This was by far the largest event we’ve ever taken part in, and was the most challenging thing we’ve taken on. Several times during the show, we were asked if we had come before as guests to walk the floor and see what it was like before exhibiting—but no, true to form, we had just jumped in with two feet without any prior knowledge or experience. Thankfully, the fact that didn’t know what we didn’t know helped us stay afloat in the months of preparation and during the 4 days on the show floor.
When we signed up for the show during Summer 2011, we were still living in a small apartment in Greensboro; however, when the time came to construct a test booth earlier this Spring, we were blessed to have had the space to build a to-scale replica in our 550 sq. foot studio. Because of the daunting idea of shipping out or driving up massive amounts of building material, we quickly abandoned any idea of construction with wood and landed on cloth, with sale burlap and some beautifully-printed custom fabrics from our local friends at Spoonflower. We added to that some driftwood that Joel’s mom found on beaches in California, old containers from antique stores in downtown Hillsborough, and some furniture and lighting from various sources. In the week before the show, we decided to be insane people and learn a new skill set, so we made a rope net for displaying cards. Voilà! The most daunting part of the show was complete.
Meanwhile, we hit the drawing board hard to beef up our collection of new pieces to bring to the show. We heard from a show veteran that 30 pieces is a respectable showing for a first-timer, and we had originally shot for the impossible at 100; in the end, we were able to produce enough work for 48 original pieces, counting the work already in our online shop. From there in the several weeks before the show, it was a matter of firing up our big Canon printers, Will Turner and Capt. Jack Sparrow, and printing up sample cards and prints for displaying in our booth.
When the time came to leave, we packed the car up tighter than a spring-loaded snake-in-a-can and headed up the road. We unsurprisingly hit traffic for several hours in DC and ended up driving into Manhattan around midnight—which neither of us has ever done and which neither of us cares to do ever again!—and after a stressful hour in which we couldn’t get ahold of our rental apartment, we finally found a room in a Holiday Inn near Wall Street, which only cost a right arm and a large sack of gold bullion.
Once we set the booth up over the course of two days (with the help of Joel’s superstar mom, who stopped to help us en route from Switzerland) and the show got underway, we could tell that all of our hard work was worth it. We had a blast making contacts with everyone from large companies, to some of our favorite shops and artists we’ve been following since we were students, to some of our fellow newer studios. When it was all said and done, we came away with a stack of about 200 business cards and a notebook half-filled with notes on everyone we talked to. Not to mention, of course, a half-dozen orders placed with boutiques around the country, which we’re taking as a wonderful opportunity to streamline our production.
And of course, we got to do a little bit of sightseeing, which is where half of the above photos come from. Our highlights included seeing Phantom of the Opera at the original Broadway theater and wandering around the Upper West Side on a self-guided You’ve Got Mail tour, as it’s one of our favorite movies—and Zabar’s, Papaya King, the Starbucks from the movie, and Café Lalo were kind to us despite the rain!
The giveaway we brought to the show was a 5 x 7 of one of our new prints, A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. We love this proverb because it describes perfectly everything we’ve experienced so far in our work; that is, when we challenge ourselves to stretch in one area, the rest of our work, and our lives, will naturally grow to match the original push. Attending the National Stationery Show this year for the first time was definitely a challenge, but it was fulfilling to have taken it head on and met the objectives we started out with. Here’s to the latter half of 2012 and what it has in store!