January 30, 2012

Atlanta Gift Show 3: Neighbors from Sea to Shining Sea

Posted by Cathy Heck


Before we leave our Atlanta Trade Show news, we want to give a shout out to our neighbors from the License and Design showroom … or at least the new friends who we were able to catch with the camera when they were weren’t in the middle of cutting big new licensing deals. As you can see, we were surrounded by artists from all over the U.S. and it was so much fun to share tips and tricks of the trade, as well as after-show restaurant suggestions.
First, hello to Amanda Murphy in North Carolina, from whom we learned all kinds of quilting tricks. She is definitely an expert as you can see from the beautiful piece hanging behind her, created from her collection, Veranda, produced by Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Amanda’s artistic skills are exceeded only by her enormous amount of energy and excitement for the business of licensing art.
Across the aisle, we loved getting to know the team from Jewel Branding. Julie Newman and Tiffany Cullinan represent a group of talented artists, many of whom we met as they came by between meetings. Since Jewel is based in Atlanta, we also procured guidance for restaurants to try. We were looking forward to real southern fried chicken from South City Kitchen to top off our stay in the South … but, sadly, our booth took too long to dismantle. We’re still dreaming about it, though.
As you can see in the artwork behind Michael Rhoda, it’s just fun to be standing near his booth. As both writer and illustrator for his funny images, Michael’s work can be found on greeting cards and gift products and Michael can be found in beautiful Colorado. Greetings to the Rocky Mountains from the Texas Hill Country, where we have learned that our mountain is really only a hill.
Connie Hayley’s studio is only a hop, skip and a jump from ours … well, in Texas miles. Connie, who was joined by Ashley Winn, works from East Texas. It was so much fun to find fellow artists from our neck of the woods. Connie is known for her eclectic arrangements of textures and patterns often combined with words of comfort and inspiration. So if you are needing to spread a little love, you can buy some of her products here and here.
Lucinda Wei, a graphic designer by training, has experience in branding and logo design, which is evident in the simple, clean and elegant artwork that she creates for licensing. Lucinda, now working from New York, is as lovely as the artwork she displayed in Atlanta.
And the winner for ‘neighbor who traveled the most miles to reach the Atlanta show” is Karen Bumgarner of Creative K Designs from Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Karen creates unique hand-made sculpture of horses and dogs, and sells them throughout the United States. Karen is an animal lover and it is evident by the care she puts into each individual piece. (However, we might need to travel to her studio in Hawaii to fully understand her process!)
We hope you have enjoyed meeting a few of the many creative groups that participated in the License and Design section of AmericasMart. Although we enjoyed reconnecting with our clients and meeting new ones, the moments we spent sharing stories with our artist neighbors were highlights of our trade show fun. So until next time, happy drawing from sea to shining sea.

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January 27, 2012

Atlanta Gift Show 2: A Mini Trend Report

Posted by Cathy Heck

“Did you see any new trends?” This is the question that everyone asks after a trade show. Although retailers are deciding which trends are right for their customers in 2012, we, as designers, are working on products that will come out in 2013 and beyond. So, we are watching for inklings of new trends that are on their way in. For example, lately, we have been seeing sea turtles pop up here and there … not that they are necessarily going to be the next owl, but, keep an eye out for the sea turtle … it could be this humble creature’s time in the sun!

So here is my official mini trend report following the Atlanta Gift Show. It is based on the scientific observations made from the aisles that were on the journey between my booth and the really good barbeque stand in the AmericasMart food court.


Robots could be seen on kids products from t-shirts to toys. Some had a 50’s atomic feel, while others were made of repurposed household items. Either way, they were fun and hip. (And, I’m not mentioning this must-have trend just because we happen to have a very cute robot collection of our own … you can see that Gift Shop Magazine noticed it here.)


Although it’s all about a deep ultramarine blue, it has to be matched with lots of white to keep it fresh and crisp. The rich blues are often paired with provençal patterns or woodblock prints. Crisp and cool, it should make you think that you are vacationing on an island in Hawaii with a tall, fruity drink in your hand as you watch the sea turtles float by (see how sea turtles keep showing up … sign of an upcoming trend!)


