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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Art Licensing Editorial: January 2018 Atlanta Gift Market Success & Trends

Although attendance at the January 2018 Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishing Market at AmericasMart Atlanta seemed to be down from last year, manufacturer exhibitors that I spoke to were VERY satisfied with sales.  In fact, AmericasMart vice chairman, Jeffrey L. Portman, Sr in the article “AmericasMart January 2018 Market Sees Steady Pace of buying Power and Optimism” stated that "What we’ve seen, heard and experienced over eight days of nonstop buying and selling is unprecedented in recent U.S. wholesale trade history. This show marks the restoration of business confidence and hope for the future.”

It is easy to believe that sales at the Atlanta Show were up because holiday retail purchases were up 4.9% and retailers needed to replenish their merchandize. The article “2017 Holiday Retail Spending Up 4.9%” stated that the 2017 holiday season was the largest year-over-year gain since 2011. No wonder Jeffery Portman in the previous paragraph said that the Atlanta Show had a steady pace of buying power and optimum.  And, this surge in sales is VERY good news for artists that license their art. Not only will artist's licensing revenue increase as the manufactures sell more products but manufacturers will need more art for their products.

Read “2017 Holiday Spending Season to See Strong Growth, Finds ETA and The Strawhecker Group 2017 Holiday Spending Report Card” on the reason for the 2017-spending surge.

• Pantone Color of the Year
Last December Pantone Color Institute announced that Ultra Violet is the 2018 Color of the Year.  Pantone is a color consulting company that chooses a color each year that symbolizes design trends and cultural mood. According to Pantone, "A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.”  Note: Ultra violet color on products at Atlanta was not prominent. But, since the color was just announced it was too early to see if manufacturers will be selecting art with it for their products.  The use of color on products depends upon the art theme and product type. So ultra violet will not be appropriate for all.

• Trends
Atlanta had so many trends at this show that it was hard to keep track of them.  Of course, themes that are consistently good sellers for products were on all kinds of products.  They include flowers, butterflies, pets, seashells, anchors, roosters, pumpkins, fall leaves, turkeys, Santa Claus, snowmen, pinecones, and much more.

The most prevalent theme was words/phrases and quotes on every type of product imaginable.  Vintage campers and trucks were also on a large variety of products.  The lake theme is increasing in popularity as well as honeybees.  The popularity of farm themes is immense. And, flamingos are very popular with the coastal theme.

The newest animal that is replacing the popularity of the fox and hedgehog is the Llama. It was on all sorts of products at Atlanta.  Note: I kind of "scratched my head" on why a South American animal is so popular in the US even though it is very cute. That was until I read on Wikipedia that Llamas are becoming well known In North America since there are now over 158,000 of them living in the US and Canada.  Llamas are used as pack animals in the Rocky Mountain National Park, livestock guards for sheep, and for their wool. Lamas are intelligent and friendly and make good pets IF they are trained not to spit.

Another huge trend is the advent of cactus and succulent on products. With the ease of indoor care and the popularity of bringing the outdoors in, it is not surprising that cactus and succulents are popular.  Figurines of cactus and succulents as well as wall art, rugs, pillows and tabletop were in many Atlanta showrooms.

There was not one trend that seemed to be prevalent in all the showrooms that had Christmas themes except buffalo plaid (see below for the discussion about buffalo plaid).  Some showcased Santa’s, or snowmen, or elves, or reindeer, or moose, etc. icons. The large Christmas themed showrooms had vignettes of a variety of individual icons.

Below are pictures and discussions on the tends of words/phrases/quotes, buffalo plaid, vintage trucks and campers, animal head art, farm, coastal, nautical, and lake/camping themes seen at the Atlanta Show.

– Words/Phrases/Quotes
At the 2017 Atlanta Gift Show, phrases on plaques and other products was featured in numerous showrooms.  And, at this show the phrase only theme (no art) was even more widespread with many new companies exhibiting at Atlanta that sold products with phrases. However, the use of words, phrases and quotes WITH ART was also on every kind of product imaginable as illustrated by all the pictures of manufacturer displays in this article.  Note: I received permission to photograph all the displays shown in this article.

Hand lettering of words, phrases and quotes is very popular. All kinds of commercial fonts including hand lettering are available on the Internet for sale and some are free.  However, even if they are labeled for commercial use that means they can be used in licensing, you should make sure from the seller that they can be legally used in your licensable art.  The term commercial use does not necessarily have the same meaning for everyone.

– Buffalo Plaid
The red and black check plaid has been used for blankets and shirts in the US for over 100 years.   In the late 1800’s, the Scot "Big Jock MacCluskey" introduced the plaid to America.  He bartered his Tartan woven blankets for buffalo pelts from the Sioux and Cheyenne, which they named "buffalo plaid.”  Read "Buffalo Plaid’s 100-year-old Mysteries, Finally Solved” for more information on the history of buffalo plaid.

Since 1916 when mythological lumberjack Paul Bunyan made his movie debut while wearing a buffalo plaid shirt, buffalo plaid became the symbol of America's rough and rugged wildness.  Buffalo plaid is often used as accessories on lodge themed products.

In the last couple of years, the buffalo plaid design has been seen on lots of clothing (men and women) and other products such purses, totes, pillows and of course blankets. Last year the use of buffalo plaid escalated and were on all kinds of Christmas decorations and Christmas themed products including wall art, tabletop, pillows, and towels.

