My first day (Friday) was all about getting the lay of the land. A trusted advisor suggested that AtlantasMart's building #2 might be the building of most interest to me. Good advice, and that is where I concentrated most of my energy. After spending most of the day in that building and needing the entire day to get through it, I surmised that a good rule of thumb is to budget one full day per building. It's a good general average to follow.
The three AtlantasMart buildings are connected by these tube-like, glassed-in bridges. Did you ever have a pet hamster? These connecting bridges reminded me of habitrail tubes my old pet hamster used to run around in. Building 2, where I spent my first day at the show, houses many permanent showrooms of giftware and paper manufacturers. Elevators were the main mode of transportation from floor to floor. Those elevators sure fill up fast, so I learned that it pays to be quick on your feet! Sardine-packed elevators notwithstanding, the mood was positive and people would kindly make as much room as possible to accommodate as many people as would safely fit in the elevator. On some floors, there were escalators too, which certainly helped.
Within Building 2, I spent the most time on the permanent showroom floors. I checked out what the manufacturers were 'investing' in for the upcoming seasons in terms of art and product, and I noted which companies I thought my work would be a good fit for. Being faced with so many manufacturers and products at a trade show such as this can be tricky. It is much easier to lose sight of your main focus when you are in the midst of sensory overload. For a show such as this, when you are prospecting new companies you'd like to work with, it's important to constantly 'check yourself' to make sure you stay on track and you are making note of the manufacturers that your work might really, TRULY be a good match with. You DON'T want to end up with a gigantic list of companies where your work might "sort of, kind of..." fit, or where your work would fit only with a GREAT DEAL of (likely somewhat painful) massaging.
You also do not want to put yourself in a position of not feeling 100% about anything and everything you create and present to a potential client. You HAVE to have a lot of confidence in what you are pitching and in whatever potential partnership you are proposing. It just doesn't make any sense to waste your precious energy on a big bunch of "...hmmm well MAYBE..." companies. Besides, if you aren't all in 100%, how will anything you propose be 100%?
The goal is to come away with a bright, sharp list of potential partner companies that you feel confident about working something up for, that you feel confident contacting because you really believe your work fits there. Places that you think you could bring something new and fresh to the table while 1) staying true to your own brand aethetic; 2) bringing something to the table that will click as something that they NEED to either fill out their offerings or is otherwise on target and desirable; and 3) keeping in check all of the above, staying within their comfort level of their brand. All of these things at one-- quite the balancing act, eh?You have to get know your work well from a product standpoint and be able to really be objective about it in terms of it selling at retail. Hey, I've got a long way to go in this regard myself, but I'm now at a point where I feel comfortable with these concepts and I am able to enjiy the very creative work of imagining and designing my work in other forms.
Besides all of that - look, studying markets and being ruthlessly focused is a great learning exercise in investigating YOUR CORE identity as an art licensor and artist-- AND in following your true gut instincts. This can be a hard habit to get into, especially if you are used to second-guessing yourself, which a lot of people are (I have done my share!). But stop yourself from doing this --DON'T sell yourself short. Instead, practice listening to, and following, your TRUE gut! It's one of your most valuable tools, and, I think in art licensing, it is INvaluable.
So, following my own advice, I came away with a moderately-sized list of companies to look into deeper, and a handful of companies that I plan to develop pitches for.
I am planning on writing one more blog post about my first trip to AtlantasMart. So please stay tuned!