Handmade is everywhere. It’s pretty, it’s sweet, but mostly you can feel the love of someone creating it just for you. (You can feel the sales, too.) This is cottage industry on steroids.


If one could have gathered all the tweets in Atlanta, they very likely said, Live, Love, Laugh, Dream, and You can Do it! … on gifts, furniture, accessories, journals, cards, jewelry, and more. This trend is perfect for the customer who is inspired by movies like Hoosiers, Something the Lord Made, The Bucket List and, of course, The Notebook … oh, that’s me! So, after this post, I’ll be running off to dream big, just do it, and hug on my babies.



Nautical has been grabbing the spotlight for awhile, and it was still going strong in Atlanta. Sailboats, shells, fish and whales … all things sea, matey. Due to the fact that I was not exposed to a lot of these icons growing up in the desert of West Texas, I had to do a bit of research. I am almost certain that the nautical flags above spell B-U-Y M-E N-O-W. (And, look there, here comes that sea turtle again!


Knock. Knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you gonna include orange in your 2012 retail mix? Because it is the color. Everywhere. And, not just Tangerine Tango, the Pantone Color of the Year, but every orange in the grove. There were so many shades of orange that you couldn’t go wrong with your orange selection: Tangerine, Tangelo, Clementine … go for the Vitamin C–you know it’s good for you.


Pull out your apron and bake yourself a cake. It’s 1956 in 2012! It’s not a super new trend but one with long legs … like comfort food that never goes out of style. We saw lots of retro fun all around, usually in a slightly brighter palette than the original one of the fifties. But hey, we have color television now! It’s I Love Lucy in HD.

So those are seven of the trends that were popping up in the aisles of the Atlanta show. And, there were many other emerging trends I haven’t even touched on … equestrian, bees, whales, geometric, lots o’ color, neutral color, no color … but I’m going to save those for another post, so that I can get to work on my new collection … SeaTurtles Swimming in Orange Crush.

P.S. For those of you who would like to hear some trend reports from people who were able to observe more aisles than the one I traveled when heading to the food court, here are a few. One of my favorite hours at the show, was the one I spent listening to the energetic (and very pretty) Christiane Lemieux of Dwell Studio describing upcoming trends in the juvenile market. She mentioned that Apartment Therapy might be posting her trend reports, so watch for those there. Also, you might check out these Atlanta Trend updates by Gifts & Decorative Accessories here and here. After reading these, you’ll be ready to greet 2012 in the know. So go be trendy in ‘12.

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January 20, 2012

Atlanta 1: AmericasMart and Sugar Bacon

Posted by Cathy Heck

We’re back from Atlanta, where we had a booth in the License and Design section of the International Gift and Home Furnishings Market at AmericasMart. Imagine every thing you ever wanted to find under your Christmas tree … it’s there. Somewhere. You might not find it right away in the 7,700,000 square feet of stuff, but it’s there! And, happily for us, much of it needs to be adorned with clever and trendy art and we were there with a boothful.


Before we began with our booth-setting-up task, we had to deal with an important issue at hand: HUNGER. Normally, being the foodie that I am, I like to try the hippest new restaurant in town, but starvation had set in, so we went to the restaurant across from our hotel, Bricktops. Happily, we were able to start our week with tasty southern fare to boost our energy: a plate of Deviled Eggs and Sugar Bacon. Sugar Bacon! … as if bacon is not perfect enough. Just add sugar and it’s even better. (My earlier ode to bacon here.)

I was instantly transported to my tween years living in a small West Texas town, when a birthday Kidnap Breakfast meant the possibility of Sugar Bacon. Perhaps it is because I live in a big town now, or maybe it is the fact that the Weight Watchers point values for sugar bacon are a tad high, but I rarely see this famous southern comfort food served in Austin. However, if you find yourself in Atlanta, I highly recommend this delicacy for a boost in trade show get-up-and-go. I think we were on a sugar-bacon high, when we completed our booth set-up by lunchtime!


