Paola Prints was juried into the flagship show of the American Craft Council, held February 17-21, at the Baltimore Convention Center. Seemed wise to walk the show this year and make plans for 2017-as I’d never been to it. It was fun! It was good to compare it with my visit to NY NOW a couple weeks ago. I met lots of talented artists and all around good people.
Both ACC and NY NOW shows are wholesale and feature work created for home décor. NY NOW is a much larger show. It boasts 2500 exhibitors and thousands of lines. In recent years, NY NOW has capitalized on a global market, featuring both handmade and manufactured goods from overseas. Most home decor products sold in the US are made overseas. The ACC show had approximately 550 exhibitors total, spread across two separate events-one wholesale, one retail.
As you may know, Paola Prints is design driven and all made in America. Seemed smart to check into ACC.
The ACC wholesale component (two days) was very quiet and like its retail side (three days) it featured somewhat limited textiles for home décor and much more metal, glass and wood creations. Lots of jewelry, interesting clothing and personal accessories. The event boasts all things American, handmade and juried in to ensure quality. ACC is a non-profit, mission-based organization. This was the 40th annual show in Baltimore. ACC also hosts smaller annual shows in Atlanta, St. Paul, and San Francisco.
As an artist, I quickly warmed to the creative souls at show. It was easy to strike up conversation and learn from them. Still, at the retail event, it was so jammed it took on the franctic pace many of us know from county or craft fairs where people move fast to search out bargains. You didn’t want to get in anybody’s way.
Both wholesale and retail get high marks for product quality and ease of access. Baltimore as a venue is less challenging or as expensive as NYC to navigate. Little Italy was a short walk from our downtown hotel. Great eating around the corner.
The jury is out as to whether this is a wholesale channel for me to pursue. Too bad attendance is low. I heard that over the years, retail days have picked up even as wholesale slowed. I spoke with some buyers the first night who although commenting on how few buyers there were, spoke glowingly of new contacts and their quality. This is important. Makes you wonder why more buyers don’t beat a path for ACC. The breadth of beautiful product was inspiring. If you’re looking for beautiful, unique items to sell in your shop, get there next year. I’ve toured NY NOW three or four years now and there’s no comparison to the uniqueness of this craft show. If you place value in fine American product and want to invest in lasting relationships, go with ACC.
A few artists I really enjoyed:
House Jewelry– from California. Great idea, artfully created and very well trafficked- did a booming business. Awesome pocketbooks from Hammill/Diebolt Studio of Rochester NY. Artful -very well made. We soon learned that the technology was not going to be shared, because well, he’d have had to kill us. His bags were probably the most tempting of everything we saw.
Sara Drower– a very talented painter and quilt maker from Wilmette, Illinois. Also extremely willing to share her knowledge of show and product discovery. Very kind. Sara is now photographing, digital printing and machine stitching to create miniature frame-able art- an interesting progression from traditional quilting.
The Baltimore venue had other fun aspects to it. Close to harbor and more.. a two thousand square-foot exterior G-O2® Living Wall gracing the façade of One East Pratt Street in Baltimore, making it the largest living wall in Maryland. Biophilic design is a practice that incorporates elements from nature in order to maximize human health. The G-O2® Living Wall has features that help advance the success of living architecture, including the use of a unique, cutting edge remote monitoring system-with irrigation.
The American Craft Council Show was a great experience. Sellers, give it try- it’s great for many reasons. ACC is now also offering a new opportunity for emerging artists.
Buyers, if you visit the retail side you’ll discover the breadth and richness of what this show has to offer and get some beautiful stuff until you’re ready to make it an official buying venue.
Cat Stevens- great artist- great song- Another Saturday Night. Love the shoes.
And the guy who wrote it- Sam Cooke. What a pretty voice. And, lest you forget. Paola Pillows are waiting for you to bring them home…