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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Art Licensing: E-store Owner's Perspective About the Flag Industry

Because of the popularity of electronic technology, the ability to do comparison pricing and the ease in ordering on-line, consumers are purchasing more products from the Internet than from brick-and-mortar stores according to "New top choice for shoppers: Online overtakes brick-and-mortar." But, not all products sell well over the Internet because consumers still want to see certain products before purchasing them so that they can examine them or in the case of clothing try them on. However, decorative flags seem to be a product that has no trouble selling in e-stores because there is a multitude of stores on the Internet.

For artists, it is informative to learn what type of art the consumer purchases so getting input from store owners are very important. And, we are very fortunate that Becky Bennett owner of one of the leading flag e-stores "Flags On A Stick" has shared her knowledge and perspective in the following article about the decorative flag industry.

Today's Decorative Flag Industry
by Becky Bennett
owner of Flags On A Stick

I started flagsonastick.com in 2001 for two reasons: 1) I love decorative flags and I was frustrated with the lack of flag stores in my home state of Minnesota, and 2) I wanted to have a store at the Minnesota State Fair, which is known for its abundance of food and other unique items “on a stick”. Thus, the quirky name Flags On A Stick. Note: Read more about Becky at the bottom of this article.

Decorative flags have come a long way in those 13 years. I like to say, "These are not your grandmother's flags anymore". The colors are more vibrant and the fabrics are more luxurious, as well as more durable. Fabrics have really improved in the last two to three years, featuring silky soft texture which allows flags to drape and hang better.

Technology
Printed flags now sell better than appliqué flags, which was not the case when I first started my flag store. The printing technology has greatly improved, enhancing the overall appearance of outdoor flags. Printed decorative flags now have detailed backgrounds and borders, plus vivid colors with more dimension which helps brings the artistic details to life. The newest printing technology now allows printed text to read correctly on both sides of the flag, which my customers have been begging for. This feature is often called 2-sided message or double-sided or double talk. On my website, I designate this feature by stating 2-sided message in the product title, as well as adding an icon to the flag which appears once you click on the flag. This icon alerts my customers that this flag is one that reads correctly on both sides.

Manufacturers
Flag Trends by Carson Home Accents has really raised the bar for 2-sided text flags, making it a standard feature on all their house and garden flags. Their flags also include glitter accents. Flag Trends does a good job of licensing artwork from a variety of artists. They don't just stay with the same artists year after year. Breeze Art is also another great flag manufacturer known for their variety of licensed artwork by nationally known artists. Magnet Works is the parent company of Breeze Art flags, Mailwraps mailbox covers, MatMates doormats and Yard DeSigns address signs. They are the leader in providing matching flags and other outdoor garden décor featuring artistic designs created by a variety of artists. Many of my customers like to purchase the entire collection to decorate from curb to door with a seasonal or holiday theme. My contacts at Accent Home & Garden by Premier have stated in the future they are hoping to offer more licensed artwork, which is great news. Evergreen has innovative flags with LED lights. I personally think Evergreen has the best appliqué flags in the industry. The appliqué flags have silky soft fabrics and usually have nice large images with artist detail, plus added surprises such as glitter and streamers. Toland is also another manufacture who provides a variety of decorative house and garden flags.

Designs
Decorative outdoor flags that sell the best are the ones that have larger images and unique art that adds a “pop” of eye-catching color. Whether it's an adorable snowman or charming Easter Bunny, the image has to be large enough to be seen when it is displayed on a home or in the yard. The flags that don't sell as well have backgrounds that are “busy” and detract from the main theme or subject of the flag. Flags that have text in pretty fonts also sell well.... especially flags that say "Welcome". After all, decorative flags really do welcome friends and family to your home. Adding charming artistic elements such as birdhouses, or pretty borders and backgrounds provides that eye-catching detail that my customers love.

