National Stationery Show Tips for Newcomers

Less than two weeks and counting until the Big Apple hosts the National Stationery Show in the heart of midtown Manhattan. If you’re new to the show (either as an exhibitor or first time attendee), you’re in for a treat: the show hosts the latest and greatest in stationery & letterpress goods. Today we’re sharing some helpful tips & hints direct from NSS veterans themselves. If you have a tip you’d like to share, join in on the conversation and post it in our comments section!

Rachael Hetzel – Pistachio Press

My tip is to remember that something will go wrong. Only you know what your plan is for the booth and for new product. Everyone else will love what you’ve done and once you’ve started meeting with buyers, you’ll forget that you were upset about not having enough time to finish that specific task.

Also, remember that everyone else is stressed out, too. The camaraderie and friendships that are formed from this shared experience are really wonderful and unique to our business!

(photograph courtesy of Oh So Beautiful Paper)

Shelley Barandes – Albertine Press

Don’t underestimate the value of comfortable flooring (and shoes). Standing on concrete for five days straight can do a number on your body.

Allison Chapman – Igloo Letterpress

Pack water and snacks to keep in your booth.  You don’t want to be ‘hangry’ while helping customers!

There is a lot of pressure and stress as you prep for the show.  Be sure to treat yourself (and your booth neighbors) kindly.

Kevin and Carly Nelson – Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress

Our best advice to a new exhibitor is to find a reliable shipping company. In the weeks leading up to the show, several shippers will contact you and ask to give you a quote. Last year, we made the mistake of going with one of these random shippers because they seemed professional and had a good rate. Unfortunately, our shipment was partially lost en route, our booth walls were damaged, and the company threatened to sue when we demanded a discount. I recommend asking other exhibitors who they have shipped with. Go with a referral over a company you don’t know.

Heather Wiese-Alexander – Bell’INVITO Stationers

Of course, your business card speaks volumes about your business, to this crowd especially. Have more cards than you think you will need. If your “nicer” cards are expensively produced, bring a back-up of something inexpensive to pass out to the masses.

Second, I always visit the supply side first. There are so many great resources there, and the crowds tend to move into that area last.

Brad Woods – Maginating

1. On my first show, I forgot to create order forms with carbonless copies. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d have to have a copy of the order for myself and give one to the buyer as well. Most people probably already thought of this since it’s common sense but I’d never placed an order before – the NSS was, quite literally, my first selling experience! (if you need a reference for an order sheet, email me and I’ll share our version with you).

2. Another suggestion is to try to avoid using the FedEx at the Javits. They charge a fortune! There are a gazillion copy shops in NYC that charge regular rates, do great work, and turn stuff out really fast.

3. This suggestion is almost too late, but there’s still time to cobble something together. Make sure you have either a line sheet or a catalog. If this is your first show, don’t produce too many, 250 at the most. The worst problem you could have is to run out, but you can always make something inexpensive that can be reproduced at one of those inexpensive Manhattan copy shops while you’re at the show.

(Photograph courtesy of Oh So Beautiful Paper)

4. Put up a “Reps Wanted” sign at your booth but don’t have it hang out into the aisle. You may think you don’t want reps, but really – you do. I wouldn’t survive without my reps!

5. In fact, don’t create any signs that hang out into the aisle. Freeman will make you remove it.

6. On Saturday night, Freeman will lay down the aisle carpeting. If their carpet doesn’t come up to the edge of your floor tile, carpet, whatever – go to the Freeman service center (usually close to the LOUIE display) and put in a request to have a little piece of carpet put in to cover the cement floor. Make sure, however, you ask them really, really nicely. They’re happy to help but really appreciate your gratitude.

7. They don’t run the air conditioners during setup time. It can be really hot in the Javits, so dress accordingly.

8. There’s a secret place to buy food at the back of the Javits during setup time. I can’t remember the name of the place but it’s where all the teamsters buy their grub. It’s not fancy but it’s good food (and a lot less expensive than the food at the front of the convention center in those fake subway cars).

9. Since NSS doesn’t begin until Sunday, try to visit the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in the lower hall on Saturday. Your NSS badge will get you in for free and it’s amazing!

