I've been doing craft fairs for 6 years now (wow time flies!), and I've tried out many displays over the years. This is hands down my favorite. It looks amazing, was very practical for vending, and was huge toward making this weekend our best craft show yet! We built the display using the simple IKEA bookshelves we recently replaced in our storage area and a variation on the DIY card racks we built for our brick & mortar. I'm so pleased with this display, I can't wait to set it up at the next show!
This weekend we celebrated our shop's 3rd birthday with our 4th Fishermen's Fall Festival! Our first weekend open was the festival in 2014. It was a wonderful way to meet the neighbors and be welcomed to the Fishermen's Terminal community, and our team has loved the event ever since. For 3 years, I've served on the committee to help plan the event, designing the poster and t-shirts for each festival.
This year's festival was blessed by the perfect Seattle weather, and was very well attended. We were busy in the shop all day, greeting familiar faces and new friends. I spent most of the day at the iron handpress, helping people pull commemorative prints for a donation to the Fishermen's Memorial. I had an awesome day getting inky, but I was also grateful for quick breaks in the sunshine to eat scallops, soak in the sun, admire the bluest skies you've ever seen, and snap these pictures.
Thank you to everyone who celebrated with us this weekend. It is truly an honor and a joy to see our little brick & mortar grow and thrive these last 3 years. And if you couldn't make it out this time, we'll see you next year!
The 2015 Fishermen's Fall Festival was an amazing day. Our first day open as a retail shop was the 2014 festival, so this event is really close to our hearts. Brad snapped these photos of the day. We hope they make you feel like you were there!
September means it's time for Seattle Made Week!
September 19-26, 2015
Join in on a week-long celebration of all things Seattle Made. Hundreds of producers, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, and grocers across the city will be showcasing for the public the huge variety of products made right here in Seattle, and helping tell the story of why making things in Seattle is so important.
We are hosting two "Meet a Maker" events at our retail shop!
Oh So Antsy
Sunday, September 20th from 12 pm - 3 pm
Sterling silver state and country jewelry, hand cut in Seattle.
Sweet Anthem Perfumes
Friday, September 25th from 4 pm - 7 pm
A collection of artisan perfumes, meticulously formulated and bottled by hand in Seattle.
Come see us and meet the makers!
1900 W. Nickerson St., Suite 101, Seattle, WA 98119
We are also participating in the Letterpress Marketplace at Wayzgoose!
SVC's 14th Annual Wayzgoose is returning to its roots: a party by letterpress printers and the people who love them. We'll have a table full of letterpress goodness for your perusal and purchase. Here’s what else you’ll find at this year’s celebration:
Letterpress Marketplace featuring regional printers and their wares
Studio tours of the new SVC letterpress shop
Print a free letterpress keepsake on one of our Vandercook proofing presses
Letterpress swap meet where you buy, sell, or trade equipment, type, and cuts
See the entrant posters from this summer’s Letterpress Steamroller Smackdown
Fun, food, frivolity
This weekend we hosted our friends Such Sweet Tierney for a special pop-up shop event! We loved seeing all the beautiful art, home goods and accessories in our shop. It's so fun to get fresh new products through our doors!
Such Sweet Tierney creates hand printed textiles and paper goods for everyday living. All designs are first rendered onto paper with pens and paint, and manually screen-printed using eco-friendly water based inks in hand mixed colors. Everything is printed, assembled and sewn in their studio, located in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. Such Sweet Tierney is comprised of husband and wife team London Tierney and Christian Perry.
We've always loved supporting other local artists and designers, and having the shop has been an extra great way to do that. Talking shop with London and watching our customers connect with her work made it a really great day. If you missed the event, don't worry. We're now carrying a selection of Such Sweet Tierney's products in shop year round!
I attended Tradeshow Bootcamp's first ever Business Camp in Los Angeles last month, and it was incredible. I've been so busy implementing everything I learned, that I'm just now sitting down to share my thoughts. I wish I could bottle up everything that was said, everything I learned, every hug I shared with awesome business ladies, and the general buzz of being in a room with 100 other business owners. I can't, so you must must must go to Business Camp next time.
In the meantime, I'll share my major takeaways. There was so much solid gold information shared, but this is the stuff that really jumped up and down for my attention as it applies to my specific business & boss lady role. And since it's been a month, you get to hear about how I'm implementing those takeaways! Win win win.
