Slowing down to catch up
What does it mean when your life goes faster than you can keep up with? I think many would say it meant it was time to slow down, which is what I'm trying to do these days. But when the treadmill is turned up to high, sometimes it takes a while to slow down so you can get off safely without crashing, at least that was the plan.
After enjoying the holidays with my family and tending to my new store and showroom for 12 Small Things, it was immediately time for the Las Vegas Winter Market home and gift show. I had a new booth designed by Erin Kramer, which involved two large sets of shelving, inspired by a piece I'd seen in the NYT magazine. The shelving was built by a surfer in Oakland, and after picking up the multiple pieces of plywood, I knew it would be cheaper to drive it to Las Vegas, than pay for shipping.
I rented a minivan at the SFO airport, first mistake after realizing how much the airport tax costs, loaded my shelving and product, and headed back to the desert once again. I stopped overnight at Whiskey Sam's, an hour outside of Vegas, to save money, but paid for it with the chicken nuggets dinner I ate, which was my second mistake.
Upon arriving at the Las Vegas Market Pavilions, I met my helper, Emme, who was happy to show me my booth that she'd painted in advance. Once I looked at the size and location, I realized it wasn't my booth, I had given her the wrong number, after the Market had assigned a new aisle location they thought would be better for me. Mistake #3.
My actual booth was twice the size and Emme looked somewhat dismayed at having to start over. I had bigger tasks at hand after Ikea had refused to deliver the other display fixtures I'd ordered, because no one would sign for the shipment. I had to pay $95 to cancel my order, and then drive to the Las Vegas Ikea and repurchase everything, and load and drive it back to the Pavilions in the pouring rain. Was this a sign, was someone trying to tell me something?
After a couple long days assembling Ikea furniture and steaming and styling product, the booth was finished and all we needed were the customers. On opening morning it was still pouring rain, and attendees were stuck outside the registration tent waiting for admission. Once the customers finally arrived, we wrote some nice orders during the show, but less it seemed, than expected. Not sure if the weather or the politics of the country were affecting sales, but I did notice a slump.
We received another best booth award which was totally unexpected, and had some great social media coverage, but I was still not sure it was worth all the effort and money invested. When it came time to pack up and ship the samples back to California for the Indie Market gift show, the shipping costs for the tight turnaround were estimated to cost $3000. As much as I was looking forward to flying home, with cocktails and a movie, I cancelled my flight, and rented another U-Haul for the 11 hour drive home that afternoon. I decided to bring my new booth fixtures with me, instead of storing them until the next show, as I'd had enough of Las Vegas for the time being.
The next day was set-up for Indie, and I was so glad I'd brought everything with me. I had been given a very large booth at the front of the show space, and needed every bit of furniture and product to fill it up. Opening day saw more rain and fewer customers than our first Indie last summer. We saw repeat customers and wrote some more nice orders, but the show was definitely smaller. Is this the trend in wholesale trade shows, or is retail slowing down overall?
Without having a lot of time to ponder, it was time to head out to NY Now for their January gift show, and catch up with my vendors for both 12 Small Things and Keena Co. Everyone in New York seemed to be having a good show and attendance seemed to be strong. I had a nice dinner with Eszter and Becky from Sidai Designs and watched the Super Bowl upset that felt like our last presidential election. The following evening I attended the Gift for Life party honoring Jan Van der Lande, the founder of Kikkerland Designs and their 50th anniversary. I was so proud of my former intern, Carolina Soto, who as Kikkerland's new intern and soon to be employee, helped raise donations for the event. I was so glad to have introduced them to each other.
My first stop at NY Now was Artisans Resource where I saw Heather Joffe from By Hand Consulting, who reminded me that Keith Recker was about to give his popular color seminar that morning. I was so happy to attend, as I always get so much from Keith's observations about color trends and the factors that influence them. I saw Nathalie Tancrede from Artisan Business Network, and Annie Waterman and met some other designers in the artisan community while waiting for Keith to begin. After listening to his talk and seeing the examples of how our politics and environment are affecting the colors chosen by the design industry, Keith asked us to create our own color story palette based on our personal agenda.
I called my story "Engage" using words to describe the experience of slowing down to refocus, such as "touch, listen, emote, nurture and create". I was very happy with the fabric color swatches I'd chosen to illustrate these intentions, with natural pale blues and greens and earthly browns. When Keith asked to see my palette he politely approved but thought my choices were a bit safe. I went back to the pile of color swatches and selected a bright orange protest swatch, not sure as to how it would fit in.
After the workshop was over, I headed upstairs to the Handmade section of the show to see my artisan vendors and to buy some new product for my store. I saw Smita Paul from Indigo Handloom and was about to reorder my bestsellers, when I saw she had a special on preselected bundles of scarves organized in similar colors. I naturally chose a blue and green bundle and then added some yellow for spring and before I knew it, had grabbed an orange bundle, to add that element of surprise.
I stopped by The Aid to Artisan's booth where I saw Patti Carpenter and her new collection of indigo pillows and table linens handmade by women in Pakistan, that I also purchased for my store. With never enough time to see everyone, I was glad I toured the booths of new artists in the very back of Handmade, organized by Artisan Resource. There I met Liz Alig who designs fair trade, sustainable fashion, and had a collection of patchwork aprons made by women in Haiti from scraps of men's dress shirts. Haiti receives a lot of donated clothing from the US and Liz has found a creative way of cleaning and recycling similar color patterns of fabric into fabulous new pieces, infused with memory of previous purpose.
As I made my final round of goodbyes before heading home, I saw some attractive leather handbags from Chiban, that I thought might do well in my store. I introduced myself to the young woman in the booth, Eden Gelan, who looked at my name tag and said, " You're Laurie Kanes? I am so glad to finally meet you!" Turns out Eden had written me last year, interested in the work I was doing, and wanted to visit me when she was in San Francisco. I was hosting my husband's birthday party the day she was in town, and was unable to see her. I felt like we were meant to know each other and work together, and I was so glad I'd taken the time to say hi. Life's adventures are out there to be had, and its good to remember to slow down so we don't miss them.