psst! Image Makeovers

Artists parlay their work into chic merchandise.



Icon Shoes of Palm Desert printed word collage artist Richard Curtner’s image of a golfer on leather bags, luggage tags, valet trays (that can be flattened for traveling), and watches.

COURTESY ICON SHOES

Cathedral City artist Richard Curtner soon may see his work passing him on the street or on a baggage carousel at the airport. Icon Shoes, which began business in 2000 making a pair of shoes featuring Andy Warhol’s tomato soup can image, has used Curtner’s word collage of a golfer, 4, to cover bags, watches, luggage tags, and valet trays.

“Part of our collection always includes golf resort-type images and things to do with golf,” says Carolyn Morris, executive vice president of Icon, which moved from Los Angeles to Palm Desert one year ago this month. After seeing Curtner exhibiting his work at an art fair at Sunrise Park in Palm Springs in December, Morris asked him if he’d be interested in licensing his work for consumer goods. As part of Icon’s fall collection, the products debut this month.

Although Icon launched its business with the iconic work of a world-famous artist and still uses images by the Masters, the company is supporting up-and-coming, local artists such as Curtner and Christina De Musée of Palm Desert (whose work debuts this month on bags, accessories, and shoes).

“We are also doing our leather products with animals from The Living Desert,” Morris says. “The first is African zebras from photography [by Bert Buxbaum].”

Icon prints the leather and outsources the sewing. “Half the business is handbags and accessories and half is shoes,” Morris says. “We sell to about 300 stores around the country.” Locally, Icon products can be found at Robert’s Shoes, Rangoni Shoes, J. Stephens Shoes, and Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis in Palm Desert; Just Fabulous in Palm Springs; and Lulu’s Fine Home Accessories in La Quinta. Nationally, they are sold at Nordstrom; in specialty boutiques; and online through Amazon, Zappos, and Icon’s own website (www.iconshoes.com).

“We are not open to the public, but people stop in because they see our sign out front,” Morris says. “We do have artwork on the walls from some of our artists, and some is available for sale.”

Curtner was pleased to see how well his image translated to a three-dimensional object. “It was amazing to see the image on the watch especially,” he says. “They got all the detail in there.

“My whole objective in being a visual artist is to get people looking at my artwork,” he adds. “If I can do this whether it’s an original framed word collage or a wristwatch or handbag with my image on it, then I have completed my mission.”

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