Reports on shows, trends, and more
The Atlanta Gift Show & Christmasworld-Paperworld
Trends change and travel quickly.
by Judy Westegaard and Ellis Joos (February 20, 2006)
The Atlanta Gift Show. (Judy Westegaard)
AmericasMart in Atlanta is the premiere giftware showcase for
savvy retailers. Design innovations abound in three buildings with
20 floors of permanent and temporary showrooms totaling 3.5 million
square feet. The Mart is full of wonderment, a killer on the feet
but a feast for the eyes. Let me share a few of the noteworthy
trends, designs and colors that intrigued me. (Iíll be the first
to admit that a few things just bore me, too.)
Please Touch: Texture is by far the most important design
trend that continues to evolve. Each and every surface and product
begged to be touched. Surface textures include earthen elements of
gritty concrete mixed with smooth matte glazes, broken gold &
bronze leafing and as accents on larger products, distressing, worn
bark and rusty touches. Peeling and aged-paint finishes remain
strong and popular on everything from hand-crafted wood and resin to
large furniture pieces. Collage and scrapbooking looks are found on
photo albums, frames, boxes, and even in fabric design Ė all
saying "please touch."
Signs, Signs, Everywhere You Go: Everyoneís got a message
to send and giftware to spread those messages are abundant. Signs
concocted from old bead board and wood are hand lettered and appear
to be hand made. Layered wording as well as layered surfaces is
predominate. Sentiments and declarations can be found embroidered on
soft goods and wearables or added to every imaginable item for home
dec. "Attitude and gratitude" statements can be found on
metal figurines, tabletop accessories, paper products, and home dec.
This trend isnít going away soon. Slap a message on something and
someone will buy it.
Head to the Mountains or Go West: Just when I think itís
gone, the lodge or western look just keeps going and going. It seems
to be reinventing itself with infusions from the past (and a little
bit from the Silver Screen). Cowboys are hot. Think Roy Rogers,
Heath Ledger, Gene Autry, branding irons and tooled leather Ė then
twist it into a funky retro look. The "Dick Idol" look of
peeled log furniture with Native blankets, hand-forged iron, and
lots of textured leather is relaxed but gives an air of upscale,
simple elegance. Itís referred to as High Country Lodge.
Textured metal finishes are simple but an extremely important
design element. The influence of vintage pottery colors and finishes
from Roseville or Rookwood pottery finds its way onto unexpected
surfaces like metal, glass, and fabric. This Mission style
influences the old west look with a nearly contemporary feeling.
Western motifs are found in every area of the marketplace including
paper goods, linens, dinnerware, seasonal and baby goods. Many of
the motifs have clean, simple lines and retro-Cowboy from the 50ís
as well, especially in dinnerware, home dec, and Christmas
merchandise. Western stars are found in a variety of sizes. Baby
Cowboy is strong in childrenís lines, too. Look to see lots of
Cowboy Christmas for 2006.
Luxury for Everyone: Luxury. Every person wants it and every
consumer can buy it at any price point. Whether you spend big
dollars or chump change, the look is lavish, rich, and dripping with
embellishment. It says "wealth." Hand painted home dec
looks high end but can be found for those on a budget. In soft
goods, hand painting appears in pillows, window shades, and
The painting motifs on pillows are drop-dead, old-world
masterpieces; leisurely landscapes; and daring-Degas and museum
look-a-likes. Fine artwork is painted on canvas or silk and
constructed with a combination of rich, multi-textured fabrics,
luxuriant trims, fringe, beading, and feathers. Many items featured
a combination of seven or more fabrics. Palettes ranged from pastel
to dark and rich. The predominant color scheme was a warm, buttery
gold mixed with a rich amber/bronze. Umber toned-greens and
terra-cotta toned pumpkin were a close second in popularity. Small
touches of cobalt blue and aubergine were also used as accents with
these color schemes.
