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The enormous popularity of award-winning artist Jim Shore is the result of a lifetime of dedication, inspiration and plain old hard work. And as with most successful people, some good fortune has played a part as well. As Jim puts it, "Art is something I’ve done all my life. It’s what I’ve always loved and the only thing I ever wanted to do. But making a living as an artist isn’t easy. There are thousands of very talented people out there that never got the chance to show what they can do. I’ve been lucky. Not only do I get to do what I love, I get to share it with people around the world. I’ve been given a tremendous gift and I thank God for it every day."
Jim Shore grew up in rural South Carolina, the son of artistic parents who instilled a love of the traditional images and values of American folk art. His grandmother was a master quilter who taught him an appreciation for the patience and skill required to bring intricate designs to life. Jim drew inspiration from these roots. "There’s an innocence and purity to the quilts, appliqué and tole painting found in early American art. These were masterpieces designed by artists who were driven to create. I collect quilts dating back over 150 years and when I look at the level of skill and creativity I am continually amazed. This is high art from humble beginnings." Initially Jim pursued his art where and when he could. He studied engineering and received a degree in business, not art. He supported his young family as an engineer, honing his skills as a sculptor and painter in his spare time.
But his passion remained his art and after several false starts and financial setbacks he founded his own business, Designs Americana, to market his designs. It was tough going in the beginning. "We went to our first show with just a few pieces and no real plan for how we’d ship any orders we got," Jim recalls, "We didn’t have a factory or a warehouse or a staff. It was pretty much a wish in one hand and hope in the other. Luckily we made the right contacts at the show and it all worked out." Within three years Designs Americana had over 350 employees and more orders than they could fill. In fact, the demands of managing Designs Americana made it difficult for Jim to concentrate on his art. "I needed to focus exclusively on the creative and artistic elements of my work, and that meant finding the right business partner to handle the three piece suit side of the business." There was no better partner than Enesco, a worldwide leader in marketing gifts, collectibles and decorative accessories. In 2000 Jim entered a licensing agreement with Enesco to create Heartwood Creek by Jim Shore, the line of seasonal and everyday decorative accessories that has brought him world-wide fame.
While working with Enesco Jim perfected his unique style, combining elements of folk art and a vibrant color pallet applied to traditional themes. To Jim a Santa Claus isn’t just a Santa Claus, it’s a canvas to be painted. Taking authentic designs from quilting, rosemaling, appliqué and flat perspective folk art, Jim creates an intricate and colorful work of art that reflects our shared cultural heritage yet is unmistakably Jim Shore. "I can’t imagine myself ever tiring of this," Jim says of his distinctive combination of themes and motifs, "I get to create two designs every time I develop a new piece – what the item will be and then what colors and patterns will go on it. The variety keeps me inspired."
The magic of Jim’s design style is that it can be applied to a huge variety of themes and formats, creating charming and innovative décor for the home. "My work is not a single statement, but a lot of elements mixed together. I use colors that I love – colonial, antiques, jewel tones and sometimes unusual combinations that I happen to love at the moment. Put together it’s a pleasure to look at." Jim is now working to develop a more extensive lifestyle collection, creating functional home décor incorporating his unmistakable style. He has partnered with the creative talents at Enesco to bring his vision of an American folk art environment to life.
A large part of Jim’s widespread consumer recognition derives from his successful partnership with Disney. Begun in 2005, his unique design style applied to iconic Disney characters including Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Pinocchio and Cinderella has made Disney Traditions by Jim Shore one of the most successful co-branded lines in the specialty retail market. "I’m extremely proud of my association with Disney," Jim says of the relationship. "I can’t think of a more important name in American popular culture, it’s a privilege for me to be linked with that kind of tradition." Disney Traditions by Jim Shore has sold more than $50 million at retail and can be found at Disney parks and at fine retailers throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Today Jim’s designs have distribution in more than 25,000 stores worldwide, accounting for over $200 million in sales annually. He is the number one artist brand on television sales giant QVC with more than 360,000 individual consumers. More than 100,000 consumers search the web each month in search of Jim Shore products. It’s a long way from humble beginnings. Jim continues to solidify his position as the premier name in the specialty gift and home décor market through a selective licensing program designed to introduce innovative new products while maintaining high quality standards and exclusive distribution. The focus will be on exciting new formats that compliment the current brand offering from licensees including Enesco, CR Gibson, Evergreen and Manual Woodworkers and Weavers. He has entered into co-branded agreements with historical landmarks and entertainment properties including Colonial Williamsburg, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, even Elvis. Additionally, Jim intends to expand his vision to create a comprehensive statement for the home through an exclusive design agreement with DIY/Home retailer Lowe’s.