumers are looking for. She’s also been recognized within the gift and stationery industry: Dena has won 17 Louie Awards (the “Oscars” of the greeting card industry), in addition to creating the Greeting Card of the Year, named by the Greeting Card Association. Dena has also twice been nominated for Best Art Brand Program of the Year. In 2012, Dena is not only nominated again, but is up for Overall Best Licensed Program of the Year for 2011 at the prestigious Licensing Excellence Awards presented annually by LIMA (Licensing International Merchandisers’ Association).

Even with so much success, Dena’s portfolio of brands and powerful creative engine doesn’t show any sign of slowing—she continues to add more products (across various industries) that come together to present a compelling story. Over 15,000 retailers currently carry Dena branded products throughout the U.S. and worldwide, even as far as Asia, Australia, Europe and the former Soviet Republic.

Independent U.S. retailers may be most familiar with her partnership with C.R. Gibson, a company she has collaborated with for over 20 years developing best-selling baby collections and more.

Her C.R. Gibson collections expanded significantly this January to include Dena Accessories (a line of women’s fashion accessories) as well as a line of casual entertaining drinkware and serveware.

Dena’s Orange Ikat casual entertaining collection is on-trend

In the gift and home décor realm, Dena’s painterly designs can also be found on tabletop items by Zrike, bedding by Nostalgia Home Fashions, and in her upcoming book (September 2012 release) from Abrams Publishing, “The Painted Home”, among others.

The Dena brand is a dizzying, yet dazzling example of a real powerhouse art brand making waves in the marketplace. Who knew so much would come of such a small paintbrush?

See all of Dena’s latest wares available from C.R. Gibson. Shop Dena now. 

Mud Pie Merchandising Minute



Did you know that the mirror image of MOM is WOW? How appropriate is that!?!
This Mother’s Day let that very message be the sentiment and “theme” of your retail display.
It’s a simple statement that can work with any and all merchandise – from stationery to slippers, beach bags to cover-ups.  And it will make an impact.
Here’s how you can make it work!
  1. Find two or three “fancy” picture frames.  Thrift stores have an assortment galore – and the price is right! Choose sizes that work with the scale of your store and the display you are creating.  Frames do not need to have glass in them but they do need to have a backing – but you can make that out of poster board or cardboard.
  2. Choose a look – let your imagination run wild.  Select a clean palette of all whites, two or three bright contrasting colors, a monochromatic color scheme or maybe a collection of metallics.
  3. Spray paint each frame and let them dry thoroughly.
  4. Next, measure the area you have for an image inside each frame.
  5. Choose one or all of the “Mom Messages” from the pdf’s included here – or use your imagination to create your own.  You may have to enlarge or reduce the artwork depending on the sizes of your frame openings but your local print shop or Kinkos can do that easily.
  6. If you do choose to create your own message, be sure that one of them includes the date for Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 13th.  Since the date changes each year, it is a very helpful reference for busy shoppers.
  7. Cut white poster board or cardboard to fit backs of frames. 
  8. Affix your printed images to the poster board backings.  Spray adhesive works best and keeps paper from wrinkling.
  9. Secure images and backings in place with staples or packing tape.
  10. Arrange and prop frames on the table or shelf where your Mother’s Day items will be featured.  You may even use fishing line or monofilament to dangle one or two frames from the ceiling above your display if your ceiling height allows.
  11. This will be a colorful, fun and special shout out to those mom-customers shopping in your store!
Click on each of the below to download your copy to use in your store:
Heard that before?  We all have!!
So use this next idea as a play on that never ending plea to stay in touch!!
  1. Gather two or three – and this pains me to say it — “old” style phones!!  Not the crank type from black and white movies mind you – the kind you well remember in your very own house before the cell phone invasion!  If you can find a rotary dialer – fabulous.  But any touch tone or Princess type is fine.  Thrift stores are your best friend here!  Phones should cost no more than a couple dollars each.
  2. Choose a color for each of the phones.  Brights, whites, stripes … let your imagination run wild!
  3. Wipe the phones off with a clean cloth and spray paint away.  Be sure to cover the curly cord – it may take a couple of coats.  Dry thoroughly.
  4. Position the different phones in and around your Mother’s Day product presentation.  The size scale of phones works best with smaller items — boxed stationery, coffee mugs, tumblers, picture frames, candles etc.
  5. Use acrylic risers or stacks of phone books (check your nearest Recycling Center for freebies!) to vary the levels of the telephones.
  6. Depending on your store’s ceiling height, fishing line or monofilament can be used to dangle a phone or just the receiver and cord above your display.  Use your imagination!
  7. Add a ‘CALL YOUR MOTHER’ speech bubble (see attached or make your own) hung from fishing line or tucked into your display to drive the message home even more!  Copy and glue the speech bubble(s) to poster or foam board for stability.
  8. And the most important step — don’t forget that when you get done with this project – call your mother!!
Click on each of the below to download your copy to use in your store:

Little Things Make a Big Difference

By Catherine LeBlanc, Contributing Editor 
Located in the historic downtown district of Galveston Island, Texas, Gracie’s celebrates their 20th year in business.  Although a veteran to the area, nothing could prepare them for the destruction that was Hurricane Ike back in 2008.  Owners Keith and Genette Bassett worked hard to recover and took a total of 7 months to resurrect their business again. Now stronger than ever, Gracie’s future looks bright with endless possibilities in sight.
Gracie’s location is a prime one. They are just a few blocks away from the ocean port where cruise ships come in about four times a week.  And although they are shopped by many of the vacationers and visitors from these cruise ships, their main source of re-peat business is always their strong customer base.  With a large and unique selection of children’s products along with jewelry, home décor, accessories and bath products, customers can find just about anything at Gracie’s.
According to Genette, Gracie’s has had one amazing 2011 year in business.  “This has been a great year and 2012 is off to a wonderful start.  We know that there will always be birthdays, anniversaries and holidays that people need to buy gifts for.”  Traffic flow continues to be steady for Gracie’s with Houston, Texas not far from Galveston Island.  Genette works hard at capitalizing her local business along with targeting the tourists and local homeowners that call this area their second home.
Customer service is always at the heart of Genette’s business.  “People can always shop online and, therefore, it’s critical that our customer service is spectular.  We always go that extra mile for our customers and offer them that special attention they deserve.”  For the staff at Gracie’s, each customer is approached and they really try to make them feel welcomed as they enter the store.
Customers have made Gracie’s a true destination shop in the Galveston area.  “We hear all the time that vacationing customers make it a point to stop at our shop when they are here” says Genette.  Gracie’s is all about offering unique, refreshing and fun mix of products while staying on trend and selling products that people really want.  “We are always changing up our merchandise layout and assortment to stay fresh and new looking with our customers.  When customers mention a product or line that we don’t carry, I listen to that feedback and try hard to bring it in.  If I keep hearing about a product or line over and over again, then I know it’s something people want and need to get it in my store.”
Mother’s Day is a big holiday for Gracie’s.  “Around this time of year is the Vera Bradley new product launch and we work to try and focus our promotions around this launch” says Genette.  The weekends are always a high traffic time for Gracie’s and Genette will offer an incentive or promotion around Mother’s Day.  “I don’t offer anything too gimicy.  I want to offer something that I believe my customers will truly love and appreciate.”
Displays and visual merchandising play important roles in the success of Gracie’s.  “Moving merchandise around every two weeks helps to really keep our store looking fresh and new even to our repeat customers. Displays are everything to our business.”  For Genette, knowing that displays are so important to her business made her focus on finding the right person for the job.  “Our Manager is very creative and she is in charge of this part of our business.”  In addition to maintaining and changing her displays, Genette and her staff are very big on cleaning and straightening Gracie’s.  “I never want to see a dirty store and so we are consistently cleaning the store.  To me, it’s the little things that make a big difference when it comes to setting our shop apart from the other stores.”
When Genette is away from her shop, she will find inspiration all around her.  Even when visiting other stores or when attending the markets during her buying trips, Genette will take notes and pictures of display ideas or selling tips to bring back to her store.  “While I attend the markets, we always love hearing from our reps on what’s the next big thing or what’s really selling well.  We have built really good relationships with our reps and trust their feedback.”  This information is important to Gracie’s as it allows them to grow and evolve as a store.
Gracie’s loves to host events.  “We really like to coordinate with our reps in showcasing their lines.  We even do trunks show at different times of the year to really help in building up the brand awareness” says Genette. In addition to hosting many events throughout the year, Gracie’s also takes advantage of unique opportunities when they become available.  “Occasionally cruise ships will dock for a few hours due to fog.  Plus, if an event is happening in the downtown area and people are still lingering around, Gracie’s stays open to accommodate those customers.” They work around the needs of their customers and the traffic flow instead of what the sign on the door says about their hours of operation.  “If people are still there and coming in, Gracie’s will stay open for them” says Genette.
Marketing for Gracie’s focuses on many aspects which include maintaining their Facebook, looking to create their own Website, being members of their local Chamber of Commerce and advertising in their local newspaper.  Furthermore, Genette sends out a monthly email to her customer base updating them on their current promotions, new product introductions and upcoming events.  Then for their street traffic, Genette has a large chalkboard easel that is placed outside in front of their store which lists their events or products within Gracie’s.
For Genette, it’s all about the little things that she and her staff do that make Gracie’s so successful.  “Little things mean so much to our customers.  We offer them a drink when they enter our store and gift wrapping with purchase.  They are our guests and we are the hostess.” Gracie’s strives to make each customer’s shopping experience a unique and an inviting one.  “We work hard to keep our store well stocked all the time and we believe strongly in the merchandise we offer our customers. These days we can’t always listen to the media and all the bad news happening in the market.  We have to push onward and adjust with the changing times.”

