June 25, 2012

Licensing Expo 2012: Hangin’ Out with the ‘Toons

Posted by Cathy Heck

We’re back from the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. And this time, what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas. We brought back pictures, so you could have a peek into studio life from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center … which is not exactly the Vegas experience of which 21st birthday dreams are made … but we had fun in our own trade-show-lovin’ kinda way.

Most of our time was spent in this lovely 10’ x 10’ rainbow-themed booth. For this show, Hecklette number three, Margaret, came to help us. Although she is studying animal science in college, she has grown up in the studio and knows how to get a trade show booth up and running. After our booth was assembled, we spent the next three days talking with our licensees to plan new collections and meeting with possible new clients to describe the way we work. Occasionally, we had to sneak over to the Two Town Studios’ booth to harass Ronnie and Jim during the few moments that they were not deep in client negotiations. (We can’t figure out why they keep moving farther away from us each show.)


Throughout our stay, we showed our portfolios to visitors from all over the world, we discussed our methods of working, we attended meetings, we took turns grabbing lunch, we froze to death (because all trade shows are freezing), we took pages of notes, and we shared tips with other exhibiting artists. And, only at the Licensing Expo are we able to hang with the ‘toons. Yep. This show is always filled with every bigger-than-life character you can imagine from television, movies and video games. Every booth is beeping and blinging. If SURTEX is a lovely gallery opening, Licensing Expo is Fourth of July at Disneyland. The giant characters walk the aisles (with their handlers guiding them, lest they run into a booth pole and take an entire aisle down due to the fact that their eyes are not really their eyes. Here we are with a few favorites below.


On the last day, after two trade shows within four weeks, and three days inside the halls of Mandalay Bay without seeing sunlight, my troops did begin to show signs of delirium. But thankfully, Ronnie’s agent, Lisa Marks, provided us with an excellent supply of Peeps® to fortify us for our booth take-down. (And, yes, you can call Lisa to license Peeps® for all your perfect-for-Peeps products, as well as Ronnie’s Real Women, Real Country™.)


Happily, after our booth was packed and palleted, we did finally make it outside. And, when we did, still no daylight. It was night. (But that’s okay, Las Vegas is really prettier at night … or something … not sure prettier is the word … dazzling-er?) Either way, we walked along the strip and then had a lazy fun dinner at Todd English’s Olives and watched the fountains dance at the Bellagio. It was as if they were saying, “Congratulations! Trade show season is over, now go make all that art you’ve been talking about!”


May 20, 2012

Cathy Heck Studio: A Rainbow of Design at SURTEX

Posted by Cathy Heck

We are exhibiting at SURTEX as we speak. Our booth is literally a rainbow of ideas and design, from walls to hand-outs to show snacks!

Until we return, we hope you will enjoy this floral arrangement that we made for the florist to illustrate a bouquet in rainbow order … not to be confused with a mixed rainbow bouquet.

And, below is a little video that runs in the exhibit hall during the show. So without even going to New York, you can be with us! If we don’t see you in Booth 550, we’ll see you below in cyber-booth 550. We’ll be back in a few days with pictures and a t-shirt. Have a great week.

May 11, 2012

Cathy Heck Studio at SURTEX and Licensing Expo

Posted by Cathy Heck

SURTEX is right around the corner … May 20, 21 and 22! This great event is the global B2B marketplace for original art and design, where artists, agents and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category under the sun … or under the rainbow, as the case may be.

If you are planning to be in New York for the show, please come by our booth. (#550) And, if you prefer to visit with your designers in Las Vegas, we will also be exhibiting at the International Licensing Expo June 12, 13 and 14, so come by our booth there. (#4825) And, if you would like to make an appointment for a specific time during either of the shows, please email us here. See you soon! Cathy and Ellen


May 7, 2012

Spring Break Work Week at Cathy Heck Studio

Posted by Cathy Heck

This year, I had the great idea for a fun way to spend Spring Break as a family:  Spring Break Work Week right here in sunny Austin, Texas!  My idea was that Ellen could fly to the Austin office, and our two college gals could join us for one full week of trade-show-prep amusement. For college students, this is probably not the first idea that pops into their heads for an exciting Spring Break, but I had a list of great reasons to join the fun: 1) opportunity to earn extra spending money, 2) warmer weather in popular Austin, Texas–although that part didn’t exactly go as planned 3) we could try out the hip new Austin trailer foods between projects  4) do not have to dress up ever  5) airfare included 4) your mom/boss will love you forever (oh yeah, she would do that any way).

Happily, all three helpers arrived from states afar, and the work week began.  By the end of the week, our trade show booth props and marketing were finished.  I guess our holiday wasn’t exactly an episode of Studio Girls Gone Wild, but we had fun and felt very accomplished–at least from my point of view.  Here’s a little video snippet with another perspective of the action-packed week from two of my workers.

