NSS 2011, a set on flickr. you can click through to see any (or all) of the images at full size.
so, the thing about the stationery show is this: people can ask and ask how it went but i won't really be able to answer that question for awhile. it's not like, say, mowing the lawn, where you start at one end of the yard and you stop at the other end and when you're done the grass is shorter. it's more like inventing a new kind of anti-fertilizer that seeps slowly into the ground and then works on changing the molecular structure of the grass roots so that the grass continues to be healthy and generally productive of oxygen and such, but it doesn't actually grow as tall as quickly.
whether or not your anti-fertilizer works is going to take some time to determine, and even once you determine its effectiveness at slowing the rate of growth of your grass, you might not even know why.
so the general sum-up is this: it felt good being there. i'm already eagerly thinking about next year. i surpassed most of my goals, but i didn't make much actual money. in fact, i didn't even come close to paying for the trip.
but my mixture has been added to the soil and i do hope to see some results in the coming months. interest was high and people were surprisingly willing to part with their business cards (though i did get my fair share of "actually, i ran out" and "i got on the plane without any by mistake" fibs).
i'd say the things i certainly got out of the show were these:
- i was pleased to discover that i felt like i fit in there -- like i knew generally what i was doing and could answer buyers' questions and speak the lingo and basically hold my own
- it felt so good to meet other people in the biz -- both people i had known online for years and people i just met there at the show. i really really liked making new friends and in fact left feeling quite sad that i don't get to spend more time working side-by-side with these people.
- along those lines, i identify so much more with the artists and artisans than i do with anyone else in my industry. every time a buyer admired the color and quality of one of my cards or posters and asked me whether they were letterpress printed or screenprinted and i told them they were printed digitally (in my studio, i sometimes added, though i knew that this sounded small-fry instead of artisinal), the part of me that knew what that sounded like to them just wanted to cringe. and then run out and buy a press or some screens and lend my work the credibility it apparently needs. that i apparently need. i have a very "i made this with my own two hands" ethic to my business but i think i'm always just the smallest bit plagued by the fact that ultimately, everything i make comes from my printer. i really noticed this at the show more than i ever have elsewhere. it's hard to highlight what i feel is a key element to what makes up up creative unique -- the fact that everything (except for the wrapping paper) really is printed in house much like a letterpress shop or a screenprinting shop -- when to most people digital printing is basically at the bottom of the printer's foodchain, even below offset. this is something i think i'm going to have to deal with one way or another during the next year, managing my own perceptions and managing others' perceptions.
- talking with some folks who have been in business a good deal longer than i have, and who are starting to have a lot more success, it was sototallyandcompletely clear to me that i really want to grow my business. i want to have a building. i want to have employees. but i want to keep the making part of things in-house.
- i really need these stupid bangs to grow faster. i got 'em cut a few months ago in a wild, heated moment thinking, "hey! i'll be sporting these really awesome bangs for the stationery show!" but then i never could get them how i wanted them and i cut them even shorter and then finally just decided to let the little f'ers grow, so at the show they were constantly flopping down into my eyes and generally causing me malaise. plus now every single time i look at a picture from the show i'm going to be reminded of my ridiculously ill-planned bang-cutting experiment. meh.
- i felt like i would have had a more effective show (and written more orders) if i had had a lot fewer things. over the years i've worked hard to diversify the up up creative offerings, adding new calendar designs, bringing in wrapping paper, developing the wedding side of things, creating new greeting cards and stationery sets. but at the show, maybe because it was my debut, i felt like this was a hindrance. i felt like many buyers looked in and thought "i don't easily know how to classify this booth and i don't know how to find the one specific thing i'm looking for." several times it took one of us mentioning the wedding invitations or maybe the calendars for someone to say, "oh! you have invitations? you have calendars? perfect!" things were clearly labeled and organized within the booth, but for buyers walking quickly down the aisle trying to decide whether or not to make the detour into my booth or continue easily and effortlessly toward the next booth they recognized, there was definitely a bit more question mark in the booth than period.
i'm feeling a little bit question marked myself now, actually. but in a good way. in that first graded grad-school paper kind of way. that "okay, this is going to be a whole new game and i'm going to have to figure out how to play it" kind of way.
to which i only have this to say: