It's a Wonderful Town
Flying home from New York City where I attended NY Now for my work with Keena and 12 Small Things, I can't believe I was only gone a week. I managed to cram so much in, from walking the show to visiting vendors, to meetings and dinners out with fellow sales reps and finally seeing a couple of museum shows before leaving, I am impressed with all I accomplished. And I'm not really tired after all that, thanks to a couple nights of sleeping nine hours straight.
I had fun sharing a room at the Row near Times Square with Keena gals Nanci and Nadia, but only after they transferred us to a bigger room where we could actually walk past each other getting to the bathroom and closet. Times Square itself is as crowded as ever, particularly at night in summer, as was NY Now on the first day. By the time I took a lunch break, all the salads were gone in the food court and I had to wait 40 minutes to get a handcrafted salad. But no worries, I had such a great day visiting the Handmade section to see all my artisan peeps for 12 Small Things, it's like a mini reunion twice a year. Thanks to my good sales at the De Young Museum show before I left, I was able to buy new product for my fall collection and I wasn't shy to say, "Let's write an order!"
I had purchased two black woven bags from Africa at the San Francisco Gift Show and was looking for other items to make a cohesive collection for Fall. I found some wonderful new shawls at Indigo Handloom in black and navy with polka dots and couldn't resist buying a few on the spot. I was happy to see their founder, Smita Paul, who waved enthusiastically, but was too busy with other customers to chat, which was great. Even though I don't sell many dresses on my website, I headed over to Mata Traders to buy a basic but chic navy dress that will look great for a model to wear underneath my new shawls.
I then ventured over to the Aid to Artisans booth where I met a lovely young woman, Ming Sang from Myanmar. I was admiring her lyrical, hand embroidered blankets depicting rural life in her country, and after trying to choose between the red or the blue or the black one, I bought all three! They will make wonderful gifts for customers shopping for something special on my website this holiday. I was also happy to see Claire Burkert again, who I had met last year at the Artisans Resource, selling products made by women in Palestine. She lives in Nepal with her husband and was there during the recent earthquake, assessing the damage first hand. She has designed a collection of products by some of the artisans affected by the disaster, and was showing them at the booth. Among the items were brightly colored stuffed animals and decorative watering cans, which I will definitely want to buy for my spring 2016 website.
I took a break at to have lunch with my daughter Johanna's good friend Sasha Fisher. Her mom had her diamond necklace repaired and asked me to deliver it in person. Sasha was game to go to a couple meetings with me, one to the ATA training room to meet with some of the attendees and review their products in development. My next meeting was with Ted Barber from Prosperity Candle who I'd like to introduce to my contacts at Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma. They do a great job bringing income and employment to refugees of war-torn communities. While I talked with Ted, Sasha helped his partner learn how to use Instagram so it was a very productive meeting for all. I also stopped by to say hi to my friend Anna-Laure Py from Craftspring ornaments working with artisans in Kyrgyzstan. She and her helper Sole Di Paola were also having a good show is spite of the cold air-conditioning.
I also made a point to visit Carmen Myer again at her booth for her company Meyelo. She has been working with artisans in Kenya for ten years now, and is seeing the fruits of her labor. Her business now employs over 80 artisans and reinvests in their community to help support small businesses, education, farm co-ops and medical needs. Her new fall collection of canvas bags and leather backpacks looks terrific, totally on-trend, and was selling briskly. I bought an assortment of bags for my website plus one for myself!
Heading over to the Artisans Resource I was lucky to see my friend Karen Gibbs from By Hand Consulting, the producer of the exhibit along with Colvin English, before she got too busy, and we caught up quickly on our families and work before other customers needed her attention. I was so pleased to see the exhibit so well attended, now in its fourth year. Moving on the the other booths I found my friend Ezster Rabin and her partner Emanuel Melubo, from Sadai Designs in Tanzania, both smiling and happy to see me. Their product made the cover of the exhibit catalog for the second year in a row and they were pleased with the sales they'd had thus far.
I was also so pleased to see the artisan group Makaua again at the show. I wrote about them a year ago in my blog New York Now, and have long admired their hand woven palm baskets, bags and placemats made by artisans in Mexico. Lorena and designer Paola Sarinana were working the booth and were glad to hear I liked their collection so much. I will definitely be featuring them on my website next spring and we promised to keep in touch. I also was very impressed by the collection of clothing in Bibi-Hanum's booth. Founder Muhayo Aliyeva is working with women in Uzbekistan to design and sew very contemporary fashion with wonderful traditional prints.
After a full day and another fun night out with the Keena group, I was happy to sleep in a bit and spend my last two days seeing great exhibits in some of the best museums in the world. I met my friend Mimi Robinson for lunch at the Neue Galerie and then walked through Central Park over to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Yoko Ono show. The park was warm and rich in shades of green interspersed with joggers and bikers and kid campers and tourists all enjoying the city oasis. MoMA was crisp and cool and modern by contrast, and we debated about whether to stand in line and fork over the $25 admission, but were glad we did. Yoko Ono was so ahead of her time, both as a conceptual artist and especially as a young Asian woman married to a world famous rock star. We also saw the Jacob Lawrence show of paintings depicting the migration of African Americans from the south to the north during the 1950's and 60's. They work was brilliantly depicted and quite moving; more time well spent. On our way out we met Claire Burkert and her husband just coming to see the show, and realize we were all wearing grey and black and the exact color of mustard yellow!
The next day I met my friend Gwendy Feldman from Original Women for lunch and then went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the John Singer Sargent and the China exhibit "Through the Looking Glass". Sargent's bold rendering of not only the physical likeness of his subjects but the emotional portrayal, except in his self portraits, was just amazing. And the China exhibit was breathtaking, both in the curation, narration and multimedia displays. It thrilled the senses and brought inanimate, centuries old art to life, with modern interpretations and inspirations. From martial arts to high fashion and movie stars, to opium dens and perfume, the lure of exotic China was all-consuming.
By this time I was ready to get back to my friend Cecilia's apartment and have a simple dinner and a glass of wine, to digest all I'd done and seen this week. I saw such beautiful products and met inspiring artists and saw amazing art, that my whole being feels replenished - so different than being worn out by work. I can feel the plane beginning to land as I wrap up my adventures in New York, NY, a wonderful town, although I did keep getting confused which side was up and which way was down. I'm ready to return to my family and home in San Francisco and back to the familiar routine, until it's time for the next journey, coming up soon.