Note:  Although the nickname" buffalo plaid" for the tartan red/black check design was not used at the time, the red/black checked tartan design has been produced for men’s shirts by Woolrich Woolen Mills since approximately 1850.  For more information, read "A brief history of buffalo plaid”.

– Vintage Trucks/Campers
Vintage pickup trucks has been slowly appearing on mostly harvest themed gift products in the last few years. However, recently they popped up on numerous themes besides harvest such as Christmas, Halloween, farm, lake, camping, gardening, and anything outdoors.

Vintage campers also started slowly for lake and camping themes but at Atlanta they were used on products for many other themes.  See the above picture that has fall truck and camper products.

 – Animal Head Art
One of the most prevalent themes seen at Atlanta was animal heads on various products such as mugs, plates, etc.  But it seemed that if an exhibitor had a pillow line the design on the pillows were animal faces.  They consisted of wild animals, woodland animals, horses, farm animals, dogs, and llamas.

– Farm
Vintage farm themes on products were also widespread.  Many of the products had farm sayings on them such as “Farm Fresh” without art and with art.  Chickens, roosters, cows and pigs are the most popular farm theme images.

– Coastal
The coastal theme last year was VERY strong.  It was not this year as nautical and lake themes took over.  Turquoise and coral colors for the coastal theme are still popular. Flamingos are VERY popular but the popularity of mermaids have severely dropped from last year.

There were more nautical themed products than coastal at Atlanta.  Art with anchors seem to be the stable icon for nautical themes.  Blue and red colors on an off-white background were the most prevalent.

– Lake/Camping
Lake and camping theme trends are increasing.  Phrases related to lakes, rowboats and canoes with wooden docks on water and trees in the background are popular for lake themes.   Phrases related to camping, vintage campers, tents, and outdoor cooking are popular for camping themes.

• Related Articles
-  "Art Licensing Editorial - 2017 January Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market Trends / Record-Breaking Attendance

– "Art Licensing Editorial - 2016 January Atlanta Market Trends

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. For example:


  1. Thank You!!! I haven't been in years.This info. will help get on track to creating new artwork!

  2. As always, great trend post, Joan! I love reading things from your experience and perspective as I am not able to attend in person.
    I was also thrilled to see your mention of Woolrich Woolen Mills as I live (and have grown up) not more than 15 minutes away from their original main mills :)

  3. I love the story on Buffalo Plaid's, I have a Buffalo Plaid wool jacket my dad wore as a Boy Scout in the 1920's and one that I acquired a few years ago and they are really nice to wear, warm and cozy.

  4. Thank you so much for this information! I am a total newbie when it comes to art licensing and really understanding trends and how to translate them to my style. Your site has been very helpful in pointing me in the right direction. Also, your work is so good and I’m sure I’ve seen your work on products! Very cool!

  5. Joan, as an artist & potential licenser (my goal), I was thrilled to find your blog & have spent some hours already reading your very informative articles,...thank you, very appreciated!
    Although I had one problem that came up when I was following a contact on your blog about Finding Art Lawyers. The "button" said something about the site not being available. But since that page offered to let me search, after a few tries; I found that the article was under "HOW TO CHOOSE AN ART LAWYER" at
    I hope that helps your other blog members, Mr Kaufmann's articles are amazingly detailed & so knowledgeable too! What a wealth of information he very generously provides,...WOW!

    1. Thanks Lou! The article is old and was written in 2009 so the link to his site must have been changed. I updated the link to the correct one that you posted above.

  6. Joan, I think your site is great and a plethora of wonderful information! I wasn't able to make it to the show, so this is so helpful-- thank you!!!

  7. Thank you Joan. As usual the information you give us is welcome and very much appreciated. Just a note most of the companies shown above in the photos only use inhouse artist. I called each one. They are not happy to be called.

    1. Hi Judy,
      I’m glad that you like my articles. I’m sorry that you thought all the products shown in the article were from manufacturers that license art. My intention in the article was to show what art themes are trending and not what manufacturers license art. I estimate that less than a quarter of the manufacturers that exhibit at Atlanta license art. The rest either do not use art on their products or purchase art outright or have in-house designers. I’ll have to remember to mention that when I write future articles.

    2. Hi Joan, Thanks for the update. I appreciate all your efforts to help us understand this tough business. Also, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

  8. Hi Joan,
    I am confused about follow-ups. All the bloggers I have read write that you should follow-up with companies after submitting. One wrote to keep submitting the same pics if you haven't heard after 2 weeks. The companies post that they don't want follow-ups or phone calls and that they will get back to you IF they want the art. Buffalo Games writes in their art submission form that they will let you know in 2 weeks. It has been 4: nothing. So do we follow up and risk annoying them???? Thanks for any wisdom.

    1. Hi Judy,
      Follow-ups are very important in licensing art. But in my opinion, it makes a difference on whether to do a follow-up when I submit art that wasn’t requested by the manufacturer or if they requested the art that they saw on my website or I showed them at a trade show. When I do a “cold” art submission I don’t do a follow-up with the "same art” especially if they specify on their site that they will get back to you within a certain time IF they are interested. If you don’t hear back, assume that they aren’t. Manufacturers get hundreds of submissions and a constant submission of the same art could irritate the art director so much that you could be banned from ever licensing to that manufacturer. Instead, do a follow-up by submitting different art but only if it fits their product line(s). On the other hand, if a manufacturer requested my art and I don’t hear back, then I absolutely do follow-up. Good Luck! Joan