Direct from Market: Chicago
Maitreyee Angelo -- Gifts & Dec, January 25, 2013
The Chicago Market beckoned buyers to experience the fun of the find. Spread across two re-organized floors of the iconic Mart building with nearly 150 exhibitors new to market, and several in-demand categories, the Market belied notions of having scaled down. Joan Dyer, MMPI's director of marketing, talked about the impetus behind the new Emerging Artists section. "We wanted to bring in resources that buyers would definitely not see in any other wholesale market. We coached emerging artists on successfully marketing their products; we now have 20 new and talented exhibitors ready to wholesale interesting products that were previously only shown regionally at craft fairs." Also new were a Boutique section showcasing specialty, custom and one-of-a kind products, Fashion featuring apparel and accessories, and a Gourmet Aisle filled with enticing gastronomic offerings.
Floral Design Bobbi Cup Winner Carolyn Minutillo
Illusions by J.T. Robinson
Beckman's Handcrafted, undoubtedly the big attraction, welcomed new exhibitors as well as old stalwarts and new members of the Fair Trade Federation. Word-based and graphic items with quotes, aphorisms. and witticisms on coasters, tiles, cards, wall décor, lampshades, textiles and jewelry were ubiquitous. Illusions by J.T. Robinson, showed MDF board coated coasters and Tag signs with pithy sayings, as well as Charming Shades, its new line of fabric-based removable magnetic lampshade attachments embellished with embroidery, and decorative accents. Dilynn and Greg Puckett's passion for family, friends and home is the impetus behind the duo's Language Art collection of location photography translated onto eclectic décor art. Chicago Style Collective returned this year, adding four more designers in its fold: Juana Ryan of Stella Lily Studio showed photo tiles of Italian carrera marble with original photo-transferred designs in which the grain of the marble becomes an integral part of the print. With filed edges and an acrylic industrial coating for waterproofing, the tiles are popular for kitchen backsplashes, can also be made with a hanger to use as wall art. Occasionally Speaking is a line of elegant cards on heavy-weight Italian paper with public domain quotes that designer Bridget Verdun hopes will aptly express card-givers' sentiments. Betsey Siber of Foxglove Accessories displayed an interesting line of postage stamp jewelry available in color families. Having exhibited solo earlier as Kiku Handmade, Laurie Frievogel, the Collective's fourth new designer, showed colorful cheese plates, trivets and large serving platters of modern, fused glass, and an array of lovely, free form bowls made from interspersed strips of printed and opaque glass. Barbara Schmidt, a retired Chicago lawyer, now parlays her 15-year passion for tile-making into B.A. Schmidt Arts' beautiful, delicate porcelain pendants and wall decor inspired by yoga, Indian art, and the designs of William Morris of the Arts and Crafts movement. The frames of her tile pictures are of hand-picked, quarter-sawn oak made by an Ohio wood-crafter.
Handmade jewelry was a mainstay at the Market. Studio B's delicate styles reminiscent of leaf reticulation in rings and a 3" cuff bracelet were a contrast with the bold and unconventional solid-colored rings and bangles set with a single diamond from DuePunti. Monarch Design brought out a new line of Blingers-monogram photo charm pendants that can also hold mini photos. Retailers can keep costs down by ordering blank pendants along with sheets of monograms from which customers can choose their letters. World Finds expanded its recycled kantha jewelry line with three new styles: a brass flower cuff, a statement necklace and recycled kantha woven hoops.
