Atlanta Gift Show Jan 2015Do we need another blog post about Atlanta?  Not sure as there have been many but I’ll throw out a few impressions of my own as well.  I feel a little late to the conversation but it’s been a juggling act in my studio – follow up from the show and enjoying my son’s last few days home before heading back to college took precedence.

Since several of the links I’m adding to this post have great discussions about traffic and trends, I’m going to go a little different route.  Let’s talk about what it takes as an artist to survive going to the Atlanta Gift Show.

I say “survive” because sometimes, that’s what it felt like.  I’ll be very honest and transparent – it’s a roller coaster of emotion.  With so many showrooms, products to look at, elevators and escalators and walkways to navigate, it can get overwhelming.  There are times when you may question your relevance – “Who is going to buy all this stuff and with all this amazing art I’m seeing, why would an art director choose mine?”  Every artist may not battle these demons but I can assure you, I had enough conversations to know that I am not alone in this self-doubt creeping in and testing my resolve from time to time during this show.

There is visual overload – where you walk down a hallway, looking right, left, forward and back only to realize it was all a blur and you have to do it again.  The January show is usually a great place to see new trends for color, theme or style.  The consensus seems to be that there were no big stand-outs like in years past.  Chalkboard look is waning, woodland creatures still seem pretty strong.  Christmas is traditional, etc.

I was talking to a few art directors and agents about the quantity and quality of art coming from artists.  From our end as artists, it seems crazy competitive. If you look at the number of people talking about art licensing on social media, you might reconsider even giving it a shot and go take a class in real estate or medical transcription.

Is there more competition than 5 or 10 years ago?  Absolutely.  The internet shines a light and awareness on what is possible, not only in art licensing but almost every other industry out there.  Most feel there is enough to meet their needs – few are feeling like they can’t find what they want.  But they also mention finding a lot that simply isn’t applicable or “good enough” for their products.  (“Good enough” – don’t you love that one??)  While I believe there is a place for everyone’s creativity, art licensing isn’t the place for everyone.  As one person put it, “you and others do a great job teaching how the business works, how to put together a collection, etc. but if the art just isn’t what I need, that doesn’t matter.”

That is a great reminder that the ART – the suitability as far as theme, style, technique etc – is paramount for success in art licensing.

Another observation was that many artists are so hungry for a deal that they are all doing the same thing.  Many artists showing the same style and theme  – “artists need to bring their own unique spin to the market and see if it will work”.  Don’t be a “me too” thinking that will get you in the door.

A few people expressed some frustration with artists not following submission guidelines or not researching the company to know if they are a potential fit.  “With all the information about how to submit, when an artist emails me and says ‘I have great work, will you look at my website and let me know what you think?’ I want to pound my head against my desk.” It is OUR JOB to show them what we have that is appropriate for them, and then they might want to go to our websites.

Finally, I even heard a few horror stories of artists getting really rude via email if they felt they weren’t getting feedback quickly enough or they didn’t like the feedback.  This isn’t a big industry and that is a dangerous way to burn more bridges than you realize… you would be amazed at how connected people are.

So in summary – I had my ups and downs and pangs of self-doubt that I got to work through on escalators and at night. I had some great meetings, a ton of follow up and lots of potential.  But these shows are usually just that – you leave with potential and then it is your job to turn that into business.  If anyone ever really feels there isn’t room for more than a handful of artists to get licensing deals, they have but to walk the Atlanta Gift Show.  I think it takes an army of creative minds, factories and sales people to create the myriad of products that will be hitting stores in the coming months!

Fingers crossed the follow up is fruitful and here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Atlanta Gift Show - Tara Reed Designs -Jan 2015

Here are some other blog posts to read – a variety of perspectives, pictures and impressions from some artists and agents that I stumbled across:

Joan Beiriger >

Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios >

Alex Colombo >

Caroline Simas >

Sagebrush Fine Art licensing >

art licensing agency >