Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market 2013 - Show Recap and News

I am sitting on the floor at home pawing through a stack of impeccably designed trade magazines, directories and promotional pieces while pondering about all that happened at the fabulous Atlanta Gift and Home Furnishings show this past weekend. It's been a wild but amazing 3-day ride!

Amongst many firm shakes of hands, courteous presentations and vivacious chats, I kept hearing the word "trend." It's becoming trendy to talk about trends.

Courtesy of Design Design Inc. - From Their Catalog: Trends
By whatever mechanisms, trends are present. Artists set trends by capturing images and patterns artistically. Manufacturers do, too, through product choices, materials and quality of execution. Retailers try to capture trends through the products they offer to consumers and how they display and market them. And, finally, it is the consumers cumulative actions that actually set them.

I think it's best to look at this whole notion of trends in a relative way - your way. I try to discern trends for inspiration and for getting a pulse about other views and cultures; I don't necessarily have to follow them. I follow what I like and believe in. For example, there is an outdoor living trend that showed up everywhere at the Atlanta show, even on the huge electronic billboard in the lobby. I love this trend and started embracing it last year in my collections, because the outdoors has always been a big part of my life.

While outdoor living is an example of a trend that is developing more momentum, an example of a trend that is more of a classic style is coastal and seaside. Recently, I met a pelican at a local wharf. He ended up in one of my seaside collections and has now become a half celeb through a JellyBean rug! (By the way, the pelican's name is Gabriel...) Is he part of a trend? I don't think so. But he's a nice dude and it so happens that he does fit into the coastal trend.

Courtesy of Design Design Inc. - From Their Catalog: Handmade
Set or follow trends that are suitable to your creative process, similar to how Design Design Inc. created these cool inspirational boards for their catalogs. We had the great pleasure of meeting their Art Directors and Chief Marketing Officer at the show and had one of the best conversations of the whole weekend. Such nice people and what quality work! They get it. By the way, they also provide a very detailed artist submission guideline. How much better could it get?!

There are many other companies that offer such collaborative offers. So yes, trends are all of us as a whole, our families and pets, friends, sharing circles, close co-workers, and our houses and what's in them. Classic, vintage, retro, modern, transitional or traditional. As I see it, the challenge of a licensing artist and the real value of a show like Atlanta is to help you better see where all those collective interests and ideas are headed, and thus how to adapt and interpret them in your art to improve your manufacturing partner's chances of success.


© Courtesy of Demdaco
All together the world of art, design and products is really one big cohesive whole that is made up of multiple people and views. I think this is the key concept I was reminded of at the Atlanta show. It was fun. It was thrilling. It was friendly and positive. It was so productive for us as it was for the majority of the people we spoke to. It included collaborative insights and a source of unexpected friendships. We'll definitely be going again next year!

Here are some more cool photos we were able to take with the blessing of the exhibiting manufacturers. We didn't have time to see every single showroom or meet each of the exhibitors and artists at the show, but we picked these to talk about because we thought they would be of broad interest to this audience, not because they are the most important or the best of the show.

© Courtesy of Demdaco
The Atlanta Gift Show is one of high-quality merchandise. The displays were bright, cheerful and tastefully displayed throughout the market floors. We spotted several that were retro/vintage inspired, with the red and blue popular color combos as a fun alternative to more traditional holiday colors. You can see them in the photos from the Demdaco and Enesco showrooms.

As mentioned above, trends and themes such as gardens, eco-green, indoor-outdoor living were very prominent throughout the show.

© Courtesy of Enesco
There is continued growing interest in this natural, nomadic, primitive, explorative direction as represented through visuals, words, scents, colors and other senses, talked about at the 2012 Surtex show. It's a mix of concepts. The themes are pretty much the same, but reinterpreted by artists in partnership with their manufacturers, retailers and their respective niche of consumers.

Walking through the floors was exhausting but most of the displays were very inviting and always colorful, some peaceful, with classic outdoor elements dressed up with whimsical images, shapes and/or inspirational phrases meant to uplift the spirits. We saw many little birds, owls, cardinals, butterflies, frogs, bugs, florals of all sorts and hues. Mixed media designs with enchanting themes, graphics, geometrics, natural materials, and vintage backgrounds were also abundant. What a mix!


© Courtesy of Demdaco
Two terms seem to be growing in interest: "boho" and "gypsy." We also noticed many industrial elements, like heavy metal objects mixed in with vintage/farm elements and inspirational concepts and words. Word art and fancy calligraphy are still big, either hand painted, hand drawn or typed, with chalk, pen, brush or simply pencil. Jute, burlap, cord, felt, and other craft materials are also coming to the market in a strong way. The home design and home products showrooms were full of them, from lampshades to chairs, accessories and wall art - even Christmas ornaments!

Dimensional art was also popular with colorful cards, gifts and accessories. Many Christmas fantasy themes were presented with sleek polar bears and regal foxes, or the more everyday themes such as farm life with roosters and pigs, or ponds with hoppy frogs and dragonflies; cute raccoons and hedgehogs are joining the already crowded parade in their debut to the consumer world. And of course family dogs and cats are still pretty much everywhere along with horses and deer. If there isn't a trend in there you can relate to, then you should take up knitting! Which, by the way, is also a trend!

© Courtesy of Vietri
As the Atlanta Mart logo says, this show is for international wholesalers. Many of them do not license art. They have in-house design teams or occasionally hire freelancers. Some of them are distributors only so they don't license directly but work with manufacturers and their exclusive artists. Some of them are a company umbrella representing artisans from other countries. People attending the show come from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and South America, although most are from the U.S. As a result, while you do see a global market it is still mostly domestically-oriented. We got to chat a bit with the National Sales manager for Vietri - their showroom was breathtaking. The collection shown here is by Italian artist Giovanni De Simone but they include over 40 different Italian manufacturers in their product offerings. It was so inspirational to look at!

What else? We met with many manufacturers and introduced The Moon from My Attic to them, although were pleasantly surprised to find out that many were already regular readers. There is an increasing excitement about this collaboration between artists and companies, about what we are doing to help bridge the two ends of the product development process and create more collaborative partnerships. We have discovered that manufacturers are noticing artists through this blog and vice versa. We are happy about this new evolution. In upcoming months we will surprise you with more special referrals, editorials and promotions!

We got to meet some great artists who we'd previously only met via email or Facebook. What a treat! We wished we had more time to see everyone who expressed interest in connecting up at the market; more trade shows are on the horizon, with Surtex 2013 being our next stop. We'll be exhibiting there at Booth 446! So we are sure we'll connect with many of you who also have a booth or just want to walk the show.

Magnet Works Flag - © Alex Colombo
In summary, the whole show was an amusing and very productive one for us, in addition to getting to know the market a bit better and meeting very nice and friendly people. Etiquette is an important part of how to navigate such a show, with respect to many who are working really hard at this business. All people we talked to had a positive and encouraging result from the show. We also had a chance to see some of my art on products, which was really fun. We hope more will come!

As a final note on the Atlanta show, I think it's a fantastic experience for licensing artists for doing market research; it gives you greater insight into art, products and how the product development-wholesale-retail-consumer business operates.

I am sure other show participants can add to my observations so feel free to comment on this article. I invite you to also read other licensing and trade blogs about the show so as to get multiple views. For me, seeing the whole chain of production at work re-enforced my main purpose: partnering to make the world a better place through art!

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