So I flew into New York to meet with publishers and do both the National Stationery Show and Surtex. Even before the shows at Jacob Javits began, I had productive meetings with clients, new prospects and old friends (not that they are old age-wise, I have just known them a long time). I even indulged, thanks to my dear friend Erin, in an evening of great laughs at ‘Something’s Rotten!’ – a new Broadway musical that didn’t miss a beat and has been nominated for 10 Tony Awards. In other words, I had a great time!
Sunday I walked every inch of the pared down Stationery Show. While the show is a shadow of its former self, it probably represents more the state of the Stationery and Greeting Card industries, and the massive reduction in retail outlets, then the new management of the show itself. A lot of the big companies no longer exhibit or have chosen to have a smaller presence. However, it was very informative in terms of checking on trends, and there were plenty of newcomers testing the waters with their own card lines.
Wow – holy letterpress!! Yes, the trend that started about five years ago is now a full-blown epidemic. I think there were more original letterpress card companies per capita than any other type of card company. And, if that is true, I don’t know how all of them will remain in business. Each one can only possibly get a fraction of that niche market.
When letterpress cards began to emerge, I remember that every card was smaller, sweeter and more demure and special in their hand-made way, than the last one. The difference today is that letterpress has finally reached the realm of the clever, tacky and rude humor.
In general, I’m so glad to see humor getting its day in the sun. I think it’s reasonable to say that in light of today’s human condition, we all need it. Humor –of all kinds— is a big, big trend. No doubt, I was proud when the 27th Annual Louie Award for a greeting card ‘$4.00 & Below’ went to one of my favorite clients Loose Leashes. Actually both Louie Award Winners (under $4.00 and above $4.00) were humorous cards this year!
Over on the Surtex side of the trade show floor, I heard many agencies wishing they had more WORDS. Humorous words. Inspiring words. Sentimental words. You name it, W-O-R-D-S, of all kinds, are still on the rise. Hand-lettered, calligraphy, unique type…it’s all applicable. The population of stationery and gift buyers must be speechless, because they can’t get enough of it.
So where does that leave artists in the Surtex licensing arena? Well, as I said, there is still plenty of room for art with all those communicating words everyone wants. I heard many licensing agencies comment that they wished they had an artist or more artists who incorporate words into their artwork, both in central images and patterns.
Florals and animals still dominate the licensing themes. Further, retro revivals for a variety of eras…vintage, the 50s, 60s, “70s and 80s…are still prevalent in many design and humor concepts. The hand-drawn and hand-painted imagery is such an important trend, whether actually hand-made or computer-crafted. There continues to be a bit of a backlash against art that looks computer generated. Also, it’s not enough to create patterns and coordinating patterns, the manufacturers still want those central images.
On the design and product fronts, I didn’t see much that was new. There were some very original paper engineering. There was some buzz about the growing sales of coloring books for adult women. That may translate into a new trend in intricate black and white line art. I also noted the “his and her” pillowcases are getting there, again, just the ones with words. A great example of a not new, but a new way of approaching the traditional.
It looked like Surtex was providing some interesting sessions at the back of the trade show floor in their event space, but, sorry, I didn’t have the time to go and it didn’t look very busy anyway. I hope others will comment on these and share the information with all of us. I did see lots of vibrant colors and color combinations, but no neon colors .
Overall I think the exhibitors would have liked to have had more traffic at the show. Attendance did seem down. But many exhibitors noted that the quality of attendees was good. Many manufacturers were hunting for art to fill projects, plans and specific needs. That was exciting!
I heard exhibitors say they were not approached by as many artists, as in past years. The management’s new pricing strategy was successful at keeping the artists looking to get into the business, or looking for an agent, to a much smaller scale than in years past. Those who did attend were notably very professional, from what I observed.
Lastly, the height of the chalkboard art and products’ trend is finally over. But the chalkboard style seems to have left behind a somewhat indelible mark, through its influence on hand-lettering and type styles, which cannot be erased.