Be a PR Star: Bright ideas to help you shine

By Ellen M Fruchtman, Director of Public Relations for Mud Pie

Imagine that you are a television producer or news editor. You need unique stories that appeal to your audience.  Deadlines loom, you can’t see past tomorrow’s show, your phone rings constantly and you receive hundreds of emails each day.  You wish someone would just send you news you can use– something timely, relevant, newsworthy– NOT an advertisement.
Media seekers make a monumental mistake when they focus on themselves rather than the STORY.  Learn to think like an editor and you’ll become a brilliant, “go-to” source for your local news.
Become a student of the media in your market
Understand the stories your local media covers.   Listen to the radio, watch the morning shows, note which reporters cover events or fashion.  Once you understand what they cover and how they cover it, you are ready to develop your “pitch.”
Think like a reporter when you develop your pitch
What makes your story news?  What photo opportunities are available?  Why is this relevant to their readers or viewers?
Let’s take Mother’s Day as an example.
  • What makes your story news?  Maybe you are doing a Mother- Daughter tea and fashion presentation. Proceeds will benefit a local organization to fund a specific project.  Tell the story!
  • Why is it relevant?  Focus on what your event will do.  For example, it is an opportunity for moms to spend special time with their daughters.  Find stories to tell.  Maybe you have a customer who recently returned from military service and has missed these meaningful moments.  Pitch the story of your customer—suddenly you have a human interest piece instead of an advertisement for your store.
  • Who can be photographed?   Paint a verbal picture.  Who are the models – community notables with their daughters or grandchildren? Will representatives from the local charity be available for interviews?   Describe the fashions in dazzling detail.
  • And don’t leave off the When and Where.  Be specific about the time of the event and the agenda; give details and include details on where to park.
Be user friendly
Reporters work on deadline, so be easy to reach and respond quickly.  If they can’t reach you, they will move on to the next source.  Have printed materials available that explain the event and list any speakers or celebrity models.  Make sure they know where to reach you for any follow-up questions later in the day.
Know who to contact:
If you know a reporter that covers stories like yours, it is best to contact them directly. Other appropriate contacts:
Weekly community newspaper:  The Editor (or in some cases the Publisher)
Daily Newspaper:   The Features Editor for fashion or society events, or the Business Editor for stories that have economic impact, like a store opening.
Television or Radio Stations:  The News Assignment Editor or Assignment Desk
Calendar Listings are often a “do-it-yourself” exercise.  Look for a link on the media outlet’s website and take advantage of controlling the content of your listing.
Follow up
Many community papers will accept photographs if they are not able to attend an event.   If you submit photos, do so promptly and be sure to include a caption with the (correctly spelled) names of those pictured.
When a reporter or editor covers your story, take the time to thank them with a note or an email.  A simple thank you goes a long way in nurturing ongoing relationships.