1. Don't let e-mail dictate how your day goes.
Beth Penn from BNeato Bar majorly schooled my brain about how I've been treating e-mail in my day-to-day. On her suggestion, I've been doing my best to only deal with e-mail once a day, for a set amount of time. I'm not letting e-mail be my to do list for the day, and I'm not letting e-mail derail what I'm in the middle of doing. It's pretty much the greatest change I could make. E-mail has been a source of stress and guilt for me for years, and it doesn't have to be.
2. Keep the team connected and aware.
My staff can't read my mind. Seems obvious, but I've been leading my team like they can. The panel discussion on hiring was super insightful. I've already hired my team, but knowing what to do next has been a challenge for me. When I started the business, I never dreamed that I'd be leading a team. I'm still learning.
We have an amazing team of part time staff, and they're all only in the shop 1-2 days per week. If I want us to be on the same page, we need to have staff meetings, more communication, 1-on-1 chats and a plan! I need to plan ahead to have tasks for everyone to do, every day. And since Business Camp, we've done just that! We had our first ever full staff meeting (with coffee and Top Pot donuts), and it was hugely helpful. It was so beautiful to see everyone together that I cried. (No shame.) We've also instituted a secret Facebook group for staying in better communication, and I've been keeping everyone busy by delegating more and more tasks to my very capable team.
3. Move the needle every day.
The hilarious and lovable Jen Gotch gave us this nugget of wisdom that has been my mantra this month. Move the needle. Every day. Don't just do the busy work. Do something that will grow your business. Every day. Delegate the small stuff. Do the big stuff. For me, this is the kind of needle moving stuff I've been working on: Send catalogs & handwritten notes to shops I admire. Design new products. Work toward new product lines. Research other forms of manufacturing. Buy a new printing press!!!! Make a social media strategy and stick to it. Write about what I'm learning and share it. Commit to the 2016 National Stationery Show. Make time for ideas. Make time for rest. (For me, resting is moving the needle for tomorrow. I do not default to rest.)
4. Work on the things that need to change to make way for growth.
Growth is always the goal, but it can also be kind of a scary reality when it shows up. One of the big growth goals we have for this next year is to start working with a sales rep. I've heard Carina Murray from Crow & Canary speak about reps a few times, but new things stood out to me this time. The big one: Be ready to scale. You don't work with a rep to bring in an extra order or two. You work with a rep to grow!
We've grown a ton this last few years, and we're finally reaching the end of what our treadle-operated, hand-fed platen press can do. It's been a hope/fear (a hope and a fear...do you have those too?) of mine this past year, and we're there. Our recent purchase of a 1970's Heidelberg Windmill will help us make the next jump of growth. (I'll share more about that in detail later this week.) Sarah from Shed Letterpress and Rachael from Pistachio Press told me all about the Windmill perks while at the Business Camp after party, and within a few weeks I had the opportunity to buy one. Growth, we're coming for you!
5. You're the owner of a successful, growing business. Act like it!
Tara Gentile blew my mind with her talk about perception. My fears and doubts and worries color my judgement about the business. When I'm buying into those negative things, I make decisions for the business that don't make sense. Just because I'm still learning doesn't mean I'm not doing some things right. It's so easy to lose perspective and forget the wins we've had. My customers, staff, and fellow business owners have a perception of my business that is actually more in line with reality than how I tend to see it.
I remember when Constellation was just me with one rusty press in 100 square feet, and some days I act like that's who we still are. But we're not! We're a team of 6 people, 3 beautiful presses, in a storefront space, with products in 150+ stores in more than 4 countries, with a beautiful retail shop and a bright future! I say these things not to boast, but because I genuinely forget that they are true. I'm committing to celebrate our wins, and make decisions based on reality so that people's perception of us matches up with the decisions I make.
I share all of this for a few reasons. First, if you're a product-based business lady (or business dude), I want you to go to Business Camp. Or if you can't go to Business Camp, go to a different event. But go! Invest in yourself. You're an irreplaceable part of your business. What you'll learn and the people you'll get to connect with will give you fuel for the fire. Second, it gives me great joy to share what I'm learning with all of you. Small business is not a magical, mythical, dream journey. It's hard, a hustle. Everything is always changing, and you're always changing to keep up. I want you to know that we're in it together. I've be given so much over the years by others who have shared what they are learning, and I want to be sharer too. Words have great power, and I'm always going to use mine for good, to help others.