Fun, Fabulous Christmas: Anything goes for Christmas motifs,
from fresh and funky to fabulous and fancy, vintage reproductions,
Coastal Christmas & Cowboy Christmas. The latter two themes are
extremely visible throughout the marketplace. Green is THE color:
lime, acid, sage, depression, spruce and ivy. Holiday reds are both
bright and bold or a claret tone (a strong but blue-ish red). Bold
reds were prevalent with lime and acid green in contemporary and
funky decor as well. Simple geometric patterns like paper-punch
sized dots, straight and curvy stripes, and whirls of twirly swirls
are repeated time and again.
Bronze and amber colors evoke an elegant Christmas when used with
rich metallic tones. Grape-toned purples were paired with sage green
and lime green. An old world, blue-toned red was complimented with
blue spruce green and accented with pale, warm metallic gold. Forest
green was NOT to be found in any significant way. Timeworn, vintage
ivory colors straight from your Grandmotherís attic were more
important in every category except in "funk" where white
simply canít be ignored as the neutral of choice.
Funky and retro Christmas ranges from fun to wacky. Every type of
metallic color can be found for the holidays, but eye-popping
"Dr. Seuss" colors reign supreme: lime, purple, pumpkin,
fire-engine red, and yes, even black! Metallic golds from the palest
pale to a bronzeĖtoned gold and sage and limey-toned metallics are
very popular for the more luxurious looks. Silvers are teamed with
neutral ivories and whites, but werenít as important as in the
past. Nickel tones appear on many vintage and retro gift lines that
continue to be touched with a bit of iced glitter. Dept. 56 still
leads the parade with its wonderfully wacky Krinkle line
designed by Patience Brewster. I noted a lot of Krinkle
wannabe products in the marketplace with skinny legs, wacky shoes,
with too much glitter, and marabou feathers stuck on everything.
Texture and shape seem to be emerging as stronger elements in
holiday. Glitz and reflective elements cover everything. Dr.
Seuss-like repeating S-shapeís were found in funky Christmas trees
and in elegant floral bouquets. Trees twist, rotate, and twirl at
the top. Stars of every shape, combination, and size are stacked and
tucked everywhere and in every level of importance from a main
design to a cut-out shape.
Vintage postcards influence Santa Claus, snowmen, angels and
every conceivable holiday character. These folks appear to have
stepped right out of a turn-of-the-century post card in color,
texture, and line. Santa figures have grown-up and are less cutesy.
Many lines remind me of 19th century German Santas and snowmen.
Santa dolls donít stand alone. They include scenarios with
supportive elements of trees, deer and other wildlife, sleighs,
toys, wagons, cars, fire trucks, elves, snowmen, cuisine-related
items, wine bottles, and martini glasses. Santaís costume ranges
from traditional to ornately embellished.
The knitting phenomenon even shows up with Santa dressed head to
toe in hand knitted clothing. Thereís a Santa to coordinate with
every style of elaborate Christmas decor. Heaven forbid if the Jolly
Old Man doesnít match your living room!
Tradition turns on its heels with florals, fruit, and topiaries
that are anything but traditional. Flowers are large and combined in
unusual ways: white lilies and amaryllis with red apples,
artichokes, ivy and mistletoe; pomegranates with hydrangeas, small
berries, and long needled pine branches; stacked rings of roses
wrapped around a pine tree base; and large poinsettia topiaries in
velvety rich reds with citron green pears. Did I say pears, pears
and more pears? They are aged, iced, blushed, bruised, and
The Reason for the Season: Religious-themed merchandise is
found in subtle and simple designs. Spiritual sentiments are found
layered behind central motifs, featured as borders and woven into
tapestries. Figurines are streamlined as well as countrified,
gentle, and endearing. Nativities show up in unique textures and
shapes. I feel that "Christ"mas category will grow
Wings & Whimsy: Fairies, elves, jesters, leprechauns,
little people and whimsical creatures have come out of hiding. They
are featured in every gift category. Theyíre elaborately detailed
and endearing. Cute doesnít fit. Iíd call them charming. Many
are ethereal, European characters, and others are just plain
fanciful and frivolous. Details are extremely important as are the
stories that accompany so many of the characters. Fanciful creatures
bring out the kid in all of us. Fantasy is becoming mainstream.
