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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.

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".

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.

• 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"

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!

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).


  1. Thanks so much for providing this information - for those who cannot attend these shows this is fabulous intel

  2. Thank you for these helpful insights and overview of evergreen and emerging trends. It seems the most successful products are those which tell a familiar story in a new and enticing way.

  3. HOW do you stay focus with so much visual on the floor?

  4. Have a list of manufacturer showrooms I want to visit and continue revising the list; take lots and lots and lots of breaks; and write down lots of notes!