10. There’s this amazing Halal (Muslim equivalent of “kosher”) food cart at the intersection of 53rd and 6th. GO THERE! At one point, the Michelin food guide rated it one of the top 10 restaurants in NYC. There will be a very long line (maybe 50 – 75 people) but it moves very quickly (like, 10 minutes, tops). For $7 you will get a very, very tasty dish. Note: don’t get it to go – grab a seat and enjoy it there. You will find huge bottles of “white sauce” on the side of their cart for you to soak your dish in. It’s amazing!

11. If you’re coming in from an airport, either JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark and you’re on a budget, book a Super Shuttle bus in advance, online. It’s cheap, especially if you book a return trip. You have to, however, tell them in advance how many pieces of luggage you’re bringing with you. If you go over two, you might have to pay an extra fee (or tip generously). You can also take their shuttle bus. This is really inexpensive and will drop you off in the city. You’ll probably want to get off at Grand Central Station but it’s obviously going to depend on where your hotel is located. Don’t worry about it – grab a cab for the trip from Grand Central to your hotel – it’s probably going to be under $10 and totally worth it.

12. Get some padded flooring or cushy carpet for your booth. Your feet will thank you a thousand times over!

13. Make sure you take time to walk the show. I usually walk it on Saturday, late afternoon, or Wednesday morning.

14. Eat! Make sure you have a good breakfast and eat lunch! There will be people handing out menus for sushi and the like. See if your booth neighbor wants to join forces and order some take out. It’s usually pretty tasty and they deliver to your booth.

15. Make sure you have inventory in advance of the NSS. Don’t create too much product for your first show – maybe 250 pieces (max) of each, but if you don’t you’re going to be printing (as Lionel Ritchie says) all-night-long…

16. And lastly… it’s going to be difficult, but try to not compare yourself to those around you. Each company is going to experience (and benefit) from the NSS in their own unique way. Making sales isn’t the only goal at this show. Contacts, exposure, experience, conversations that might not lead to something right away, building relationships, blog exposure, media exposure, making friends, experiencing NYC, etc. – there are a lot of other ways that NSS will benefit you! Oh – and just because one company is having a “mad rush of sales” in the 1300 aisle on Sunday morning (and you’re not) doesn’t mean anything. There will be ebbs and flows in a variety of different areas within the show. What’s happening in one area isn’t necessarily what’s going on in the rest of the building. If you love what you’re doing people (and buyers) will be drawn to it. The card business is a more than $5 billion industry. There’s plenty of room for us little guys on those store shelves!

16.5. …come by the Maginating booth (2062) to say hi! Or email us at maginating@hotmail.com – we remember when it was our first show and are happy to help you in any way we can.

If you have a tip for NSS that you’d like to share, join in on the conversation and post it in our comments section!

Ink Meets Paper: A Story Behind Every Card

If you’ve followed the world of letterpress this past year, you’ll recognize Daniel and Allison Nadeau, the pair behind Ink Meets Paper.  The former designer & English major team turned letterpress powerhouse become a duo to watch this year, as their innovative “Every Card Has A Story” films (which capture the detail and work that goes into each piece) are receiving rave reviews. Their work is as sharp as an X-acto, colorful as a Pantone Color Guide,  and they’re a team with a penchant for letterpress brilliance. Daniel and Allison sat down between runs to talk shop and about the little things of letterpress that make their world go ’round. And don’t forget to say “Hi!” to them as they’ll be making their first National Stationery Show appearance in New York City this coming May (Booth#2267)!

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CLOSE UP WITH DANIEL & ALLISON We’re husband and wife, Daniel and Allison Nadeau. Daniel’s background is product and interaction design, and I was an English major. We grew up in Nashville, TN, spent a few years in Savannah, GA, and ended up in Charleston, SC.

FROM CORPORATE TO CREATIVE Our interest in letterpress started with a desire for hands-on interaction and creation. We both had corporate jobs where we sat in front of computers most of the day, and longed to create something more tactile and physical. After taking a printmaking and letterpress class at a local art studio, I was hooked.

