How Artist ‘Coop’ Sets Himself Apart

When it comes to making your Threadless Artist Shop stand out, you already know you can (and should!) customize your shop with your cover photo, ‘About’ page, etc. But more and more Artist Shop owners are discovering interesting new ways to set their shops apart by getting creative with how they offer their designs on different products. And it doesn’t get much more creative than what Christopher Cooper of the “Art of Coop” Artist Shop (NSFW) is doing with his products.

Cooper has made his shop unique by offering designs with unexpected all-over print backgrounds on the final product. For example, take his design “Smut Devil”, seen here:

The above image is what you see as far as the design preview goes – the devil face with a purple background. But when you explore some of the product options for “Smut Devil”, many of the accessories and home decor items you can buy it on also feature an added all-over background print that doesn’t appear on any other items! Check out the phone case:

Cooper was one of the first Artist Shop owners to experiment with this ‘hidden feature’ and product-by-product customization. And by doing so, he adds a unique variety and twist to his products, not to mention keeps you clicking through multiple products to see which other ones have surprise backgrounds.

Besides getting creative with his shop, Cooper has also been crushing it with his social media skills and he’s been setting a great example as far as uploading new designs to keep his shop fresh and updated. We talked to him about how he customizes his products, how he stays on top of and balances his social media, and about how often he uploads new designs. Check out the interview below!

How often do you upload new designs to your shop?

I went a little crazy when I started my shop and uploaded a ton of designs. I’ve been doing this since the early nineties, and I have a big catalog of images for designs. Of course, this came back to haunt me when Threadless added all their new products – perfectionist that I am, I’m slowly going through and creating custom designs for each tote bag, blanket, notebook, etc. I’m still not finished!!

You’ve found some really creative ways of using your shop, particularly by adding background patterns to a lot of your accessories and home products! How do you pick which backgrounds to include with your designs to make them all-over prints?

I’m a horrible collector/packrat – I’ve been collecting stuff like old comics, hot rod magazines, and ’50s men’s magazines for years. There’s always something in the pile to scan and drop into the background. I grew up with xeroxed ‘zines and punk flyers, and that “fucked-up & photocopied” aesthetic still appeals to me.

You’re super active on social media, and I like that you balance out your own posts with content you like from other sources. What social media tips do you have for fellow Artist Shop owners trying to promote their products?

I guess my secret is being addicted to my iPhone! I always have it with me, like everyone else, and I usually update my twitter/Instagram/FB (head’s up – some material on social media NSFW!) whenever I’m stuck in a line at the post office, or waiting to pick up my wife at the train station.

Via Chris’s Twitter.

As far as tips, the more photos/video/art, the better. People are bored and want something to catch their interest!

What kinds of social media posts usually have the greatest success for you? How do you get creative with marketing your products and new designs?

It seems like I get a really good response from posting “work-in-progress” shots of paintings or drawings. People like to see personal stuff, too. Luckily I have a very photogenic toddler and some cool old cars around. I don’t know how “creative” I am, I just try to get something up every day on all my social media addictions. It’s kind of a pain in the butt sometimes, but it’s so much easier now to get attention for your art than it has ever been. I’m still trying to figure out what works best, to be honest.

“Memento Mori” is another example of a design with a plain background that Coop has customized to have a different background for certain products, like tapestries (see below).


What social media platform has worked the best for you so far?

Seems to be a tie between Instagram and Facebook. Older customers are on FB, younger on Instagram. I’m lucky in that I’ve had fans that started collecting my stuff 20-25 years ago and are still buying stuff today. Hopefully the new fans will stick with me too.

What do you do to promote your work offline?

I’m doing more events lately – I drive out to Austin once a year for a hot rod event called the Lonestar Round Up, and Designer Con here in LA is always good. I need to do more.

Any other tips you’d like to share?

Set up a folder with all the templates for the different products in your store. When you’re getting a new design ready, bust out files for every product at the same time! I’ve got it pretty dialed in at this point…as long as Threadless doesn’t add any more new products…

.     .     .


  • Be active on social media: Chris is extremely active on social media. While you don’t have to do quite as much posting as he does, follow his example of posting every day and by posting a mix of your products/news and cool content you find elsewhere that you want to share with your audience.
  • Post WIP work: people love to see the process!
  • Don’t be afraid to get personal: Chris shares family photos all the time – letting people know who you are and sharing a little slice of your life can make you seem more like a person and less like a brand, and that matters to customers.
  • Post product photos: Chris does this on his social media as well – showing off your product IRL helps people get an idea of what it’ll look like in their hands as well.
  • Play around with your designs: experiment with turning your single design into an all-over pattern for accessories! Or try to add a unique background pattern to your single designs. This also keeps people clicking on your designs to explore which products might have surprise details. Other Artist Shops besides Coop have been experimenting with this product-by-product variety as well. Check out the Cabin Supply Co. Artist Shop, for example. Most of their designs are all hand-letting with the same aesthetic:

But if you look at their wall art section, you’ll see some surprise background photography that isn’t shown in the design preview!

.     .     .

Illustration by Katie Lukes

Want to start an online business? Try Artist Shops for free!

Related Posts