Last weekend, we participated in the first ever Renegade Craft Fair in Seattle! The fair took place at beautiful Magnuson Park in Hangar 30. We packed up the C&Co. line of cards and prints, and set up shop in a 4' x 8' booth. My dad built us an awesome 7.5' tall back wall for displaying art prints and our hand painted logo sign. He also added "kick stands" to our card racks so they could stand alone. The booth was a tight squeeze, but I'm so happy with how it turned out!
The fair had an amazing turn out for a first time event. My favorite thing about doing events outside the shop is seeing new faces, hearing new perspectives, and getting our name out there. We even had the opportunity to share wholesale catalogs with awesome local retailers!
This is the first craft fair we've done since opening the retail shop. It was awesome to see our vendors in action and scout out some new product for the shop! Renegade does an amazing job curating their shows. The vendors were amazing. It's so inspiring to see so many people in one place, doing the hustle to share what they make with the world!
Capitol Hill Candle Co. had a beautiful display, and everything smelled amazing. We have a fresh supply of candles in new scents in the shop. Come by and smell for yourself!
Foamy Wader's booth was beautiful and relaxing like a visit to the beach! Her nautical inspired jewelry has been a big hit in the shop.
We were blown away by the craftsmanship and colors of Land Bird's ceramics. We're planning to place an order for the shop soon!
We are in love with the block print carving / screen printed goods from elSage Designs! Look out for their kids and adult shirts in shop soon!
Craft fairs are awesome, but exhausting. You trek all your stuff to another location, set it up, talk to a million people, and stand all day. Three Jerks Jerky provided the pure protein power we needed to keep going. So delicious.
This summer I traveled to Iowa for the first time, to teach an iron handpress workshop at the Ladies of Letterpress conference: Type on the Cob II. It was awesome. I got super inky, geeked out with fellow letterpress enthusiasts, talked business, and enjoyed evenings in the "hospitality room" with some of the best people in the world. I've wanted to attend the conference for years, and I finally made it. I won't miss it again! Many many thanks to Jessica and Kseniya for including me.
I've been home from Iowa one week. I've been thinking and writing a lot. I've also been listening to every Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors album in existence. After a week of processing, it's time to gather my thoughts and share them. This is the in depth story. I've added "aspiring writer" to my biography, so this is me, writing. It's a little scary to share. But I believe that sharing is worth it.
On my travel day to get to Iowa, I took time to write a few things in my notebook. Let yourself breathe. Let your mind take a break. Don't let guilt waste your moment to recharge. It turned out to be the travel day from hell. My first flight was delayed 5 hours, which lead me to miss my next flight, which meant I'd arrive in Iowa after midnight. My hotel was still over two hours away from the airport, so I was pretty frustrated by the end of the day. I rented a car and said a few words of prayer in the driver's seat before putting foot to pedal. I'd slept very little the night before, and I was alone, late at night in an unfamiliar place, embarking on a roadtrip of questionable safety. I felt quiet and small. The simple words, spoken aloud, were all I could think of to do.
I wasn't sure what to expect of Iowa. I had only movie musicals for reference - Margie and her family going to the State Fair and Music Man Professor Harold Hill winning the hearts of stubborn Iowans and deciding to stick around. It wasn't altogether different than I expected. Upon leaving the airport, I was on a quiet two lane highway, with periodic streetlights and barns in the distance.
As I drove, the streetlights disappeared into darkness and the road got smaller. The pitch black sky was only broken by my headlights, clicked from low to high to low again when a truck passed in the other direction. For many miles, it was just me out there. Me and fireflies, dotting the night with flickering stars. The sky, black and otherwise starless, was lit at times with lightning - hot and bright and revealing gigantic storm clouds. It was beautiful. It was late. I sang, sat up straight, stretched my left leg, tinkered with the air conditioning. I tried not to think about the time, my tired head and the distance left to travel. Just keep going. One more twist of the road. One more flash of light. One more barn or truck or mile. A deer crossed the road, just escaping my headlights. I teared up, thinking about my sleeping son. I memorized the words to new favorite songs. I felt guilty for leaving home. I felt hopeful for the trip.
