Saturday, June 18, 2011

Inspiration from Creative Minds . . .

I never cease to be amazed by the creativity of the demo artists I encounter.  If you have ever been at a show, you’ve seen them – they’re the ones who draw such a crowd that you can’t seem to get close enough to see what they’re doing.  But it’s not just what they’re doing – it’s the presentation.  There is a “showmanship” involved in being a good demo artist that goes far beyond the product.


We have been very fortunate over the years to have some fantastic demo artists in our booth.  These shots of Sue Rothamel and Crystal Copperstone were taken last weekend in Collinsville, Illinois, but they could just have easily been shots of Sue Nelson or Melinda Doster or Jill Haglund or Anna Ely or any of the myriad of talented artists we’ve worked with over the years.  They make shows special – and what they can do with a few odds and ends and a head full of ideas impresses me.

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Which leads me to this – the latest from the creative mind of Tim Holtz.  Tim is another of those people who can take something very simple and make it into something very special.  He does amazing stuff with what essentially started out as found objects.  And now he is moving into the area of stationery and paper goods and tote bags and such with District Market – it’s a whole new line full of seasonal notecards, burlap panels, matchbook notepads, tissue wrap, spiral journals, and totes (!) – all with the look of timeless nostalgia and salvaged findings that Tim is known for!

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Want to see more?  Click on any of the pictures above to see individual items, or click on the District Market logo to see the whole line of 30 products.

Like most new releases, you get a peek now but the actual products won't ship until mid-September.  We have already placed a big advance order so that we'll be ready as soon as they're available.

You can place District Market orders now and we'll fill them in the order received when the goodies arrive.  Here's your incentive -- advance orders get 20% off the MSRP and we'll ship them free!  Just remember that any other items you include with your District Market order won't ship until September, and only the District Market items are 20% off unless otherwise noted.  This offer will be good until the first batch of District Market products arrive.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Four Busy Weeks . . .

I have been extremely behind in posting the pictures and fascinating stories (no groans, please) from the past few weeks of travels and activities.  I have literally only been home long enough to mow the grass, do my laundry, play golf on Wednesday (some things are sacred), and get back out on the road.

Thought about breaking this up into several mini-posts, but with the way things have been going around here, that could have run into July and by then I would have been that far behind again.  From the shows in Southfield (Detroit), West Springfield, and Collinsville (St. Louis), I’ll try to keep it to sights and stories you haven’t seen here before.  Still, you might want to grab a cup of coffee – this could take a while . . .

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For the Southfield, Michigan show (May 21-22), we decided to try and modify our booth layout a little – think of it as a different way to try to get ten pounds of potatoes into a five-pound potato sack.  This layout was actually ten feet shorter than what you may have seen at some of the smaller shows – with the economy as it is, any money we can save keeps prices down for you.  But we found it was a little congested, so the next week in West Springfield, Massachusetts we tried moving the USArtQuest display “inside” the longer layout – and that worked much better.  So we tried it with the shorter version in Collinsville, Illinois last weekend.  I like it, and you’ll likely see it again.

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At one point, I walked from one end of the booth to the other and noticed that Sue Rothamel looked even shorter than normal.  I had to investigate from several angles until I finally determined what I was seeing . . .


That little stepstool she was sitting on was only about a foot off the ground.

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Memorial Day Weekend was my 35-year high school reunion.  We planned several activities so that a few of us could get a chance to see each other – some for the first time in many years.  But as usual, I took most of the pictures, so there is little evidence that I attended.  Thankfully, our classmate Cindy Marconet took a few pictures as well . . .

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At left, Friday evening at a bowling alley – how fitting that the bowling shoes that I got for my birthday when I was a senior in high school were invited to attend!  At right, a few of us at a picnic on Sunday afternoon.


This shot was taken at the 128th Waynesville High School Alumni Banquet at our high school on Saturday evening – it’s the longest running alumni reunion in Ohio.  Everyone who ever went there or taught there is invited, so we get quite a cross-section of generations.  I went to my first one when I was a senior (the seniors get in free), and during the program a group of names were read and invited to stand – it wasn’t until I heard the third name that I realized the fourth one was going to be mine . . .

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Left to right: my great-grandma Ellen Sherwood Conner (Class of 1908), my grandpa Leo Conner (Class of 1937), my mom Carolyn Conner Smallwood (Class of 1957), and the last one you have seen before.  Four generations of graduates, all present at Alumni – and it has never happened before or since.  My mom told me later that soon after I was born, my great-grandma told her that her goal was to live until I graduated from high school so we could have all four generations at Alumni.  At the time it didn’t mean that much to me, but my great-grandma died the next spring and now I cherish that memory.