Kristen Ley of Thimble Press
At the east end of Beckman's Handcrafted were the throng of Emerging Artists, notable among whom was Thimblepress from Mississippi, winner of the Best Booth Display Award. Multi-talented artist Kristen Ley, runs a letterpress/art/sewing/design/woodworking studio that offers distinctive letterpress and hand painted cards on cotton-based paper, artwork, home goods and wearables. Bartosz and Margaret Sobieszczanski of Chicago-based Esclusso unveiled CCandle -an elegant line of wax sculpted candles that incorporate natural botanicals and interesting dye combinations-that have flowing, curvilinear lines reflecting the pair's multidisciplinary design and architecture background. Intricate and delicate crocheted jewelry from Crochetlaces, and contemporary fashion jewelry by Kendra Renee were
Enticing aromas wafted in the air from the Gourmet Aisle which, along with regular Market exhibitors, included food vendors from neighboring Midwestern states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana who were exhibiting their wares in partnership with their respective state Departments of Agriculture. A mouth-watering selection of dips, relishes, soups, chocolate, candy and pre-packaged mixes, displayed with innovative packaging and serving ideas, elevated the concept of food as gifts to a new level. Wisconsin-based Becky's Blissful Bakery offered generous samples of handmade, hand-wrapped layered (not just flavored) caramels that are 100 percent organic and gluten-free. Organic brown rice syrup imparts a soft, pleasing texture to the caramels that come in ten flavors. Chicago's own Sweet Thumb Arrangements featured Starbursts, Reese's cups and Hershey's kisses in innovative and lively bouquets perfect for gifting and
Sweet Thumb Arrangements
The Market's Boutique section included vendors receptive to custom and specialized orders like Samoe Style which showed an interesting new line of convertible handles in handbags that sported cheerful citrus and earth colors. Algonquin, IL-based artist and inventor, Marg Rehnberg of BlokHaus Magnetics debuted her line of magnetic wooden blocks on which a patented technology prints photos/art and custom designs to encourage customers to "Pik your Blox, Blok your Pix." Available in three sizes along with magnetic FrameStix and 3D BlokRisers, the magnets have many possibilities for creative expression: personalized, living photo albums, wall art compositions, backsplashes. The MagneticBlox can be displayed on any surface painted with a proprietary magnetic paint additive or on Magnetic BlokFrames.
The relocated and remodeled permanent showrooms-along with Chicago Apparel and Accessories showrooms on the 13th floor-made shopping for buyers easier and more convenient than the sprawling displays at other markets. New to the Mart was Rocket Rep who carried new mini and three-packs of the popular Automoblox line, now featuring 40 styles of cars with interchangeable parts. Also popular was their line of spikelets pens and booklets and journals from Optari made of a spiky, squishy material, and the Fobbs handbags for kids with magnetic closures. Hot sellers at Market were their Soccer, Smiley Kitty and Skeleton mini flyers by MukikiM. Another popular product was the all natural Spuds line invented by Jill Wymore featuring ‘spudmer' (non-polymer), a non-toxic, bio-degradable material for kids' serveware that are colored with organic pigments. Wymore also makes Teardrop freezable baby teethers of spudmer filled with buckwheat husk. Squishables' plush animal pillow and giant cushions were also selling well.
When asked about business trends, Jennifer Brooks, owner of Charlie and Me observed, "People are writing deeper and higher orders. New stores are opening up or acquiring existing shops. Earlier, buyers would stick to the tried and true, but now they are more open to new products." Charlie and Me introduced several new products: New Dimensions with jewelry and toys and a variety of premium products customizable for breast cancer awareness; Woodstream's eye-catching wind spinners and bird feeders were brand new at the market; Glitz See motion-activated purse lights were a hot seller, and a line of calendars and planners from Mead.
Business was brisk at Anne McGilvray & Company where regional sales manager, Cindy Persing spoke of the latest trends-moustaches, squirrels and bacon-and gave a run-down of their top sellers: Vandor's collapsible water bottles with a patented lid and a wide-mouthed opening for chunks of ice. Vandor's licensed line of superheroes from Marvel and DC comics is a consistent seller as are its holiday lines featuring the Grinch, Rudolph and Peanuts.
Diane Baker & Company moved to its new showroom and unveiled the Bella Banquet line of reusable paper placemats, April Cornell's extensive summer collection, and a line of exclusive pillar candles containing essential oils in eight fragrances by Parisian fabric designer, Manuel Canovas. Debuting at Market, London-based Squid London Umbrella's Squidarella umbrellas that change color when wet have been hot sellers at Patti White & Co. Also doing well were Lucky Me leather luggage tags and products from California-based Soul Boost. Doug Thorson Sales displayed faux flame wax pillar candles by Luminara with realistic, flickering wicks that create 80 hours of care-free ambiance with just two AA batteries. At Sarm & Nastovski, new to Market and the Midwest were Roux Maison's all-natural laundry detergent, made in Tennessee, with the promise of stain removal in three strengths - sport, delicate and regular. Big sellers for the firm were American-made, eco-friendly, washable pet beds and freezable rope toys colored with vegetable dyes from Jax and Bones, as also quality, colorful, embroidered Aspen Yoga Mats.
Shopping at the Market for her new gift shop, Marian Goodwin, owner of Rosepointe Cottage Tea Room in Chardon, OH, was excited by her finds at the Market. "I like the variety of items in Chicago, especially in the temporary exhibits, and I like supporting new artists. I also appreciate the opportunity to find Fair Trade goods. And everyone is very kind and friendly." It's reason enough to look forward to the Chicago summer Market, scheduled for July 18-23, 2013.
Tour Transpac's Las Vegas Showroom