I always feel like once May arrives, National Stationery Show is really upon us. Well, it’s May 2, and have I got a real treat for you today — a sneak peek at three exhibitors that will very soon be making a temporary home in NSS’s #fresh juried section. To qualify for that area, vendors must have been in business for less than five years and create their own original designs. I think you’ll agree that these three are well-suited for the section!

First up, we have first-time exhibitor I AM A, hitting NYC all the way from London! Charmaine Leung is the maker behind this range, and has a mission a goal of making you smile through playful design. “We design joy into every single one of our products,” she told me. “The kind of joy that makes you giggle out loud and say, ‘I love that!’ We use colors, words, to bring fun alive.”

TPC: Had you walked NSS before? What made you decide to take the plunge?

CL: Only virtually online. 😉 I have heard, read and been wowed by many amazing stories and fun from NSS. There is never the perfect time, however. By signing up to the NSS, (I had) a momentous drive and inspiration to bring together our first greetings card range. 

TPC: Can you give readers a (verbal) sneak peek at your booth?

CL:  Blimey! We hope to make you smile, chase away the blues with color (and via) simple and vibrant text, smiley faces, emoticons, rainbow colors, supernovas and some British slang — Aye? Did we say possibly fake news too, and some very long words?
TPC: How did you get into stationery design? 

CL: Before stationery design, I had a career in consulting and investment banking. I felt smiles and laughter were missing at work, I always had a head filled with playful thoughts and just wanted to be goofy and smile. One of my work colleagues taught me jewelry making, so after work I would make jewelry and fill orders. I realized I loved graphics, and decided to learn to draw with Illustrator by sitting next to a graphics designer for a day and lots of YouTube videos. I started sending little badges out to customers that have bought my jewelry. 

About two and half years ago, a design store in London contacted me to ask me if the badges are for sale. Their aesthetics did not really suit the jewelry brand, so started another brand, hence I AM A was born. (Then I decided to apply to) the iconic London department store Liberty’s Open Design Call. I applied with the badges. 

I didn’t feel one product would be adequate, so I decided to walk the stores, and felt stationery will be my best place to combine my love of graphics and color. So three weeks before the Call, I designed a stationery box, presented to the buyers in a three-minute interview. The Liberty buyer has been instrumental in guiding me and providing me knowledge about stationery design, which I am ever grateful to, and they’re one of our first stockists too.

We aim to make products that are non-seasonal. The theme of our range is CONNECTION.  Nowadays, we have become time-poor, relying on technology all the time. I hope that through paper goods and stationery we could rekindle our connection through simple words and colors to rekindle memories and smiles. We take a more three-dimensional approach, rather than only text on screen. 

 TPC:  Are you planning on having any incentives/special promotions during the show?

C: Yes definitely. Any orders taken from the show above US$350 will receive free shipping from the UK.

Thanks Charmaine! I AM A includes four super-fun collections of greeting cards. These include some fruity Die Cuts, which I think have to be checked out in person! 

Check out I AM A in Booth #1480!

Next up, we’ve got Frankie & Claude — and if you have seen the spring issues of either Gift Shop or Stationery Trends, you’ll know I’m already beyond smitten! I asked Owner/Designer Sam Bearbower more about her lively, vibrant range. 

 TPC: Had you walked NSS before? What made you decide to take the plunge?

SB: I have never walked NSS! When I first got into the stationery industry I remember seeing fellow stationery shops posting beautiful pictures of their booths and products on Instagram, which is how I first learned of NSS. I did a lot of research about the show and decided debuting at the show in NY would be a big goal that I worked towards. About a year later Kelly Bristol contacted me after seeing some of my products at one of my retailer’s shops and said she thought I would be a great fit for the show. That was the the final push I needed to take the plunge and apply to debut at NSS 2017!

TPC: Can you give readers a (verbal) sneak peek at your booth?

SB: Think bright, white, gold accents, and a classic quaint aesthetic. Our hope is visitors will feel as though they are stepping into a sweet little brick and mortar shop, with our shelves filled to the brim with unique colorful Frankie & Claude products. Our pretty custom-colored Fancy Matches, mugs that will make you wish you were sipping a latte, and our brand new line of hand-lettered letterpress, foil-printed, and illustrated greeting cards gracing our walls. We’ll have picture frames hanging with beautiful art prints, some fun giveaways, and a top secret interactive feature for our lovely visitors.

TPC: How did you get into stationery design? 

SB: I started my business as a weekend hobby in the hopes it would help pay for my lunch-time Portland food truck addiction, as I worked about a block away from the best grilled cheese sandwich cart in Portland and frequented it a little too often : ) My “hobby” started to get so busy that I was spending all my nights and weekends after my day job as a paralegal working to keep up on my hobby. I realized quickly that design and creativity was where my true passion was. Eventually I quit my paralegal job to run my business full-time, and I have never looked back! Frankie & Claude is busier than ever and we have so many fun projects in the works. 