Trends and Themes
Popular trends and themes vary for each season and holiday. Snowmen, Santas and poinsettias sell well for winter and Christmas. I had many customers last year comment that they wished more flags said “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”. The flag industry responded well to this request with many of the 2014 Christmas flags having “Merry Christmas” written in lovely script. My customers will be so pleased. I must say that snowmen sell better after Christmas. After the holidays, that Santa flag looks silly and has got to come down. Snowmen are perfect for the entire winter season. Valentine’s Day flags have really jumped in popularity in both the garden and house size flags. Cardinals and chickadees sell well all year long. Patriotic themes also sell well all year long, so I always keep red, white and blue patriotic flags in stock, as well as several birthday flags. Owls are still popular for all the seasons and holidays. My experience has been that whimsical owls, frogs and bunnies sell better than realistic art images. Flowers and garden scenes are always popular.

Best Sellers
My best sellers are decorative garden size flags, which measure 12.5” x 18”. They are inexpensive garden décor that has continued to sell well even during our tough economic times. Retail price is usually $10 to $11. House size flags are the next best sellers, measuring 28” x 40”. Mailbox covers and doormats have continued to sell well and certainly have a strong following for those who like matching sets. I believe customers choose their decorative flags based upon the artistic design, first and foremost. The theme, design and color combinations have to appeal to them. They also look for specific artists whose flags they’ve purchased in the past. There are flag artists such as Susan Winget and Jennifer Brinley who have been around since the start of my flag store. However, I am seeing newer artists, including Robbin Rawlings, Victoria Hutto, and Robin Pickens whose designs are selling well. The more variety the better to keep customers coming back for more.

Who buys flags?
I have customers all across the US and Canada, as well as Europe. The coastal states seem to have the most flag-waving customers. Because I sell all across the country, I find it interesting to watch the seasonal flag sales. For example, spring arrives so much sooner in the southern states. So flags with spring themes thus start selling sooner than they do here in Minnesota, where it may not seem like spring until late April. Flag customers are people who enjoy gardening, nature, and being outside. They often purchase other garden décor to add colorful accents to their yard and home.

Variety is key for the flag industry. Offering everything from whimsical to more sophisticated, elegant designs keeps existing customers coming back for the newest flags and encourages new people to start their flag collection. My customers love to sneak a peek at the latest designs. I keep them up to date via email newsletters regarding new arrivals, as well as Featured Artists on my blog. I created the monthly Featured Artist segment because I thought my customers would be interested in knowing more about the artists behind the flags. Being a Featured Artist on my blog has really helped my customers become more familiar with various artists and their designs. It has also helped sell their flags. I feature the artist’s other products on my blog and Facebook, giving them more exposure. My customers enjoy getting to know the artists and love engaging and adding comments on Facebook. If you have licensed your art for decorative flags and you’d like to be a featured artist, please contact me.

My customer base is getting younger, which is good news for artists and for the flag industry. Flags remain a strong garden décor item.

About Becky Bennett
I live in Minneapolis, MN. In my “other life” I owned a court reporting firm and was a court reporter for 11 years. After our third child was born, I stayed home to raise our children. Flags On A Stick was an idea I had to start a seasonal store at the Minnesota State Fair. I LOVE my job. I love getting the new flag catalogs from the manufacturers, meeting with the sales reps to hear about the latest trends, getting to know the artists, and selecting the newest designs for the upcoming seasons and holidays. I’m fascinated by the technology involved in running an e-commerce business. I enjoy taking orders over the phone from customers who’ve shopped with us for over 13 years. I’m so fortunate that all my adult children and two grandsons live nearby. Golfing with friends and fishing with my husband and children are my favorite things to do.

Related article
Although it is not up-to-date "Licensing Art to the Flag Industry" has important information about the decorative flag industry.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Licensing Art to Rug and Mat Manufacturers

Most rug manufacturers use in-house designers or purchase designs outright. However, some do license art for their smaller size accent lines. Many that manufacturer décor flags also license art for doormats, and a few manufacturers license art for all the rugs and mats they produce.

