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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 cornices.

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 beautiful.

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 substantially.

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 jkwestegaard@aol.com.)

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 table decor.

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 eyelet trend.

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 art.

(Note: Ellie is president of Ellie Joos & Associates, a marketing, pr, and product development firm. To contact Ellie call 908-459-9269 or email eleapple@hotmail.com. To read previous Scene & Heard columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column.



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