Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Surtex Art Licensing Show Review

This week Archival Arts is  very pleased to feature artist and guest blogger  Clara Nilles
who often visits our shop with her colorful acrylic paintings for scanning and printing. Clara took a trip to New York City to scout the art licensing show called Surtex, held once a year at the Jacob Javits Center. Here is what she has to say about her expedition to the big apple.

SURTEX, labeled  the largest original art and design art licensing show on the East Coast, was a “not to miss” show for me. For those who are new to SURTEX, this is the industry trade show that brings together all participants in the constantly changing marketplace of art licensing. The show featured artists, designers, studios, art agents, licensing companies, publishing companies, textile companies, manufacturers, and other trade professionals from around the globe.  China, Great Britain, Australia and Germany are among a few that stand out in my memory. The booths featured everything from the latest emerging surface designs, to new color trends, pattern designs and styles. Additional highlights included: innovations in new product development, especially paper products; textures on surfaces; and new trends in gift ware, home furnishings, and wall décor markets.
For me attending the Surtex show was just a learning experience where I could gather and absorb the incredible amount of imagery, artwork and eye catching displays. Incredibly, most of the work presented is slated for the consumer marketplace within approximately 12 to 24 months.  It’s almost a fortune telling business, predicting what demand will be for art in the years ahead...trying to guess what design will look best on greeting cards, shower curtains, or pillows.
There’s also a distinct…..what I call “Lemming Effect” in the industry. That is when a new theme or influence seems to catch on and is profusely copied, becoming all the rage of the industry. This behavior applies to subject matter, patterns, colors, and themes. These designs, often referred to by licensing companies, as “fresh and appealing” art, are not necessarily new or innovative. I would venture to say that they are more tried and true designs that sell well. A good example would be the “Sugar and Spice” sassy, girly style imagery appearing throughout the stationery industry.  This leads to the questions; Are the industries really open to new interesting designs, especially during recession and hard retail markets? Or  do they stick with the safe, well-tested artistic styles that sell in volume?

Nevertheless, there were plenty of interesting design developments and key trends in the artwork that I observed at the show including:
-Color is big. Bright, vibrant color combinations particularly complementary colors, bold colors in reds, oranges, yellows, and purples are popular, often with children’s items. Soft muted earthy colors are extremely prevalent. I saw numerous designs with woodland tones in browns, burgundies, and sage greens. Exotic colors in greens and turquoise blues were especially popular with patterns.
-Traditional subject matter still matters. Always a staple for art licensing…..traditional images of holidays and Christmas were everywhere. Santa Claus, snowmen, and Christmas Trees are in demand.
-Classic imagery including still life, animals, and landscapes showed up on house ware, paper goods, and wall décor.
-Vintage and retro images are all the rage. Pinup posters, beach boardwalk, and British imagery seemed very popular with surface designers.
-Patterns are going exotic. There seem to be a strong shift to exotic batik, Turkish, Asian inspired type designs. Floral paisley patterns in exotic muted colors were seen on many items.
-Typography is surprisingly important. Creativity with typography seemed almost as important as the art. I would say that creative typography was reflected in at least 50% of the artwork at the show. From children’s artwork to vintage photography, words, text, and letters were everywhere.
-Photography is big. I did not expect to see so much photography on surface designs. Photography on canvas seemed extremely popular. With advances in digital transfer, photography is now bright and bold on some real interesting surfaces such as candles, plastic bottles, and metal tools.

For those of you who missed SURTEX, no worries, the next big art licensing event, the Licensing International Art Expo, is in Las Vegas, from June 14-16, 2011). So get inspired and maybe I’ll see you there!

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