Rugs can be made numerous ways but the ones that are produced for the mass market are either woven on looms or needle-punched on heavy fabric with various kinds of fiber (wool, cotton, silk, nylon, etc.). Rugs that are made with looms are limited in the number of colors that can be incorporated into the design depending on the coarseness of the fibers. The designs on needle-punched rugs are either made with colored fibers or printed by dye sublimation printers. The printing technology allows a larger variety of colors to be used than by using fibers.

Many rugs are handmade on looms and needle-punched in India, China, Persia, Turkey, Tibet, etc. There are also factories that use automated looms and machines to produce rugs such as Axminster Carpets in England, and Mohawk Industries in the United States. View "Axminster Carpet Manufacturing" and "Made in Dalton: Mohawk Industries" videos to see how they make their rugs.

Floor Mats (including door, bath, play, etc.) are usually made with fibers by the needle-punched method, or with vinyl, rubber and other materials. Designs are painted on the mats with a dye sublimation printer. To see how needle-punched mats are manufactured, view "Custom Mats Productions" video.

Check list on what to do before submitting art
1. Check out manufacturers website to see the art on their rugs and mats, submission guidelines, and contact information. If the site is password protected, search the internet for internet retail stores that show their products.

2. Make sure your art fits the manufacturer product line. Not only does the art need to have themes that will sell the manufacturer rugs and mats but the colors and art style needs to also work. For instance, if the manufacturer uses coarse colored fibers for their mats or rugs then the design needs to be very simple without using many colors to shade the images in the design. As an example, check out Jellybean Rugs website. The designs they license are simple and has very little or no shading.

If a dye sublimation printer produces the design on the rug or mat, more colors can be used. But, you probably are still limited to how many depending on the capability of the printer.

3. A horizontal format of the art is most often used for mats and accent rugs. So, make sure the images are in a horizontal format before submitting them to the manufacturer.

4. Not all manufacturer websites list submission guidelines. Contact the person in charge of licensing art for each manufacturer you wish to submit art. Ask how she/he wants art submitted (hard copies, jpg copies attached to an email, etc.). It also would be wise to find out the limitation on the number of colors that can be used and if they require you to submit a Pantone color palette of the colors used in the art. Note: Manufacturers that also produce flags use a printing process that can produce many colors so they do not limit the number of colors or require a Pantone color palette.

5. Make sure that you attach your contact information to each file you send for licensing consideration.

Manufacturers that License Art for Rugs and Mats
Below are links to manufacturers that license art for rugs and mats. Note: In some cases, I am not absolutely sure they license art and may instead buy the art. I did not have time to contact the companies but decided that they probably do license art when I recognized a variety of artists names  who do license their art.

Accent Rugs
Home Fire Rugs
Jellybean Rugs by Home Comfort Rugs
Park Designs
Peking Handicraft

Mats
Apache Mills
Custom Decor, Inc. (also a flag manufacturer)
Evergreen Enterprises (also a flag manufacturer)
Magnet Works (also a flag manufacturer)
Toland Home and Garden (also a flag manufacturer)

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Art Licensing Resources: Learn about Art licensing from many sources including SURTEX seminar videos

There are many ways to learn about art licensing via blogs/websites, joining licensing forums, attending seminars at licensing shows and by listening to Teleseminars, youtube.com videos, and licensing seminar videos.

A list of blogs and websites with free information about licensing are on the sidebar under "Licensing Info. - blogs & website" on my blog. By joining the social media sites Facebook and LinkedIn you can belong to licensing groups and be able to ask questions and read comments made by artists, agents and manufacturers. Facebook has "Art of Licensing" and "Surtex (Before and after the Show) groups that discuss licensing. LinkedIn has "Art of Licensing", "Greeting Card, Stationery & Gift Industry Gurus", and more groups that discuss licensing.

