'Satisfy Your Sweetest Desires': A Profile on Artist - Entrepreneur Robyn Blair Davidson (“by robynblair”)
By Zoë Goetzmann
When life hands you candy, make art.
Over this past year, New York based artist Robyn Blair Davidson – or rather “by robynblair” – has built, established and maintained a successful career for herself through her candy wall art designs, prints and acrylic candy dishes.
Prior to becoming an artist, Robyn worked as the marketing director for a contemporary clothing company. Up until last year, she was the owner of her own consulting agency through which she helped brands with experiential marketing, partnerships and large-scale collaborations.
So, how did Robyn make the switch from a career in marketing to a career as an artist? More importantly, why candy?
If you ask Robyn, she can tell you all about her candy obsession, “I love candy and I always have candy on me, in my bag, in my house, everywhere!” Through this intense passion for candy, combined with a later interest in home décor, Robyn made the transition from a marketing professional to an artist-entrepreneur.
Whilst sitting in her living room one day back in 2018, Robyn got the idea to create her first candy art piece. As she says, “I started to care about my environment and making my space a reflection of who I am and one day, it hit me that I wanted to put candy on the wall! It’s so pretty and happy, so why not? I’ve always thought that candy packaging is an art in itself.”
For her first piece, In Case of Emergency, Break Glass, Robyn filled a custom-designed acrylic plexiglass case with Dubble Bubble gum, printing the title of the work in hot pink block lettering.
She also designed the exterior case to be, “1 ½ inches thick,” she explains, “so [that] it had depth, but also was thin enough to hang on a wall as fine art.”
Robyn then hung her work on the walls of her own home — next to one of her favorite works by Pop artist, Deborah Kass entitled, C’Mon Get Happy! (2010).
“I hung the first piece on the wall, and it made me smile,” she reflects. “It all happened without a single thought of starting a candy-based business or becoming an artist. I just made it for myself.”
A few days after completing her first piece, Robyn’s friends and family began to reach out to her to ask if she would make similar pieces for them. In March 2018, with their encouragement, Robyn posted a photograph of her work onto her personal Instagram account. Soon, she would create another profile under the Instagram name: @byrobynblair, which now has over 16,000 followers.
In the next month, Robyn would become a full-time working artist who promotes and sells her work to clients all over the world such as in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Dubai, Shanghai, Toronto and London. Currently, she operates the majority of her business and sales via her website: byrobynblair.com.
For Robyn: collaboration is everything.
Since establishing her brand “by robynblair,” Robyn has collaborated with other brands and companies including Name Glo and Dormify. In November 2018, her works were displayed in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In December 2018, Robyn made a set of pieces for Harry Winston, which were shown alongside the jeweler’s candy-colored diamond collection, Winston Candy.
As a former marketing professional, Robyn understands the importance of social media. She also attributes a portion of her career success to her prior connections in the fashion world.
“Brand partnerships have always been one of the most fun parts!” she exclaims. “I can’t help but feel, if I started my brand 10 years ago, companies like Harry Winston wouldn’t be reaching out to [me]. It’s a different world now and big companies are willing to go alongside emerging artists like [myself] because creatively, they know that’s what resonates on social [media] right now. I’ve been able to leverage connections from my old days in fashion to get a pop-up at Saks, something that would not have happened before Instagram took over!”
Even candy companies have contacted Robyn in order to express their admiration for her work. As she says, “since I started making my pieces, candy companies have been reaching out to me to partner on a new flavor launch or send me candy for future pieces with a nice note.”
Robyn’s Instagram, @byrobynblair also serves as another means of collaboration for her business. Using her Instagram as a visual portfolio for her work, Robyn will often direct her clients to this platform if they need guidance when picking out candy for specific commissions.
