After Surtex there were about three weeks to do the show follow-thru, get ourselves organized and think about new artwork. Most of our current clients are in the papergoods market, i.e. paper tableware, stationery, shopping bags and greeting cards. We have a few clients in the home decor area like Evergreen, Burton and Burton and Robert Kaufman (fabrics).
At one of our meetings after the show we decided that we wanted to expand into the gift and home decor market. There are several reasons why. One is to increase our client base. Two, to develop products in a new market area. And three, to stretch the inspiration for our creativity. New markets equals new ideas. And did I mention to increase income?
So, we decided that I should go to the big Atlanta July Gift show to scout out new companies.
In order to do this I researched companies that we had visited in Atlanta in January 2012. Then I spent my mornings for three weeks making phone calls to set up appointments for the show. I was in a happy creative frenzy creating new designs. I was warming up to do a loose fun watercolor style that was different than the way I had been working. I always forget that there is a learning curve with watercolor whenever you try a new style.
I got impatient and frustrated. It just wasn’t working out. I knew what I wanted to do but it wasn’t happening as fast as I would have liked. You cannot rush or force watercolor to do what you want. It’s a watery flowing medium and unless you flow with it nothing works.
Dennis, on the other hand, is a steady worker. He gets his ideas and creative direction as he progresses on with a design. He knows that this is his process. I typically keep losing sight of my process. That’s my Aries nature. Always forgetting and running headfirst into that same wall. Experience and maturity have tempered it a bit. Whew!
The night before leaving I laid out my clothes for the trip, worked on a painting, and played with Maggie, our cat. I fell asleep around 2 am and got up at 5.
Bye bye Bus stop Cafe
Said goodbye to Dennis, the kitties and Greenwich Village.
I love getting to the airport early enough to have time to stay relaxed about the check-in time. Shoes off, get patted down, explain away suspicious items like a nail file. The bonus is that I can browse the stores, read a paper and have my coffee and bagel before it is boarding time.
One Artist Aloft
Ah, finally on the plane. Cramped, no leg room, but nice people to chat with and my iPad to keep me amused.
My home away from home
I was lucky to get a reservation at the Days Inn. Everything else downtown was booked. I’ll give you a few tips about booking and when to do it in the next couple of posts. Stay tuned! The nicest surprise was finding that I was just down the hill from the Gift Mart.
Too tired to walk up the hill to the show Thursday afternoon I spent the time between naps strolling downtown Atlanta. It was a nice surprise to find that it was a pretty little city and not just a downtown business district.
Bridges everywhere connecting the three huge buildings
Friday morning I got up early and after a full breakfast (the kind I like) I headed up the hill with the crowds (mostly women buyers) to America’s Mart. The Mart is actually three 18-story buildings with connecting bridges on different levels. For those who are not familiar with this show it’s main purpose is for the manufacturers to take orders from the retailers who walk the show and shop for their own gift shops.
It takes a bit of navigating and sometimes you just go in circles and get frustrated and feel like yelling “Let me Out of Here!”
Building 1 consists of showrooms for manufacturers of bedding, rugs, furniture, lighting and more. More broadly it houses the home decor showrooms. Building 2 and its new wing 2W is where I spent most of my time. This is the Gift building and houses companies like the ones I will be featuring in my next two posts such as Enesco, Manual Woodworkers, Burton and Burton, Transpac, C & F and Evergreen Enterprises.
There are also are two sections that are fun and inspirational to walk through. They are the”Living Outdoor/Indoor Gardens (garden statues, furniture, art fountains, flags and wonderful food). The new Gourmet Food Section, in building 2 has cooking demos, books, kitchen products and food tastings. Yum! I made it to the Garden section and walked through with Lucinda who I’ll introduce a little further on.
And then there is building 3. I’d have to stay an extra day to walk through some of the showrooms there, but it would be such a treat. Building 3 houses The Fashion Accessories and fine Jewelry Showrooms. It is known as the Apparel Mart. And some of the showrooms let you shop at wholesale price. Bring your credit card!
Friends at the Show
Chris Peterson and Peter Spader (Chris in the middle and Peter on the right) were my art reps for around 9 years. Their agency is called C.P. Licensing
, and they have been in this business for more than 20 years. About 10 years ago, Dennis and I branched off to be on our own. We’ve all remained friends. Chris and Peter and I met up for lunch each day and had a fun dinner, Margaritas and all, one evening. I learned a lot from them when they were our reps. It was great to do some of the show with them and continue to learn. They are both generous in sharing of themselves and their vast knowledge from years of being Licensing artist Agents. It is very important from my experience to spend a few years at least going it on your own before you sign up with a rep for a number of reasons. More on this also in the next several posts.
, a friend and talented designer, walked some of the show with me. I wanted to show her how I would approach potential customers in their showrooms.
- Yes I was really there.
Chris finally insisted on taking a photo of me just to prove to my readers that I was really at the Show. Well I was folks and I loved every minute of it.
My traditional welcome back home
I guess Roosevelt Bear missed me!
In the posts that follow this I will talk about the nuts and bolts of making calls for appointments. It’s important too to make calls for catching up on both personal and business stuff and finding out what a company is looking for and what is the time period to submit these designs. Then you need to organize all this information so it works for you! More on that in the next few posts. The calls and appointments are an important part of what you need to do when you want to start expanding into a new part of the licensing market. Or, to start out in the business.
I’ll also take you on a virtual tour of three large showrooms and walk you through a “Meeting”. For now I’ll tell you one very important thing I have learned: Networking is one of the most essential things you can do. And it’s fun and sociable. Keeps you out of the kind of trouble that can come if you become too isolated. And that trouble can be both personal and professional. I didn’t always like doing it, but the more you do the more comfortable you feel. You can make friends along the way with people you work with.
More to come about the Atlanta Show. Keep tuned and please send me your questions and comments.