Informative seminars about licensing are given during the SURTEX show held in May at the Javits Center in New York and the Licensing Expo in June in Las Vegas, Nevada. Note: Most of the SURTEX show conference sessions are aimed at art licensing while most of the conference sessions at Licensing Expo are more general for all types of licensing industries such as character, entertainment, sports, fashion, art, food and other brands. More information about art licensing can be found at:

• Free youtube.com videos
While on youtube.com search the words "art licensing" to get a large list of videos about art licensing. Many of the videos are about artists and how they got started in licensing their art. Other videos discuss what you need to know and how to succeed in art licensing such as:
– "5 Things artists need to know about art licensing" by artist Tara Reed

– "What it Takes to Succeed in Licensing" by art licensing coach Jeanette Smith

• Free "Ask Calls"
– "Ask J'net Q&A" with art licensing coach Jeanette Smith
Note: Audio downloads of previous "Ask J'net Q&A" sessions can be purchased.

– "Art Licensing Ask Call" with artist Tara Reed and guest speakers
Note: Some audio downloads of previous "Ask Calls" are free while others need to be purchased.

• Purchase classes and teleseminars
All Art Licensing classes with art licensing coach Jeanette Smith and other art licensing experts. The classes are via live audio and downloadable PowerPoint presentations. They include free downloads of audio and PowerPoint pdf format presentations. Note: Audio and PowerPoint presentation of previous classes can be purchased.

ArtLiceningInfo.com Teleseminars with artist Tara Reed and other art licensing experts. The teleseminars are via live audio and downloadable PowerPoint presentations and include free downloads of audio and PowerPoint pdf format presentations. Note: Audio and PowerPoint presentation of previous classes can be purchased. Also, e-books on various aspect of art licensing can also be purchased.

• Purchase SURTEX seminar videos
The conferences given by licensing experts at SURTEX are a great way to learn many aspects of the art licensing industry. The 2013 conference had sessions that appealed not only to those new to licensing but to those that have been licensing their work for years. And for the first time, SURTEX videotaped the 1-1/2 hour of eight sessions and offer for sale the links to watch them. Links and passwords can be purchased for $40 per conference session with a discounted price of $110 when purchasing a track of four sessions; $195 for all eight sessions.  

Note: I purchased Track II seminars and found the video taping excellent. The information on them are invaluable and worth the price although I was disappointed that the taping of two of the seminars ("Safeguarding Artwork – from Copyrights to Internet Protection" and "Category Spotlight: Textiles & Home Fashion") were cut short and only 45 minutes long.  

Below is a list of the conferences.  Note: A very impressive list of licensing experts volunteered their time to share their knowledge about art licensing!  More information about each conference and purchasing the link and the password are given on the SURTEX 2013 Conference Program page.

Track I - Basics
– "Monetizing Art and Design" with art licensing agents Marty Segelbaum and Nancy Fire

– "In-Depth Look at Art Licensing Basics" with art licensing agent Ellen Seay and artist Carol Van Zandt

– "In-Depth Look at Selling Art & Design" with artists Deborah Shapiro and Chris Verbeek

– "Up Close & Personal: What You Need to Know About Licensing Contracts" with attorney John D. Mason and art licensing agent Julie Newman

Tack II - In-Depth
– "Safeguarding Artwork – from Copyrights to Internet Protection" with attorney Jeanne Hamburg

– "Category Spotlight: Textiles & Home Fashion" with Jennifer Marks (Editor-In-Chief Home Textiles Today),    Pam Maffei-Toolan (Vice President Design PK Lifestyles), Andy Sylvia (President Cranston Printworks), Julie Philibert (Senior Designer Warner Wallcoverings)

– "Category Spotlight: Tabletop, Gift & Home Décor" with Allison Zisko (Managing Editor HFN Magazine), Toni Kemal (Senior Trend Analyst Lifetime Brands), Sue Todd (President Magnetworks), Ingrid Liss (Creative Director Demdaco)

– "Category Spotlight: Paper & Stationery" with Susan January (Vice President Leanin’ Tree), George White (President & COO Up With Paper)

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - trends

This article, the third of three about the 2014 Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market, is about the art trends seen at the show. Read the first article "Art Licensing: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - the amazing AmericasMart campus" for information about the AmericasMart and how a person can attend the gift show; the second article "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show" and the importance of observation, asking questions to learn about the art licensing industry and improve your art.

