On the Surface


Of course, we cherish the spiritual meaning of Christmas, but just for the moment, let’s look at Commercial Christmas and what it means to the surface design business.

Big business, for openers.  Christmas is far and away the most lucrative time of the year for retailers, reports the NRF (National Retail Federation), the largest organization of its kind in the world.  According to NRF estimates, retailers will see some $655.8 billion in sales this season, up 3.6% over last year.  Many merchants say Christmas sales account for as much as 30% of their annual profits.

So…do we dare rock the traditional boat, sidelining Santa and upending red-green color schemes? Consider the success of the New Jersey tree farmer who painted 250 trees pink, purple, white, and blues, upped the price for the colorful conifers, and sold out before December 5. How well does such cool Yule fare resonate with surface designers and their partners?  We asked:

Janet Greco, Janet Greco Home Design, Barcelona — A photographer since 1980 (who holds a master´s degree in photography and design from Elisava in Barcelona), New Jersey native Janet Greco finds inspiration for that “vital something fresh” about Christmas in “the quaint pueblos here in the suburbs of Barcelona and the Mediterranean island of Menorca, where I lived for many years.

“In Spain the vibe is very much white…. all white…especially the lighting of all the street decorations. It’s definitely a more refined look. I remember once decorating my home with multicolored lights and the locals thought I was a little odd. So the collections I will be creating for Christmas are likely to feature a lot of white and gold/silver with just a touch of color. I believe there are other timeless motifs besides good old Santa.”

The collections Janet will exhibit at her SURTEX debut are “edgy, contemporary, clean, and elegant,” she says. “The focus is on beautiful coastal landscapes and floral themes….”

Born into a family of interior design professionals, Janet grew up surrounded by textiles, textures, and color.  At 21 she left to work in the UK and then made a career in the TV industry. “I´ve lived in five countries and so my definition of ‘home’ is quite broad. Everything in the new line is inspired by home, digging back into childhood up to the present day. That spans a lot of experiences and memories.”

And also a lot of photographs. These images from her inspiration file are from the town of Ciutadella de Menorca, a Mediterranean island in Spain.

Jill McDonald, Jill McDonald Design — Kansas City, MO — “How important is Christmas to my business?  It makes about one-fourth of my sales at print shows.  So it’s worth paying attention to and creating unique work for.

“Yes, we have experimented with less traditional Christmas themes.  I love to think outside the traditional box…Think classic with a quirky twist. So many other artists do classic traditional well that I find it important to offer another option that my hand gravitates to naturally.”

“What kind of holiday art works best for my clients? Quirky with a touch of tradition!”

John Haesler, MHS Licensing & Consulting, Minneapolis — “Christmas design is a very significant driver of our business, based on the seemingly insatiable demand for it.  We always try to push the envelope beyond traditional, responding to our licensees’ request for ‘new and different,’ but often the retailer’s risk aversion forces it to evolve back to something a bit more traditional.”

Suzanne Cruise, Suzanne Cruise Creative Services, Leawood, KS — “Our Q3 royalties dominate the other. The consumer still has a strong desire to purchase all manner of product that expresses their celebration and joy of the season.

“Santas and snowmen will never go away (but) since the recession, consumers have gradually cut back on traditional Christmas images…. They want the biggest bang for their dollars so they have been looking more and more for products bearing ‘winter’ images (the time frame from late October up to and sometimes including February), which means they can leave the product out for a much longer period of time.  This has given rise to images that truly depict winter —  snow, the outdoors, winter forest scenes, birdhouses, and, of course, winter birds like cardinals and chickadees, and winter animals —  deer, arctic fox, snow shoe hares, snowy owls….

“Also popular: well-depicted traditional Christmas flowers (poinsettias, amaryllis, gardenias); traditional icons like ornaments seen in a non- traditional way; regional art (beach chairs adorned with wreaths, images of red lobsters/crabs with Christmas green borders.

“We are always asking our artists to think outside the box for this season. Many are happy to: doing Santas year after year can be tiresome.”