Our booth was light and airy like you might imagine a new baby’s room first thing in the morning. We filled it with our baby collections and a Look Book full of art for grown-up products, too. We were required to have our booth set up in a matter of hours due to the 5:00 arrival of cocktail party guests, and as you can see by Julianna’s proud smile, we made it!

After set-up, we zipped up to the C.R. Gibson showroom for a Meet The Artists party and ribbon-cutting for their exciting new showroom. Then, back to another Meet the Artists party in our own showroom. (A lot of meeting and greeting goes on at a trade show.)


After our first day of noting trends in giftware, we decided that we needed to note trends in our dinner fare, as well. We popped over to Flip Burger Boutique, a hip restaurant by chef, Richard Blais. Since Jules is an avid follower of BRAVO’s Top Chef, and Chef Blais won Season 8, she was a little star-struck just being inside his restaurant. He’s known for innovative blends of flavor, so we were ready to be daring. We even began with dessert, by choosing one of the Liquid N2 milkshakes. We weren’t brave enough to order the foie gras milkshake, but rather chose the Nutella and Burned Marshmallow offering. It was Italian Picnic meets American Summer Camp. Pure heaven.

Back to work, here are a few pictures of our sugar-induced perky booth activity from left clockwise: (1) Julianna studying the show directory. (2) Our flowers, created by TLC Florist, looked good, smelled good. (3) Cathy and Ellen ready to seize the day. (4) Okay, well, our dear friend and talented artist, Ronnie Walter, told us (actually taught us) about Cash and Carry. Although I was a bit afraid I might lose Jules to the miles of showrooms willing to allow cash and carry, even I fell prey to a couple of value-minded purchases. These are my new chartreuse gloves, because you can never have too many warm gloves in Austin, Texas.

Because it was a bit uncomfortable to take photos of ourselves showing work to clients, our not-so-shy neighbors posed as clients in the photo below: Connie Haley (far left), Ronnie Walter of Two Town Studios, and Michael Rhoda. As you can see, trade shows are an excellent venue for friend making.

All in all, we had a great show and even finished taking our booth down in time for dinner, where we topped off our time in Atlanta with one more plate of, you guessed it, Deviled Eggs and Sugar Bacon. Next posts: New trends and new friends from Atlanta.

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January 13, 2012

Getting Ready for Atlanta, Part 3: Bot Buddies® 3D

Posted by Cathy Heck

I think one of my illustrated characters must have whispered into Julianna’s ear, “I want to be real,” because, I left Julianna sculpting fish, and when I returned to the project area, she was holding Baby Bot’s big sister in the palm of her hand.


Above are the drawings from the Visitors page in the Baby Bot baby book we created for C.R. Gibson. Once Jules created BabyBot’s big sister 3D, she decided to keep on going, because you can’t bring a gal into the world without some friends.

Photos above from top clockwise: (1) Julianna starts sculpting head-first. (2) Jules painting Baby Bot. (3) One of Baby Bot’s buddies tucked into a box across from his 2D-self. (4) Bot Buddies® sunning on a paper plate to make sure they are completely dry before packing them up for their first trade show.


Above, Bot Buddies® are all packed and ready to fly to Atlanta where they are hoping to meet some new friends and enjoy some southern cyber-cuisine.

For those of you who will be in Atlanta for the big gift show, come see us. We will be at AmericasMart, Building 2, West Wing, in the License and Design Showroom, #774. And for those of you who will not be there, we’ll be sure to report back so you will be in the know for gift-giving 2012.

January 11, 2012

Getting Ready for Atlanta, Part 2: MicroFish Tales

Posted by Cathy Heck

As we prepared for Atlanta last week, you could have literally put a sign on the studio door, “Gone Fishin.’” The MicroFish pattern, (which is one of our favorite designs from the Bot Buddies® fabric collection) was just begging to show up on a variety of product categories. We pulled out our Sculpey box again. All three girls spent some of their home-for-the-holidays time producing fish bodies. Some fish were too fat, some were too flat, (we even had to throw a few back into the sea) … but 10 little fishes were just right to fill our Fishmas Tree.