"EVERGREEN" themes
Art themes that started as a trend and have proven over time to be consistent sellers of products are considered to be evergreen (timeless). These themes are seen on all kinds of products. They include flowers, birds, butterflies, cats, seashells, lighthouses, palm trees, Adirondack chairs, roosters, grapes and wine, pumpkins, fall leaves, turkeys, snowmen, snowflakes, Santa, Christmas trees, poinsettias, and ornaments.

In these challenging economic times, retailers depend on evergreen themes to entice consumers to purchase their products. Often when manufacturers ask artists for new art they do not mean a new theme but a new look of existing themes. Still, every year new themes do appear, stay awhile, and then eventually disappear. And, some are fads and disappear much quicker.

Words and sayings are still popular but the way they are presented seem to change constantly year after year. At Atlanta there was a peoria of words on distressed wooden signs and of course the latest craze - the chalkboard look. Owls have been hanging around for several years. The prediction by experts when they first became popular was that they would soon disappear does not seem to be the case. There were plenty of owls on products at Atlanta. Flip-flops, chocolate, coffee and high heels are still popular but not as much as in previous years. Cupcakes themes seem to have ebbed and cakes are again number one in popularity for birthday themes. In the past, art directors only licensed non-breed specific dog images. But, at Atlanta I saw several showrooms with a collection of breed specific dogs on products. And, miniature gardens seem to be expanding. There were many garden decoration showrooms displaying their versions of miniature gardens.

The Christmas decorations at Atlanta were full of lights and elegant sparking decorations. Glam was in with all sorts of color combinations including Pantone color of the year "radiant orchid". Note: I only walked the aisles on one of the five floors of the Holiday and Floral home décor floors at the show. And on that floor, the traditional red and green Christmas decorations were not evident in the showroom windows but may have been displayed inside. Even though poinsettias is evergreen as a Christmas flower, gift products at the show often used the amaryllis flower instead. Last year Santa images were predicted to exceed snowmen this year but my overall impression at Atlanta was snowmen are still the predominate image for the winter / Christmas season. Many experts think that the reason is that it can be used for the longer winter season and not just Christmas.

Below are discussions about the latest trends - chalkboard style designs, vintage and woodland themes. Note: In the discussions, I refer to several articles. The links to those articles are listed in the Trend Articles section of this article.

CHALKBOARD Style
The chalkboard art style were on products in many showrooms at Atlanta but of course not in every showroom depending on the products sold. And, if the chalkboard style was not used on products, it was often on signs to advertise the products the exhibitor did sell. But so far, the style is used on a limited amount of product types such as inspirational words and verses for wall décor and for greeting cards. It may not be suitable for such products as jig-saw puzzles, decorative flags, and tabletop wares. However, industry experts have been surprised many times on what appeals to consumers so who knows how far and how long this style will continue.

Note: Since the chalkboard style has spread so fast, it is considered a fad and may not be able to sustain itself. Art styles and themes that take at least several years to grow and mature tend to last longer. Consultant J'Net Smith stated in her article "AmericasMart Showcases Licensed Art Themes on 2014 Product Lines" that "Chalkboards are now, in my estimation, too much of a good thing." And, art licensing agent Jim Marcotte commented in his article "Runnin' Wild in Atlanta", ". . . it is so pervasive now that they have all morphed into the same look and feel so you absolutely cannot tell one company's from another. Usually that means bye-bye trend."

But, for now some artists are having success in licensing their chalkboard designs such as Valerie McKeehan. She used her talent to get several multi-SKU deals as shown in "Americas Mart Atlanta Re-Cap January 2014".

WOODLAND themes
When news that woodland animals were a new trend spread between the art licensing community, artists were fast to respond and created all kinds of woodland creatures. So far many are having little success in licensing any animal other than what was recently popular (squirrels and owls) or is currently popular (red foxes) but that may change according to Hillary Belzer of The Makeup Museum in "Mini-trend: woodland wonderland". The current trend of red foxes were definitely seen on products at Atlanta. And, it looks like the woodland trend is mostly for the illustrative, stylized, and whimsical art style and not the fine art style as fine art artists discovered when they tried to license their woodland creations. And what is the latest woodland animal craze? Hedgehogs is the answer according to Hillary Belzer. But wait, does the U.S. have hedgehogs? No! So will American consumers purchase products that has an animal on it that they do not relate to? And, will American manufacturers even license hedgehog art? All we can do is wait and see.

