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NSS rookie: a long, long, looooong recap.

June 5, 2012

So I was really nervous about doing the Stationery Show for the first time because I had no idea what to expect. I had been to the New York Gift Fair last year, but as a visitor and not a potential exhibitor and I didn’t pay attention to how booths were built, or what materials people were using, or how much lighting was needed, or even what the floors looked like. The Javits Center is a huge building that feels totally dehumanized and about to swallow you whole, and it’s pretty hard to tame it down to human scale. Their exhibitor manual was intimidating and incredibly austere, and absolutely unhelpful, or at least that’s how it felt to me. The two points that specifically freaked me out were: One, everything has to be flameproof and treated with fire-retardant. Two, exhibitors are not allowed to use power tools, climb on ladders or install lights. Really??

After an initial moment of complete disbelief, followed by absolute despair, I did some research online and asked a couple of folks I know who regularly attend trade shows, and it seemed like those rules are just there as legal protection for the Center in case there is a problem and someone decides to sue them. In reality, the rules are: Don’t be dumb. So no, don’t bring in baskets of hay, or lit candles, or paper lanterns, and don’t use a chop saw precariously set on a folding chair – actually, don’t use a chop saw at all – but it’s totally fine to use a power drill to install some shelves or to climb on a step ladder to set up a clamp lamp. The Javits Center staff were really nice, and the set-up of the booth went really well. The real problem was unloading/loading our truck, because there is no parking around the Center. On installing day we were told the hand-carry area was for cars or vans only and that we had to register our truck to the drayage entrance in the back, which meant that we were not allowed to unload anything ourselves but had to let their union guys do it for us. Which can take forever because there are a lot of exhibitors, and trucks, and freight crates, to take care of so bring a book. Luckily they weren’t too busy when we got there, so we only had to wait an hour or so. On the last day we found out that we could also use the hand carry entrance even though we had a truck, so we just went for it and it was much, much better. Don’t know why they told us we couldn’t the first time.

So here it is: the making of the booth!

First we loaded up Ariele‘s old faithful station wagon with two-by-fours and sheets of 1/4″ plywood.

We started by framing out the three panels of the booth. I had an 8′ by 10′ booth, but we decided to make it a little bit smaller to make sure it would fit. That was a good call on our part. Also, I was really lucky that a friend of mine let us use her garage. Thanks Merida!

Then we screwed on the sheets of plywood.

We had to trim the ply down to size, and this is how Ariele ended up losing all of her toes. Just kidding. Only the big toes.

When doing any kind of construction work, make sure you have the proper fuel to power you. Namely, chips and iced tea. Realize at 4pm that you’re starving and have a giant disgusting burrito. Go home at night and enjoy a good stomach ache. You’re welcome.

We wallpapered the finished panels with butcher block paper, because I only use the finest material. By which I mean cheapest. It also happens to look fantastic. Ariele made her famous home cooked wheat paste, because that how she rolls.

Then I started chalking out some sort of neo-classical old-ballparkey columns and arcades, and I painted it with acrylic paint. It was pretty fast and absolutely painless, and it made me very happy, especially because I got to use my chalk line. A good snap on a chalk line always makes my day.

The next day I met Ariele at the local salvage yard where we picked two big pieces of wood to use as shelves. The guy who helped us there was super awesome and impressed us with his chainsaw skills.

That night I made some pennant signs. It was really fun and I want to make more… Who wants a pennant??

The next day was set-up day. This is what the booth looked like when we got there. Pretty sad. I mean, look at that sorry sign there. Can’t even hold its chin up!

We started by setting up the panels, which were held together with screws and clamps.

Next we installed the shelves, screwed in from behind…

And our super cheapo lights from Ikea…

Then I taped the cards on to the right wall…

… and hung the framed ones on to the left wall, as well as a vintage bat and glove and of course my pennant on to the back wall, and voila!

Things I will do differently next time: everything. Hard walls look fantastic, but it is a lot of work and not exactly cheap. I had to rent a big truck, and ended up taking the panels apart completely at the end of the show because I had nowhere to store them. I reused the two-by-fours but the ply sadly went to the trash. Next time I’ll try to design a booth that is easy to transport, to build, to store and still looks awesome! Live and learn.

Was it all worth it in the end? Absolutely. I met tons of super sweet people, fellow designers, bloggers and store owners, and I’m really proud to add over fifteen new stores to Left Field Cards’s list of retailers. I made some new friends, and best of all I feel inspired and excited about the work that awaits me this year. Too many ideas and too little time! As always.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2012 10:24 AM

    Oh WOW Amelie, your booth is truly SO COOL! I’ve just discovered your blog through Ariele’s – and so glad I did! You are both tremendously inspiring, and your art warms my heart and makes me smile a LOT! Felicitations on your successes at the Market, and on making your sweet stall yourself. Looks amazing 🙂 Katie. xxx

  2. June 17, 2012 2:18 PM

    love the booth, very pretty, but i can see how difficult it would be to move/store those panels. hopefully YOUR NEW STUDIO will help with that. i am too excited about this news from strangers. yay!

  3. July 9, 2012 9:34 AM

    SO GOOD. (I would like a pennant, please!)

  4. April 13, 2013 6:54 PM

    Thank you so much for this post! I am a first time exhibitor for 2013 National Stationery Show, and these are the exact same things that I am freaking out about! I’m in disbelief and despair stage still, though, ;). Is it totally 100% true that you can use a material like cardboard (for example) in a booth display? I just have to double triple check…I’ve been panicking!
    Thank you again for all of the information you shared,
    Sincerely, Sarah Peoples Principal, G..O.Products, LLC
    P.S. Your booth was adorable!!!!

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