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PRINTING IN THE PALMETTO STATE Our shop is in our house, which is in the Park Circle community of North Charleston, SC. We had initially looked into renting a storefront studio space, but the timing just didn’t work out. Instead of continuing the search, we converted a spare bedroom into a studio (added French doors to allow access for the press, pulled up carpet to expose the concrete floor, and added a concrete overlay). Keeping the studio in the house was probably one of the smartest moves we made. It allowed us to grow slowly (without stress from additional rent) and made it easy to print at crazy times (we both had other full-time jobs at the time, so there were many late nights printing). The studio is also climate controlled, which is a huge perk for the hot, humid Charleston summers. We’re lucky to have lots of natural light and a really nice view of the backyard.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS We are always creating. Our greeting card line keeps us pretty well aligned with the retail industry in terms of product releases ( i.e. Christmas cards in May, Valentine’s cards in September, and so forth). Daniel and I usually run through sketches, concepts and ideas to narrow down a direction and refine from there. Most of our card designs are hand drawn first, and then scanned and vectorized to be made into photopolymer plates.

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Our production process is a bit different, as we are really interested in the dialogue that occurs when a customer wants to learn more about the card they purchased, or received. One of the ways we have addressed this dialogue was to create Card Stories. We make a unique video story for each of our card designs (accessed by scanning a code on the card back or by entering the Story Code number at our website). This meant, as we printed, we would also film (and eventually edit) the printing process. As our volume has increased, we are working to find other ways of letting our customers know what goes into each card. Our mobile site has always been closely tied to each product, and we’re excited to continue exploring how the digital and physical can support one another.

FULL TIME FUN We’ve both been focused full time on Ink Meets Paper since January of 2012. We also work as graphic/web design freelancers, and Daniel does programming as well.

PRESS HISTORY Summer of 2008 became the season of the great printing press search. We scoured forums and Craigslist ads throughout the South, hoping to find a floor-sized platen press. Daniel was so set on finding one that he made a list of every antique store in the state.

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Finally, we located an 8×12 Chandler & Price at a print shop in Jacksonville, FL that was closing out the letterpress portion of its services. Hearing stories from and talking with a third-generation printer was an incredible experience– such knowledge and so much history. Good friends helped us move the press back to Charleston (and let us keep the press in their garage until we worked out a studio space).

PRINTING FEATS Probably our biggest accomplishment is that we’re both self-employed and working together. While it’s challenging at times, it’s so rewarding to be able to work from a home studio, refine our business, and explore new opportunities with each other.

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We are so honored to be a part of the letterpress community, and have always found everyone to be open and willing to share knowledge. To complement fantastic sites like Letterpress Commons, we also organized the Letterpress Hotline in early 2012. It’s a volunteer-run telephone helpline so printers can call and talk to another printer if they’re ever in a sticky situation.

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BOXCAR’S ROLE We use a Boxcar base and order our plates and ink from Boxcar. Boxcar’s top-notch customer service and easy online ordering mean our plates are one less thing we have to worry about. Not to mention, Boxcar’s online letterpress training videos and press manual PDFs (now a part of the Letterpress Commons) were extremely helpful as we were venturing in to the crazy world of letterpress printing. We’re big proponents of sharing information and helping others and love that Boxcar holds those same views.

SHOP TIPS Be thoughtful and don’t be afraid to go slowly (both in business and in printing). Building a business takes time, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

WHAT’S NEXT Ink Meets Paper will be making its first appearance at the National Stationery Show in May, Booth#2267.

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A big round of thanks out to Daniel & Allison for letting us get the full story on Ink Meets Paper.

Photography courtesy of Olivia Rae James.

Typography spotted in the Big Apple

While in New York City recently for the National Stationery Show, we found that not everything inspiring was happening just inside the Javits Center.  With a sharp eye, there was some appealing typography in signage that was spotted during our travels.  We all can appreciate a well turned font and a clever capital that gets the message across.  Shown here are just four images we snapped, but we also recommend checking out the artful NYC Type, a site that reveals some of the classic lettering hidden high and low along the streets of New Y0rk City.  Click on each picture on the NYC Type website for the location of each photo.

Clockwise from the top: Harrington’s Bar & Grill on 7th Avenue | Classic serifs on 42nd Street with Madame Tussauds | Houndstooth Pub on 8th Avenue | More serifs grace the Regal Theatre marquee.