VINTAGE themes
The vintage trend is alive and well. All kinds of vintage looks were seen in the Atlanta showrooms. But, what is referred to a vintage trend for products right now can be confusing because the word vintage is often exchanged with the word retro that refers to anything before the present. And, people often define the meaning of vintage differently. Some think of vintage as distressed patinas on wooden items, or the look from different eras, or even antique reproductions. And, all the looks were prevalent at Atlanta.

However, currently the term "vintage trend" refers to the 1950 era with its simple graphic art style and vivid color combinations. The fifties look on products at Atlanta had minimal designs, clip art from the fifties, reproductions of art and themes from the fifties, and art using the fifties style on popular current themes. See Gifts and Decorative Accessories "Direct from Market: Atlanta, January 2014", and The Parable Group "Atlanta Gift & Home Show" for examples of the vintage 1950s trends seen at Atlanta.

TREND ARTICLES
• Gifts and Decorative Accessories (magazine) "Direct from Market: Atlanta, January 2014"

• Giftware News (magazine) "Atlanta January 2014 Market Reaches New Highs"

•Jim Marcotte (agent of Two Town Studio) "Runnin' Wild in Atlanta"

• J'Net Smith (consultant of All Art Licensing) "AmericasMart Showcases Licensed Art Themes on 2014 Product Lines"

• Hillary Belzer of The Makeup Museum "Mini-trend: woodland wonderland"

• Sally Ross (marketing and communications strategist) The Parable Group (marketing) "Atlanta Gift & Home Show"

• Valerie McKeehan (chalkboard etc. artist) "Americas Mart Atlanta Re-Cap January 2014"

MUST READ
Listening to retailers, manufacturer art directors, art licensing agents etc. gives you insight about the economy, the different markets, and the art licensing industry. A must read article is "Snippets - Talking It Up In Atlanta" by art agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios and the snippet guru who really listens!

CONCLUSION
As J'Net Smith stated in "AmericasMart Showcases Licensed Art Themes on 2014 Product Lines", "My formal take-away from this year's show was that there were 'no new themes.' " And, that was the consensus of many people attending the Atlanta Gift Show. But, it would be hard to spot any new themes that could be emerging because the spotlights were definitely on chalkboard art style and ALL the vintage themes. Showrooms with those products were busy, very busy!

The Atlanta Gift Show was a success according to the AmericasMart press in "Market Bulletin: January 2014 Market Reaches New Highs". And, even though Jim Marcotte thought that the traffic was down from previous shows he stated in his article "Runnin' Wild in Atlanta" that ". . . the Word of the Week was "positive". Everybody we met with (and in 5 days of running we met with a lot) was up, they were happy with the way the market was going, the customers were buying and they wanted to talk product". That is very good news!!!

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show

This is the second of three articles about the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market. As the title to this article implies, it really does mean that by attending the show you do walk it which can be hard on your feet since the AmericasMart campus is huge. So, wear comfortable shoes or you will not be able to see much of it. The purpose in going to the Atlanta Gift show is not only showing art for licensing consideration and getting contact information from the manufacturers exhibiting but MUCH more! It is also to learn about the licensing industry, learn what kind of art manufacturers & retailers are looking for, and spotting art and color trends. So, you need to observe, talk to whomever you can, and ask questions. Read the first article "Art Licensing: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - the amazing AmericasMart campus" for information about the AmericasMart and how a person can attend the gift show.