HalloWEEEEEEEEn: Iím glad to see the "WEEEE" back
in Halloween. I gravitate toward all things fun, not scary. Vintage
Halloween is at the top of my list of favorite things. The
interpretations I appreciate are in paper-mache figures,
reproduction candy containers, funky gourd and veggie people, and
primitive folk art. There are lots of silhouettes, harvest moons,
spooks, crows, bats and cats. Pumpkin and veggie people are quaint
and curious little folk. Faces are sweet, silly and just a wee bit
scary, depression-era retro. Realistic pumpkins and gourds are
available in creamy ivory, bittersweet orange, terra cotta, and
dusky greens. Gory, frightening products are still out there, just
donít ask me about themÖ. EEEEK!
Zen, Spa & Blah: Combine a single motif on a large
negative space, throw in a few rocks, beads, a twig or two plus a
fragrance candle, a new age cd Ė oh no, please! Wake me up when
this is over. To say Iím bored with this category is an
understatement. How much serenity can one person take? Certainly
there is a large market for these items but nothing is new or
exciting. Maybe my aura just need cleansing.
Bow WOW & Meow: Everyone loves their pet and there is a
product for every pet. Doggie designs hold a slight lead over cats,
but you can even find a little luxurious lovely for your lizard.
Pampered pet products involve whimsy, but pets invade all areas of
design such as upholstered furniture, framed prints, and tabletop
items. This trend wonít die out soon.
How the Garden Grows: The Garden category is glorious, green,
and growing. Itís cute, quaint, elegant, countrified, antiquated
and ancient. I only noted a few hand-painted items Ė an entire
booth of Donna Dewberry-esque mailboxes and stepping stones that
were well executed. Colorful cottage chairs featured cut-out motifs
of palm trees, beach scenes, flowers, and more. Copper seems to be
the metal of choice. Copper products are larger in scale and more
contemporary. Fused glass is important as well, and it is
incorporated in items from bird baths to fountains to wind chimes.
Old continues to be new. I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a
fence that appeared to be excavated from an ancient ruin. Simple
iron rails were graced by evenly spaced stone pillars topped with
sculpted Grecian busts. Garden will continue to be a gracious and
inviting theme for indoors and outdoors.
Remember This: Memories are much more than scrapbooking.
Designers keep creating products that tug at our heartstrings.
Whether itís a picture frame, fabric, throw, candle, or framed
print, the consumer wants a reminder of a special person or event in
their life. Motifs about memory are important design elements
inspired by scrapbooks that people create with pictures,
memorabilia, and souvenirs. Travel items such as old maps, luggage
labels, postcards, stamps, postmarks and sepia- toned photos are
also important design elements in the memory category.
Personalization continues to be very strong as well.
A Day at the Beach: Itís a whole lot more than sand and
seashells. Motifs include sea creatures, coral, fish and shellfish,
fishnets, the ever-present lighthouse, buoys, and boats. Every
tabletop line worth its sea salt has an ensemble of dinnerware and
this trend has spilled into linens, party goods, paper, gifts, and
especially Christmas. Coastal Christmas is colored with bleached
shades of sea green, beach glass blue and subtle sand. Touches of
faded purple, shell pink and rich brown are accented with pearlized
glitz. Get out your sand bucket and shovel and put them under the
Christmas tree! I observed a lot of beach-clothing-related motifs.
Swimsuit shapes are becoming fun elements just like weíve seen
with the flip-flop sandal the past few seasons.
Country, Folk Art & Primitives: Whoever said Country was
dead as a decor style is simply wrong. Country has come a long way,
baby, and it is alive and thriving. Whatís changed is the look and
the line of design. Thereís less clutter, itís cleaner and itís
older. In fact, itís so old, itís primitive. Folk art looks are
hot, hot, hot.
