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Commercial Success
A local artist is behind one of Crate & Barrel’s best-selling paintings.

By Amy Hufford

In 2005, Timothy Meyerring sat in front of a blank, birch-faced square of plywood, racking his brain for what exactly he’d paint. He needed something for an Eisner Museum fundraiser. Something that would sell.

On the 12-by-12-inch slate, he shaped the petals of a cheery, delicate poppy, the same anodyne flower that laid Dorothy low on her way to the Emerald City. Well, he laid bidders low at the event. They filled four pages with offers before the painting of a bright Papaver somniferum (above) was declared “sold.”

“I knew I was on to something,” says Meyerring, then creative director at a Brookfield advertising agency, McGlinchey & Associates. “And I just thought, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’”

In the basement of Meyerring’s Whitefish Bay townhome, he set up a studio that sold 60 paintings in its first year. Not bad. But he hit pay dirt soon after, when he met an art dealer from Arizona with connections in the retail furnishings industry. With her help, reproductions of his paintings hit the shelves at national retailers like Pier 1 Imports and Crate & Barrel in the spring of 2008. In 2010, he opened Timo Gallery (after his first name) in the Third Ward.

The Meyerring reproductions were a hit. His Earthen Abstract, an oil, wax and watercolor painting that could be a desert landscape – a cross-section of geologic sediment or an elongated coffee stain – has been a top seller at Crate & Barrel for about three years. And one of Meyerring’s red poppy paintings held a spot on Pier 1’s best-seller list for about as long.

Meyerring sells licensing rights to such retailers, and they hawk reproductions for $200 to $600. As of midsummer, he’d sold 12 licenses to Crate & Barrel, 21 to international chain Baker Furniture and four to Pier 1. At his studio, where he paints with brush, knife and spatula alike, originals go for $200 to $44,000.

Earlier this year, his work appeared in a Paris furniture show, Maison & Objet, and in the background of an episode of “The Vanilla Ice Project.”

But Meyerring insists he’s not selling out. “Sell, yes. Out, no,” he says. “You’re only a sellout if you’re doing something you don’t want to do.”

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