Walking the show can be exhausting and it is easy to get overwhelmed with information and looking at "eye candy". The floor to ceiling glass windows of the showrooms allow you to see an amazing number of products as you walk down hallway after hallway after hallway. And do not presume that because a showroom is empty of buyers that the manufacturer is having a bad show because ten minutes later it can be packed with buyers. For some unknown reason, people attending any type of show seem to move through them in packs. Hint: I found it helpful to take plenty of breaks to relax from sensory overload and write down notes on what I saw and heard. Note: The AmericasMart policy does not allowed photos to be taken unless permission is given by the exhibitor. Attendees are allowed to bring rolling briefcases or rolling laptop size cases but nothing larger. But, these still tend to be a tripping hazard and gets in the way. Most people carry tote bags or backpacks for literature and other items.

SHOWING ART
Not all manufacturers have their own permanent showrooms at the AmericasMart. Some use a distributor(s) that have showrooms, some have temporary booths during the shows, some have permanent showrooms and also use a distributor, or use a distributor and have a temporary booth. Thus, you may see products from the same company in several showrooms or booths.

Persons responsible for selecting art for licensing consideration (art/licensing director or owner of the company) attend the Atlanta Gift show for at least two or three days of the show. They do not often go to the smaller regional gift shows. Because many art directors ( but not all) attend the Atlanta Gift Show and it is the largest one in the United States, it is the best one to attend to search for licensing opportunities. If you have contact information for the person responsible for selecting art, it is possible before the show to make an appointment with her/him IF she/he is attending the show and making appointments.

While walking the show, always look at showrooms that appear to have licensed art and products if you are interested in licensing your own product concepts. Ask at the information desk in the showroom if they license art and also ask who to contact and for their email address. It is smart to have with you an iPad with your art on it. You may have the opportunity to show your art to the companies art director or owner. The iPad is easier to carry than a large portfolio and an art director can easily flip through the images while standing in a crowded showroom or booth. Also, approaching manufacturer art directors are great ways to start building relationships that are very important in licensing your work. But, remember this is a wholesale show and you MUST observe show courtesy. The exhibitors are at the show to sell products to buyers so wait until the person is free before asking questions.

OBSERVE, o b s e r v e, observe
There is a lot of information available just by looking at the art on the products in the showrooms and booths. What colors and art themes are manufacturers placing on their products? What art styles are they using? And, is your art a good fit for their product lines? Do not waste your or the manufacturers time showing art to manufacturers that is not a good fit! For example, if you create whimsical styled art, it is a waste of time showing it to a manufacturer that ONLY wants contemporary graphic art styles or a weathered looking vintage art style.

Be on the lookout for new themes of images that appear on numerous manufacturer products. This could be possible trends that are at the beginning of a trend cycle and could continue for several/many more years OR not. And, when you are in a crowded showroom observe what products the buyers are looking at and commenting on. Also notice what products the buyers indicate to showroom reps they want to purchase. Every bit of knowledge leads to insight on the art that buyers think their customers will buy. And, that will help you decide on the art themes to create that will have a better chance in getting licensed.

Note: I attended two of the home decor seminars for buyers that were sponsored by home décor exhibitors. These seminars were given by expert and well known decorators. Several have their own HGTV home décor shows. The reason why I attended was to listen to their opinions about décor trends seen now in the market, about upcoming trends, and also to ask a few questions. Some home décor trends do filter down into the gift industry so the speakers opinions were insightful.

TALK and ASK QUESTIONS
Talk to everyone - manufacturers, fellow artists, art licensing agents, reps and owners in the showrooms and booths, and even buyers. Asking questions is a fantastic way to learn about products and art that sells. Put on a thick skin and ask art directors when they review your art why they do not like certain images of yours. Many are very frank with you and the information gain from that is HUGE. It gives you information on how to improve your work (technique, themes, colors etc.) so that you can create more licensable art. Artist and art licensing agent Ronnie Walter of Two Town Studios emphasized the importance of this in an artist Tara Reed Art Licensing Info Ask Call*. To paraphrase Ronnie, You need to listen very carefully when art directors are willing to constructively critic your work. Art licensing agent Jim Marcotte also of Two Town Studio and Ronnie's husband agrees in his blog article "Runnin' Wild in Atlanta" with the statement that getting the opportunity to get immediate feedback from the people who make the final decisions in choosing art is a great education that you cannot buy.

