Direct from Market: National Stationery Show
May 28, 2013,
Quality over quantity is the best way to describe this year's National Stationery Show (NSS) held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from May 19-22. The show is large in presentation and variety; it is filled with creative new products from companies large and small, and attended by retailers of all stripes and size, as well as reps and distributors from across the U.S. and beyond. Many exhibitors can be seen at no other trade show in the country in the same breadth and depth presented here.
One of the biggest advantages of the show's current size is the opportunity to look carefully at the products in each booth rather than rushing by them. And this year, several trends definitely jumped out.
Mason Row sign
Bicycles were another prominent design direction riding onto numerous items at the NSS. Plenty of bikes were featured on printed or letterpressed greeting cards, including those from Smudge Ink, Compendium and 9th Letterpress. Rock Scissor Paper offered the motif on mugs, coasters and notebooks; while R. Nichols included a bicycle design within its new candle collection (for which it collaborated with renowned fragrance designer Gary McNatton). And NPW has an entire product line devoted to bicycles, including novelty pencil top erasers, paperclips and other bicycle-shaped items. NPW also has other items for decorating real bicycles: stickers, spoke charms, a horn and more.
Fancy Seeing You Here
Locale and Lasercuts
With Google maps and GPS technology replacing maps to help us to find our way, cartography is growing in popularity as design elements. Notable were the notecards with map envelopes from Fancy Seeing You Here. Other location-based city- and state-related themes, such as Sapling Press' letterpressed cards that can be made to order for any city or state, were also prevalent. Location specific papers are a great way for showing local and state pride. But don't neglect aspirational and romatic location themes such as London, Paris or even Hollywood—places we might want to be.
Coasters and wine bags, though not new product categories, were presented in many clever new iterations at the NSS. Ladyfingers Letterpress showed whimsical, printed brown-paper wine bags; and Mixt Studio had handcrafted "Share" wine bags with a reusable, fill-in tag. Fun coaster designs included
In fact, "Yay" was a popular word on many cards, as were other modern slang terms designed to appeal to a new generation of customers. Toward that end, there were also a number of products with humorous old-school references,
L2 Design Collective
[Photo: L2 Design Collective]
High Tech, Low Tech
Nevertheless, the presence of technology can't be avoided, and the NSS exhibitors are continuing to adapt to and adopt tech, taking advantage of advances in tech and creating products that marry high tech needs with low tech practicality and tradition. Mountaincow and Oki debuted a printer that allows invitation designers and retailers using Mountaincow's software to print in white on dark colored papers in-store with professional results that previously had to be outsourced. Epson introduced a handheld printer/labelmaker for home or in-store use that has interchangeable cartridges for printing ribbon and iron-on tape as well as label tape. It is perfect for creating small batches of custom ribbons for favors, maker tapes for needlecrafts and much more.
And going low tech, Whiteboard Reinvented did just that and introduced a selection of different personal and portable whiteboards for planning, jotting ideas and more. Decorative magnet boards, perfect for "pinning" or as family message centers, were noted around as well. Of particular interest were by those by Petal Lane featuring frames and magnets made using wood repurposed from forest fires.
Boxes and Other Fun Finds
Are decorative boxes to gift-giving and storage of files and other mementoes taking back a toe-hold in the industry? Wrapped displayed its new boxes covered inside and out with its art wrap paper. The sturdy boxes are too beautiful and too sturdy not to be reused for storage or regifting. Knock Knock introduced a collection of storage boxes that come flat, are easy to assemble and sturdy for storing "miscellany" and other "stuff." Papier de Maison debuted a collection of decorative home office accessories-storage boxes, magazine and file holders and more-that uses its Plus Motif interchangeable decorative designs. Lifeguard Press introduced its latest licensed line: Kate Spade. Included in the lifestyle collection is a grouping of decorative storage boxes for files, photos and more.
Seven Barks debuted at the NSS with a collection of stationery, cards and other items featuring vintage equestrian, yachting and dog imagery. If by looking at the line, it reminds you of the Rebecca Ray fashion accessories and home décor line, you are right; the talent behind the line is one and the same.
While matchbook style of notepads have been around the industry for a while, Old Tom Foolery debuted Modern Lore line of greeting cards in a matchbook style. The cards feature the photographic imagery of several different photographers.
Post-its and other sticky notes are nothing new in this industry or the office products industry, but the Post-it brand has never before had a line of real Post-its for the specialty channel...until now. Post-it Signature Notes debuted and features artwork by such artists as Bonnie Marcus, Jenn Sprinkle and Madalyn Fusco. They come in three sizes and boxed perfect for gift-giving.
Speaking of gifts, the show did not lack for giftwares to complement and expand a retailer's mix. In addition to its high design papergoods, MoMA
Scent and Goods Gear
Four Shows Together
Co-located with the NSS are SURTEX, the art and licensing show of surface design and, new this year, the Creative & Lifestyle Arts show, a small sampling of crafting exhibitors, and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). There is a certain synergy among all the shows and especially with SURTEX. Many larger stationery exhibitors as well as large retailers and non-exhibiting gift and home designers and manufacturers visit SURTEX to source new art designs to purchase outright or license.
Many of the exhibiting artists are familiar names in our industry at large-such as Kate McRostie, Cathy Heck, Kelly Rae Roberts and Lori Siebert (both represented by Courtney Davis agency), Debbie Mumm—and and many are not, but their artwork is—such as Caleb Gray, whose retro style artwork appears on products from Tervis and The Gift Wrap Company, among others. A walk through the aisles is enlightening to discover familiar brands and names that are branching out into licensing: Tatutina, known for its children's products and childlike artwork and Avanti, known for its humorous greeting cards of animal imagery. Marsha Gray Carrington, who was the art talent behind the mjZoom stationery and card line years back, exhibited for the first time to explore new opportunities.
The artists and agents with whom we spoke were upbeat about show. They noted that they had been busy and were encouraged about the prospects with whom they met. We can expect to see good creative artwork coming through the product pipeline in the months to come.
The Creative & Lifestyle Arts (C&LA) show brought in a small contingent of crafting suppliers with products for the DIY crafter and artist-the card maker, paper crafter, floral crafter and jewelry-maker. But crafting materials were not located only in the C&LA area. Anna Griffin, although not in the section of the show, brought her crafting/scrapbooking collection of papers and accessories to the NSS for the first time. Xonex , which has been focusing more of its line on art materials, was located in the NSS at the edge of C&LA and had traffic, with its art supplies drawing in new customers, while it stationery items and novelty pens holding strong with established and new customers. All the way across the show floor, Gartner Studios, best known for its invitations and wedding lines and its Mara-Mi and Russell and Hazel brands, showcased the Duff Goldman by Gartner Studios line, a collection of bakeware and cake decorating products that help the home baker create professional looking cakes and other goodies. The line includes mixes, fondants, decorations, tools and much more.
The paper industry of greeting cards, invitations and related products is certainly not stationary. It keeps moving ahead with the times.
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