By Any Other Name, Itís Still Old: Retro, vintage, antique,
shabby, timeless, or timeworn Ė itís all about age. Retro is a
funkier twist of 1950ís with lots of kitsch and geometric designs.
Think concentric circles and round edged rectangles. Mix rich Cocoa
Brown with Pink, Turquoise or Lavender. Throw in some Mellow
Banana Yellow, Cherry Red, Faded Blue and Jade-ite Green, and lots
of toned pastel, too. Think about a Wonder Bread wrapper and the
colors of a vintage tablecloth. Shabby decor seems to be a bit more
elegant. White remains the color of choice for furnishings, but more
colors like pale shades of pink, coral, lavender, periwinkle, and
soft green are apparent in accessories. Thereís lots of romance
going on here as well with a bit of glitz, fringes, beads, and
feathers. I think Retro and Shabby will continue to evolve, but the
color palette will change slightly to give it a new "old"
feel. Lavender paired with Cocoa Brown will replace the
Turquoise/Brown combo that is so evident right now.
Is There Anything New? Ė I saw lots of things I liked but I
honestly canít say I saw any refreshing new trends that hadnít
been seen already. Re-invention is the name of the game. What is
apparent to me is that clean lines are very popular with the 20- and
30-year- old buyer; think square instead of rectangular shapes,
think circles instead of ovals. New color combos and textures will
be very important in design. Line is also emerging as a stronger
design element with details being less important than line.
(Note: Judy is an accomplished painter, a member of the
board of the Society of Decorative Painters, and works for a company
which licenses artists' work. She can be reached at 605-371-4262 and
Christmasworld-Paperworld (Ellie Joos)
It is clear that any lag time between fashion trends influencing
those in home dec has practically disappeared. The range of blues,
greens, reds and pinks, and golds emerging in fashion are strong in
decorative accessories for the home, as are black and white, or
black and off white. The orange of last year has become more of a
burnt orange or bronze and also mixes with red and fuschia.
A great example of this was the gorgeous displays in the Pattberg
booth, parent company of Morex Corp., which combed fuschia/raspberry
with red and burnt orange in ribbons for floral arrangements and
Another important color story is the combination of brown and
teal. Black and white for Christmas looked very modern and combined
beautifully with silver, beads, and crystals. The
handcrafted-handmade look that has been all the rage in fashion
continues to grow in the look of pre-made greeting cards. Natural
elements as well as technology are making a statement. Animal
prints, dots, stripes, ethnic and folkloric, flora and fauna, can
appear in fabrics for the body and home or paper for gifts and
wrappings. Felt for crafts and finished products is bigger than last
year, with the newest looks having been influenced by the lace and
In the Creativity section of this show, EK Success
reported having a great show, and is seeing the interest growing
from all of the tools of last year to now include accessories,
embellishments and coordinating paper programs.
In the brochure for the show, the trends were described as
"Craft activities are now hip and modern. They underscore the
personality of the individual. They offer variety and creativity and
make demands on all the senses. With this development you can now
open up the theme of art and crafts to new target groups as well as
to the traditional consumers in this sector."
In reading this, I immediately thought of how this also describes
the craft movement in this country and why craft details have been
so prevalent in the fashion industry.
Trends. Graphic dynamic: young, sporty, black and white with
bright colors, bold motifs ... Natural power: natural, hand crafted,
textures and colors from nature, wood, leaves, branches ... Romantic
Dreams: pretty soft pastels, embellishments, Asian motifs, flowers,
porcelain ... Modern White: clean, modern, shades of white, modern
(Note: Ellie is president of Ellie Joos & Associates,
a marketing, pr, and product development firm. To contact Ellie call
908-459-9269 or email email@example.com.
To read previous Scene & Heard columns, click on the titles in
the right-hand column.