On Memorial Day, Zoe and I went to watch my nephew Tyler and his high school jazz band and percussion ensemble play at a community amphitheater.  It was a beautiful evening – and of course, once Zoe saw my sister-in-law Lisa, she had no need for me anymore!  That’s Lisa holding the leash, with her parents Ron and Mary Jo to her right and Tyler’s girlfriend Rachel seated.  And my brother Blake’s forearm is in the foreground . . .

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No doubt you saw the video and pictures of the tornadoes that struck Springfield, Massachusetts the day before we arrived.  I took a bunch of photos and posted them the evening I arrived.  But none of us were sure what to expect when Saturday morning rolled around – thankfully, you New Englanders are a hardy bunch . . .

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Two views of the front entrance a few minutes before the show opened . . . at this point, we’re all breathing a deep sigh of relief.

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I love to watch the stampede in West Springfield as the show opens.  Doesn’t matter where our booth is – you’ll find us!

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Frankie and Crystal and Sue spent the night before creating fancy hairdos and flowered earrings and hairpins.  But once the show opened, there was work to be done.

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This is one of the few shows where there is very little difference in the size of the crowd on Saturday (left) or Sunday (right).


And sometimes a customer needs a little quiet space to go through her purchases . . .

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From my position (in front of my cash register), I get a very different view when I look to my left or right . . .


And when I turn around, I get a direct (and futile) view of the snack bar.  So close, and yet so far – I’ll never get there . . .

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Last weekend, we were in Collinsville, Illinois – and the show had some things in common with Springfield . . .

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We weren’t all that far from the devastation in Joplin, Missouri.  Barbara and Jerry from Rubber Stamp Events came up with a great idea – 14 raffle baskets full of donations from Barbara and the vendors, with the proceeds going to help out in Joplin.


The convention center staff got a workout early in the day – part of the lights in the hall suddenly went out and these folks had to go from breaker box to breaker box until they found out what caused it.

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Still, the show must go on – and all of those lights I hang on our booth really came in handy.  It was rough for a while for the vendors who didn’t have them.

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At one point I heard a scream from Sue Rothamel, when she noticed that one of the customers had used USArtQuest products to decorate her skirt . . .


If you want your demos to be seen, there is no better place to have your booth than right across the aisle from the Snack Bar!


At the old Auntie Amy shows, this would have been known as the “Unruly Husband Containment Center” – yes the guy in the background was asleep . . .

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Last, but certainly not least -- need a spouse who is confident in his masculinity?  Desreen Snow already has one -- she and her husband Tilmon came into the store a few days ago and Tilmon was carrying the bouquet!  They are getting ready to renew their vows after five years of marriage -- congrats!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The View from West Springfield, Massachusetts

I arrived in West Springfield this evening with mixed emotions -- I have seen the devastating photos and video on television, and just wasn't sure if it was proper for us to do business there this weekend.  But I am pleased to report that the locals are doing just that -- businesses are open, cleanup is underway.  The fairgrounds and hotel areas are untouched.  And I realized that if we cancelled, people here who work at the fairgrounds and surrounding businesses and rely on us for their livelihoods would suffer even more.  But it was important to me to be certain we aren't going to get in the way of cleanup and such. We aren't . . .

So the show must go on, and if you were planning to come, I hope you will join us.  I took some pictures so you could see from my perspective, but I did not go across the river to Springfield -- I felt it wasn't my place to do so.

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Long shot of the grounds at the Eastern States Exposition (the Big E), and the Better Living Center where the show will be held -- from the street, it appears that the entire fairgrounds is untouched.  I also drove through the West Springfield hotel area and where we're staying out by the Hartford Airport -- both areas are also untouched.

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But less than a mile away, there are lots of damaged trees.  If you come in from the "rotary" on Rt. 5, you'll see this church building (I think the church actually closed a year or two ago) and the damage to the trees that surround it.  I took five pictures of the church area.

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A lot of trees and some buildings are damaged in the area closer to the river and the Rt. 5/Memorial Avenue rotary.  I held up my camera and snapped a bunch of pictures without looking while I was driving.  These were the ones that were in focus.

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Just north of and inside the Rt. 5/Memorial Ave. rotary


And I saw a couple of these – semi trailers hauling branches away.  We had small tornadoes and some nasty thunderstorms in our area last week, but nothing like this.  Somehow, softball-sized hail just doesn’t compare.