And, here are a few pictures of our busy week in the studio. As you can see, we have a ROY G BIV thing going on as the theme for our booth. However, our particular rainbow is actually PROY G BIV–we just had to add a little PINK to the front of the color spectrum.

Here is our wonderful new studio assistant, Erynn, who also joined the work week fun. And, yes, she did survive the sisterly banter, and we are happy to say, she is still with us.

If you would like to try a Spring Break Work Week at your home or workplace, you are welcome to borrow my list of compelling reasons for attending the event. I think the secret is to take off time for a movie or two, and feed your staff well. And, for those of you attending SURTEX in a couple of weeks, we are looking forward to seeing you there!

April 23, 2012

SURTEX Dessert: Big Apple A La Mode

Posted by Cathy Heck

If the trees are budding and the birds are tweeting, then SURTEX is just around the corner. SURTEX happens every May in New York City.  The Javits Center is filled with artists, agents, manufacturers and retailers gathering together to begin the creation process for the next best-selling products in every category under the sun.  We were delighted to be asked again to write a guest blog post for the SURTEX site, and this year, we decided to share a few of the places which inspire us after show hours.  Enjoy this link if you are heading to New York for SURTEX or just heading to New York.  It even includes a Google map with the imagination stations marked. Bon Appétit!

P.S. If you have more Big Apple ideas for the creatively-bound (or attendees in need of post-show sustenance), please add to the comment box on the SURTEX blog.


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 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!

November 3, 2011

Miles of Quilts at International Quilt Market: Part 2

Posted by Cathy Heck

When the doors opened to the International Quilt Market in Houston, one of the first booths one beheld was that of Newcastle Fabrics. There, our Jumpin’ Monkeys collection was ready to jump onto flannel jammies and blankies and the sweet Emma collection looked as fresh as a pink-and-green bouquet.

On the walls were all the pieces made just days ago by our Austin elves, showing off the DIY possibilities. We were delighted to see our work and our friends at Newcastle. Here we are (photo below) with Dan Weidmuller, chief of everything at Newcastle.

Jumpin’ Monkeys is a new flannel group scheduled to be in the stores in November. Before market, we received a few small pieces of strike-off material to check for color. We decided to try to make a few monkey projects, one of which would be flannel jammies, but we only had enough fabric to make one blue leg and one brown leg, which is the original reason that the pants bottoms (below) became “two-toned.” BUT, after all was said and sewn, we decided these play pants were downright adorable. I guess you could say small strike-offs are the mother of invention!

I also love the matching appliqué monkey that Nancy added to the onesie. This is so easy and packs a great “wow, you did that” factor.

Here is something else that happens when sewing with tiny bits of soft flannel strike-offs: a toddler ragland jacket that is monkey-blue-stripe on the front and monkey-green-stripe on the back. It’s like wearing the whole collection in one tiny jacket!

We can’t leave Jumpin’ Monkeys without showing you the fastest quick quilt you ever did see (made by Deborah Elliott) … all you have to do is follow the outlines of the animals on the panel and it looks like you slaved for weeks piecing and appliquéing this soft quilt. Even the striped border is part of the one yard of fabric that you will buy to make the quilt top! (You may want to add some edging as we did with the palm leaves fabric (see second photo below), but it’s cute even without it. It might depend on what time the baby shower is tomorrow!)

And, if you have questions about anything fun and new at Newcastle, here is the go-to-gal for the answers, Cheryl Jukich. She is new to the Newcastle team and she is just adorable and full of energy … even when we saw her after many hours of trade show standing!

While Jumpin’ Monkeys was hoppin’ off the wall, the Emma collection was displayed nearby and it was shining in its own preppy cute way. Since we already introduced you to lots of Emma in an earlier post, we’ll just share some pictures of her cute self on display at the show. Photo left: Ellen in front of the quilt she made with the Emma strike-offs. (And her very first quilt ever!) Photo right: Cathy and Ellen in front of the sassy Emma dress made by Nancy Keirns. The great thing about Emma is that it can be made into a baby bumper or a tween jumper. It’s for little bitty girls, or their mamas.

While we love to visit with the companies that make our fabric, we double-love to visit with shop owners who sell our fabric! Here we are below with a fellow mother-daughter team, Judy Fenton and Megan Wilson who run Millcreek Sewing & Fabric in Erie, Pennsylvania. While they were gathering samples in balmy Houston, Texas, I believe several inches of snow fell on their shop in Pennsylvania. A nice early reminder of the importance of a warm, snuggly quilt!

Although, we don’t have any weather close to a white winter here in Austin, we definitely caught the quilting bug while we were in Houston. I hope our little adventure in the aisles of Quilt Market have you all quiltified, too. We’ll keep you posted as we learn of the stores that will have Emma and Jumpin’ Monkeys in hand. Enjoy your November, and have fun quilting, whether you are wearing flip-flops or snow boots!

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