Above is our inspiration, the Bot Buddies® Big Border panel, which you can buy here.

The Food Network was playing on the television in the background while we worked, which was an odd juxtoposition, because periodically, a tasty fish dish would be featured, and we felt a little uneasy, because, well, our new fish creations were smiling at us … we had bonded.


Photos above from top clockwise: (1) After years of Sculpey play, Margaret makes fish for market. (2) Julianna pulled out the box of CelVinyls (which used to be our medium of choice before Photoshop entered our lives) and starts mixing pots of paint the old-fashioned way.
(3) Jules painting a base-coat on a fine fat fish. (4) A closeup of one of our smiling fishbots.
(5) After painting the fish, we hung them in the trees to dry … if birds could swim and fish could fly …

Just to imagine these busy MicroFish with yet another medium, here they are, below, in thread. We made these mockups to help buyers to visualize these little guys in a powder room at the beach or in a child’s bath upstairs at home. And you can make these, too! (They would be a great “thank you for inviting me to your beach house gift.”) We’ll post the how-to when we return from Atlanta.


And, while all this sculpting and sewing was going on, Margaret had the duty of cutting, and cutting … and cutting our newly received Bot Buddies® flannels for a variety of needs. We now have fat-quarter sets for Atlanta, as well as yardage to go to the members of the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild to cut and sew some fun projects. And although we provided Margaret with a fancy new rotary cutter, Margaret plans on not cutting anything for at least a month.

January 10, 2012

Getting Ready for Atlanta, Part 1: Little Pond Springs to Life

Posted by Cathy Heck

This week, we will be heading to Atlanta for the International Gift Show at AmericasMart. It has been a busy workshop around here. Thankfully, with lots of Hecklettes home from college for the holiday, we had some extra elf-help for 3-D-ifying our designs.


When we show work to companies, we like to show a few designs in formats that help the art directors imagine the possibilities for their specific items. We thought you might enjoy seeing the way a 2-dimensional painting can be transformed into 3-dimensional critters. First, we started with one of our best-selling collections, Little Pond. We pulled out our beloved Sculpey box, (which has been our go-to-clay for making lots of class projects through the years). This very same box had been pulled out of the craft cabinets many-a-holiday when little on-vacation hands were needing to be busy. And those same hands (now college-sized) jumped right in without missing a beat. Below, Margaret started with the giraffe and then moved right on to the elephants. We discovered that Margaret, who is an animal science major, seems to have a gift for visualizing all sides of an animal, which comes in very handy when one has to imagine what is on the other side of that painting.

Photos above from upper left clockwise: (1) Margaret smooths the giraffe mane with a dentist tool. (Why do we own a dentist’s tool? Don’t ask me, but it really works for sculpey sculpting.) (2) Here is Margaret creating the baby elephant so that he fits on the mama’s back, or it might be a daddy’s back … we didn’t really go into that kind of detail. (3) The white stage … ready for painting. (4) Julianna creates pots of paint for finishing the pond pals.

And, voila! Below is a little group of critters to help one imagine these pond friends as ornaments, or baby banks, or bookends, or bath toys, or game pieces, or, or, or …


Before we head to Atlanta, we’ll send you a couple of other how-to posts, just in case you are having a hankering to start making things pop to life in your house. And, this winter, if you hear some moaning pleas like “mommy, I don’t have anything to do,” I highly recommend Sculpey time. (Or Pluffy™ time, Sculpey’s new clay for little ones.) Who knows, you might have a sculptor in the making … or perhaps, an animal science major!