As she explains, “It’s the most amazing platform that I use to show what I’m working on, and [to] help give people ideas and inspiration as I work with them. Instagram is a great place for my clients to get inspired and see that they like and what they don’t like. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Through her collaboration with Dormify, an interior design company that specializes in college room décor, Robyn has also been able to adjust her higher artwork prices to accommodate her younger audiences who might also follow her on Instagram.
As she says, “I was so happy to partner with Dormify and offer poster prints because I never wanted to say, ‘no’ to somebody who reached out for a piece. I love being able to have another price point that’s accessible.
When creating one of her works, Robyn approaches each new piece with a sense of humor, positivity, relatability, nostalgia and thoughtfulness.
In lieu of paints and a canvas, Robyn puts as much effort into arranging the candy within its cases, as a fine artist would put into a masterpiece.
“I only use packaged pieces, never loose candy,” she explains. “I also use a special glue to help preserve each piece and I work with expert plexiglass manufacturers to tightly seal my pieces, making sure nothing gets in and nothing gets out.”
Although her tagline – “Satisfy Your Sweetest Desires” – would suggest otherwise, Robyn prefers to indulge in sour, rather than sweet candy. When creating one of her works, she is drawn to the bolder, more colorful packaging.
“I gravitate towards the sour candies and ‘make-your-own-candy’ bag stores,” she explains. “Because I don’t work with loose candy, when it comes to candy packaging, I gravitate towards bright and fluorescent colors that make a big statement. Think: Push Pops, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Dubble Bubble. Their branding is Pop Art in itself!”
Despite Robyn’s predominantly female audience, she also has a large following of couples who love her candy art creations. Establishing a collection called Man Cave, Robyn expanded her talents beyond her candy art medium, creating artwork out of playing cards, superhero memorabilia, cell phones and even perfume bottles to satisfy her clients’ individual tastes.
“It’s interesting to have clients who are couples come to me saying they’ve been having trouble finding pieces of art together, but they saw my art and both loved it so much. My couple clients see my work as Pop Art, not too feminine, not too masculine, just fun, bright, statement-making art,” she says.
When brainstorming artwork titles, Robyn tends to choose ones that would make her laugh and would also make her collectors happy. Her ideas are always personal, establishing a relatable connection between herself, her clients as well as the specific candies that are featured in each one of her pieces.
“I think it’s really funny that the first piece I made had, In Case of Emergency, Break Glass printed on the front, because of all people, I would be the first one to break into something to get a piece of candy if I wanted it badly enough!,” she jokes. “So, I kept thinking about the correlation between the candy I eat and what else makes my life sweet. Life is Sweet and Sugar High [candy wall art titles] fit the mold of more fun and quirky sayings, and I realized that all my phrases are about how candy makes me feel.”
Robyn applies this same logic when working with older types of candy from the 1960’s and the 1980’s, revealing another astute, yet “funny” observation about her clients’ buying habits.
“Something funny that [I’ve] learned is that not everybody knows how to buy art, but everybody knows how to buy candy,” she says. “I find [that] the pieces that make my clients the happiest have a nostalgic element to them and really connect to who they are.”
Through this whirlwind of a year, Robyn has kept a positive attitude when it comes to her career, looking forward to other projects and collaborations in the future. One of which, includes working with interior designer, Cara Woodhouse of Cara Woodhouse Interiors to turn her new living room into an art showroom.
Her work also echoes other well-known Pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and Barbara Kruger. In fact, Ruscha even used food products in his previous work in order to capture the socio-political reality of everyday life. Just look up his installation, Chocolate Room (1970) for example! However, in contrast to these other artists, Robyn’s work is far more optimistic rather than ironically sardonic.
Above all, Robyn desires to keep making work that appeals — or rather, “satisfies”— her own happiness as well as the happiness of her clients and her followers.
“My number one overall goal is to make people smile and to bring happiness into their homes,” she says.
In times when the world can often feel like a dark place, Robyn’s work represents the necessary sweetness that we all need to lift up our spirits.
Robyn Blair Davidson [Website]: https://byrobynblair.com/