When adding a new design I always keep in mind two things, pretty & practical. The aim is to make sure that everything is functional and has a real purpose, and of course is beautiful. I also think its important to laugh, so humor and sarcasm is definitely incorporated into a lot of our designs as well. We have branched out from stationery and now offer a variety of home goods, such as pencil sets, and other gift items like our new line of Everyday Award ribbons (our alternative for a classic greeting card). Our line of paper products currently includes illustrated note pads and art prints, curated vintage postage stamps, and we’re SO excited to be launching our brand new line of greeting cards and recipe cards. Yay!

TPC: Are you planning on having any incentives/special promotions during the show?

SB: Yes! We’ll be offering some special promos for the show for sure. We’ll be announcing those over the next few weeks on our Instagram @the.frankieandclaude, and on our NSS website profile

TPC: What is the best advice you’ve gotten so far about exhibiting at NSS?

SB: Breathe. This is an incredibly stressful endeavor that consumes so much time, energy, money, and takes a lot of emotional investment. At the end of the day, no one but you will know if you didn’t finish the extra six designs, or if you have a floor tile that doesn’t match. This is an incredibly supportive community of people, and exhibiting is a big win, so just remember to breathe! Also, accept help wherever you can. I couldn’t have done everything without the help of amazing husband.

Check out Frankie & Claude in Booth #1572!

Last up, we have Boss Dotty Paper Co., and Theresa Berens is the Owner & Illustrator. Here we see her in life and at work!TPC: Had you walked NSS before? What made you decide to take the plunge?

TB: I walked the show with a student pass in 2016. It was both exciting and overwhelming! I’m not sure I would have predicted I’d do the show in 2017 at this time last year. But I met a representative of the NSS at my booth at a Renegade Craft pop-up last summer and he suggested applying — this helped me to decide to just go for it!

TPC: Can you give readers a (verbal) sneak peek at your booth?

TB: Imagine sitting in a Scandinavian candy store but instead of Scandinavia, you’re in New York City, and instead of candy, there’s stationery. I’m planning a bright white booth with clean, modern lines paired with all of the fun, fresh pastels of a sweets shop. I’ll be celebrating of-the-moment millennial pink with plenty of blush and rose gold accents. I also have some fun (wearable!) giveaways planned!

TPC: How did you get into stationery design? Please describe your range’s aesthetic and the range of products you offer.

TB: In my work as a graphic designer, a big part of the job is helping people tell their stories and communicate a specific point of view. After spending a lot of my time on freelance work in addition to a full-time job, I felt driven to create something with my own voice and perspective. When I began screenprinting during the fall of 2015, I went through a lot of explorations of both content and style — as well as learning how to be my own client.

The work I created for my screenprints helped me find my voice and led me into the world of stationery design. My illustrations are drawn with a can-do attitude and lots of love for feminist heroes, dreamy pastels and female friendships. Boss Dotty Paper Co.’s range is comprised of playful greeting cards, art prints and gift wrap laced with lots of humor and love for strong women everywhere. A drawing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to express resilience, a card decked out with vintage bras thanking the recipient for a lift— it’s is all about girls supporting girls.

TPC: Are you planning on having any incentives/special promotions during the show?

TB: Yes! I love adding surprise extras in my packages — all orders placed during the show will include six handpicked bonus cards.

TPC: Is there anywhere outside of your booth that you have to get to?

TB: I’m so excited for Boss Ladies: The Secrets Behind Successful Stationery Stars! (Editor’s Note: I have been informed by show management that it is sold out!) In preparing for the show, I took Eva Jorgensen’s Wholesale Stationery Business class, which is packed full of great interviews with amazing business owners — some of whom will be on the panel. In the months leading up to the show, those interviews were really invaluable. They had lots of excellent practical advice, but beyond that, I found it so helpful to hear how many of these successful women are also learning as they go. Emily McDowell made a joke about getting an MBA from Google — I can definitely relate!

TPC: What is the best advice you’ve gotten so far about exhibiting at NSS?

TB: My biggest takeaway from Eva’s class was to focus on the work, first and foremost, which really rang true for me as a first-time exhibitor. I’m new to the world of trade shows, booth design and running a wholesale business, so naturally there is going to be a learning curve. Preparing a strong, cohesive product collection with a particular point of view has been my focus for the show.

TPC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

TB: I’m hoping Booth #1380 will be a celebration of lady love. I can’t wait to meet fellow paper lovers, business owners and boss ladies!

Thank you Charmaine, Theresa and Sam for letting me share a glimpse of what goes into your dynamic ranges! So excited to meet you all + see it in person!

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