January 6, 2012

The Bot-Bubbly Sea, A Blogger’s Choice Challenge

Posted by Ellen Heck

Little Bluebell, a fellow East Bay Modern Quilter, recently led me to Quokka Quilts’ blogger’s choice challenge – a spin-off of The Fat Quarter Shop’s blogger’s choice bundle series.  It’s always so much fun to make one’s own collection out of prints from many different groups, so I thought it was a great idea to open up the opportunity to everybody.  The rules: pick 12 prints and 3 solids and put together a collage to post here by January 15th and you’ll be eligible to win your own bundle!  I wanted to make one that featured our Micro Fish pattern from Bot Buddies cotton because I just love that print, so I picked the navy colorway and expanded on the navy/blue/teal/green theme from there:

Speaking of Micro Fish, here we are admiring the actual cotton:

The fabrics in this bundle from top left to bottom right are:

1. Hall of Fame Game Plaid Sage

2. Hall of Fame Game Plaid Blue

3. Bot Buddies Green Doodle Dots

4. Hall of Fame Game Ticking Sage

5. Baby Safari Aqua Splish Splash

6. Bot Buddies Blue Doodle Dots

7. Bot Buddies Blue Bot Fishies (Micro Fish)

8. American Jane Baby Boy Pindot

9. Get Together Gray Flock of Birds

10. Mod Tod Blue Waving Stars

11. Fairy Tale Friends Aqua Pin Dot

12. Zoophabet Blue Packed Alphabet (Alphabet Soup)

13. Kona Cotton Aloe

14. Kona Cotton Blueberry

15. Kona Cotton Honey Dew

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January 3, 2012

Jumpin’ Jammies (Even When Your Toddlers Grow Up)

Posted by Cathy Heck

Every now and then when I look through our boxes of photos, something becomes quite apparent … I am clearly a matching-outfit-lovin’ kind of mom. In fact, every single Christmas Eve since I can remember, our girls were allowed to open just one present each …

Girls: “This one?”
Mom: “No, not that one … THIS one.”
Girls: “Mom, we know what that is … matching pajamas.”

(Some people might say that I was displaying my inner control-freak to art direct the outfits which would be worn for the upcoming Christmas morning videos, and, well … some people might be a tiny bit correct.)

So this is my letter to my children … “Girls, you have been very good sports all these years … especially Ellen, who, being 10 years older than the littlest Hecklette, put up with matching a lot longer than she probably would have liked. Thank you for allowing me to mix ‘n match you year after year. And, finally, now that my little toddlers are 5’9” and taller, I promise to refrain from forced matching on Christmas Eve … NOT! Surprise!! Merry Christmas Eve pajamas … again! Love, Mom.”

I just couldn’t resist. We had just received samples of our no-kidding-super-soft Jumpin’ Monkeys flannel, and they just begged to be made into matching jammies. Our dear friend, Nancy Keirns, put on her elf cap, and whipped these out as though she lived in the North Pole, and they were waiting under the tree on Christmas Eve. “Okay,” I said, “everyone can open just one present!” I think the collective thought was “You‘re kidding, right mom?” But, alas, I was not, and I proudly presented everyone with … yep, matching-paper-wrapped boxes. Even our goddaughters, who have been matching with us all these years, were troopers and allowed me to take the picture (above) of our big girls in their new matching monkey jammies.

Then, on Christmas morning, like always, all three girls were picture perfect! (You will be glad to know that I did use some restraint and did not make matching pajamas for Ellen’s husband … this year, anyway!) The tail that is interrupting the photo below belongs to our dog, Neville, who was dying to be in the photo, but I wouldn’t let him … because, of course, he did not have on matching jammies … although, hmm, my creative juices are flowing … I see some puppy pajamas in your future Nevs.

Are any of you matching-outfit-lovin’ moms like me? (please say yes) … if so, we would love for you to send a picture of your favorite matching moments to us here and we can post them to our flickr site and all feel content with the order of the world.

And, as winter weather continues, if you are needing some warm pajamas, which are incredibly soft, and fast and easy to make … you can buy Jumpin’ Monkeys flannels here. Nancy used a Butterick pattern, but I couldn’t find a link, so here is a pattern which seems very similar … she made each pair in about an hour, but, of course, she is a magic elf!

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year from Cathy Heck Studio

Posted by Cathy Heck

We hope your new year is extraordinary! (I almost wrote ‘eggstraordinary,’ but I didn’t think it was a good idea to start the new year with a groan.) So, happy 20dozen from Cathy and Ellen … okay, well, Ellen did not have anything to do with this corny copy writing, but she does agree that we hope you have a wonderful new year.

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