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Riding with the Stetson herd

Thea Marx is currently working with Stetson Worldwide to help promote furniture artisans and other craftsmen who specialize in Western design. Marx is the former executive director of the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyo., and author of the book “Contemporary Western Design: High Style Furniture Interiors.” A Wyoming native who grew up surrounded by Western ideals, Marx thinks Western-style furniture and other crafts are underrepresented in the international market.

Thea Marx (left) and Pamela Fields, CEO of Stetson Worldwide, are working together to promote Western craft artisans at an international level.

Stetson Worldwide is a prominent manufacturer of Western-style clothing and accessories. About four years ago, Marx contacted Pamela Fields, CEO of Stetson, about the idea of marketing artists’ work through the Stetson brand.

Early negotiations led to the development of the Stetson Craftsman Alliance. Marx uses the alliance and her existing contacts to host shows and events that attract artisans who could potentially meet the Stetson brand standards.

“I have 800 or so artists I work with and draw from a group that [Fields] feels meets the stringent requirements of Stetson design-wise and quality-wise,” says Marx, who is currently working on the first round of licensing artists’ products through Stetson.

“We aren’t licensing furniture at this point, but we’re hoping we will be. This is our first run at licensing artists’ work so we wanted to start small. We are working with silver-buckle artists right now who’ve created a one-of-a-kind piece. That original piece will sell at a big launch party in a major retailer and, from that buckle, manufactured pieces, or inspired-by pieces will be created and go out to the mass market. The royalties from that license will then go back to the artists and provide them with a steady stream of income and allow them to work on more artistic commission pieces.”

Ideally, the same licensing and royalty concepts will be applied across the board with all Western-themed artistic media. Marx says Stetson, a New York-based company, believes the program will gain enough momentum to benefit furniture makers.

“We started with the buckles to see how this will work. We won’t know until we get the product line launched; it’s supposed to launch in November. Then we will really have a better feel about how to push this into the furniture side of things,” says Marx.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.

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