* Download a free audio recording of Ronnie and Tara's discussion at "Ask about Art Licensing".

While waiting to see an art director, talk to a rep if she/he is not busy. Reps like to talk to people about products and they may share information about the company and artists they license their work from. Information such as what art are big sellers and why they (the manufacturer) like to work with certain artists (easy to work with; knows what art consumers buy) would not be found out otherwise. And, even talking to buyers gives you an understanding about the retail business and what sells. At the show, I spent an enjoyable 45 minutes talking to a gift store owner while i was sitting in line waiting for artist Susan Lordi (Willow Tree) signing at the Demdaco showroom :) I learned a lot about the challenges in running a store in this changing economy.

Note: Maybe it is the southern hospitality in Atlanta but I was impressed with how helpful most reps in the showrooms were when I approached the information table and asked if they licensed art. One rep said that they did not license art but pointed me to another showroom that did. In another showroom, the reps did not know and actually chased down the CEO so that I could ask him. And, the CEO cheerfully gave me the information and told me a little about his company. That definably is not my experience when I walk the San Francisco gift show. Getting contact information is like "pulling teeth"! Of course, even in Atlanta there are some reps that are grouches and I did come across a few. And, I could not believe what another artist experienced when she went into a showroom that displayed her art on their products. She was made to feel very unwelcome because she was not a buyer although she explained that she had created some of the art on their products:(

Hint: For those of you that have a hard time approaching reps and showing your art, I will let you in on a little secret. It is hard AT FIRST but it gets easier the more you do it. I am an introvert and meeting strangers are VERY outside my comfort zone. When I started attending trade shows years ago, I had to force myself to approach a booth. It was agony. And, low-and-behold I found out that usually the reps were really nice. And, I learned not to take it personally when they were not nice. So now after years of practice, when I walk the shows I put on my social hat and actually enjoy meeting and talking to strangers. I am still an introvert and prefer staying in my studio creating art but I have learned that occasionally leaving my studio and meeting other people is not only enjoyable but can be educational.

MORE SHOW IMPRESSIONS
Below are a links to articles by others attending the show.

• Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick "The Atlanta Show January 2014"

• Beth Logan "Atlanta Gift Mart 2014"

• Genevieve Gail "Atlanta Gift Mart Recap"

• Kathy Weller "AmericasMart 2014 trip and Demdaco Yoga Pals"

• Linda McMullan "Report from Atlanta Gift and Home Market" and "More Trends from the Atlanta Gift and Home Market" and "Three Big Lessons from The Atlanta Gift and Home Market"

• M & M / art baking "Atlanta Gift Show January 11, 2014"

• Patti Gay "Atlanta Gift Show"

• Rhoda (consumer) "The Atlanta Mart January Show"

• Stephanie Ryan  "Atlanta Gift Mart Recap Part 1 – Fleur for Magnet Works – Studio M" and "Atlanta Gift Mart Recap Part 2 – Santa Barbara Design Studio"

• Valerie McKeehan "Americas Mart Atlanta Re-Cap January 2014"

• Working Girls Design "2014 Starts off Right - Our Trip to the Atlanta Gift Show!"

SUMMARY
It is expensive to attend the Atlanta Gift Show because of airfare and lodging costs. So, use your time wisely in walking the show to learn as much as you can. Wear comfortable shoes, bring an iPad with your art on it, and a camera or smart phone to take pictures if you have the opportunity. Also do not forget to bring some business cards and postcards with your contact information on them. Pick up literature and magazines from the magazine racks situated near the elevators and escalators on each floor to peruse after the show. You can ask the manufacturer for catalogs but I found that not many will give them to artists because they are saving them for the buyers. Talk to everyone, ask questions and build relationships. And, learn as much as you can so that you have a better understanding about the licensing industry and thus a better chance in licensing your art.

RELATED ARTICLE
Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - trends

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