I arrived at my room in the Mount Pleasant, Iowa Rodeway Inn at 3am. My body was there, but my mind had already checked out. I craved sleep. It was finally time. Tomorrow would arrive too soon. I left home craving rest and I lost sleep instead. But rest came anyway.
My alarm woke me up too early in the morning, and I sat in my bed staring dully at the busy patterned carpet. I left my frigidly air conditioned room and opened the motel's back door to a warm, humid summer morning. I took in my Iowa surroundings. Flat and green, with big clouds. I did a first thing of the day that would soon become ritual - using the car key buttons to locate my transportation. Five days together, and I still couldn't pick that car out of a line up if my life depended on it. I drove to the Midwest Old Thresher's, a place I could never remember the name of and as such, nicknamed "Thresher's Paradise." I was so tired on the drive that I stopped at two different flashing light four way stops, waiting for them to turn green. The phenomenon I experienced has been explained to me as "Iowa nice." No one honked at me. They waited their turn as I snoozed with my eyes open. I suppose that is pretty darn nice.
I arrived at the conference and found myself in a conundrum. I'm a strange blend of both needy for people and awkward. I've decided to call my personality "chatty introvert." This set of traits makes arriving at events complicated. I was simultaneously thrilled to be there with other printers, and terrified of them. Lack of sleep didn't help the situation. In those panicky, sleepy moments, I wanted to run away. Instead, I drank three cups of coffee. And then, I spotted Printer's Hall. I timidly wandered in, afraid I was breaking the rules. (I hate breaking the rules.) What greeted my tired eyes made everything okay. Cast iron, wood, lead, ink, dirt, weight, and history. I didn't know many people in the room, but these things I know.
Printer's Hall is a faux wood building within a massive barn structure. Flags of all different designs hang from the ceiling, ranging from the American flag to "Don't tread on me" to my favorite, an anchor and the word hope. The floors are dusty, huge doors open to the outside. The rest of the building is filled with farming equipment, stretching back into darkness.
I'd been asked to teach a workshop on the iron handpress and speak in panel about design and letterpress. I'd been preparing, but in the way a new mom/small business owner can - only to a point, and for about 10 minutes at time. I worried that no one would take my class. I worried that I'd been a last choice. I worried that I'd be left out. I prepared to start my class. I was nervous, but too tired to do much mental multi-tasking. In the final moments before my students arrived, I worried - sure that everyone had assumed I was a fraud or that no one cared about the iron handpress. Tears were collecting, threatening to release the previous day's frustration and exhaustion, the month before's lows and fear and my mom guilt at leaving home. I was close to crying like Iowa rain - sudden, torrential, humid. A hot mess.
But then, there they were - my beautiful students. They came eager to learn, excited about the iron handpress. They were patient and kind and encouraging. And with them before me, I started to talk about this thing I love. As I talked, my confidence and knowledge surprised me. Teaching comes easy. I have this deep need to communicate ideas and share what I love with others. I love the sharing and I love the sharers. It feels like where I'm supposed to be.
The four hours flew by. We covered less than I'd thought we'd have time for, but by the end we were all inky and smiling. We'd done a day long scavenger hunt for necessary printing materials, but we'd done it together. We all chipped in. We celebrated successes. We came away with inky hands. In my opinion, all the best days end with inky hands.
That night, I drove through the window at McDonald's, intending to stop at Walmart for supplies and eat at the motel. Instead, I scarfed down my meal in the car in the parking lot like a wild animal. I'd skipped lunch, and I was just so tired. I wandered Walmart's massive aisles like a drunk, collecting rubber gloves and blue painter's tape and snacks. I made it back to the hotel and slept from 8pm to 8am. It was glorious.
Day Two included the panel on design and letterpress I'd been asked to speak on. It occurred to me half way through that getting paid to have an opinion and say things I've been thinking about to people who smile and nod in return... It's a totally sweet gig and I'm stupid lucky to do it. Words flowed, people asked great questions, and I said things I hadn't realized I'd processed yet. I don't know why, but I open my mouth and things come out, and I think - where did that come from? It's always been that way. The best term I can come up with is "external processing."
Day Two continued with the second half of my class. I'd given the crash course on the first day, and it was time to let my students problem solve and print. And we printed lots! Beautiful things with beautiful solutions to tricky problems. I felt like a proud mama. We ended the day with preparing a keepsake to print for the final day. It included wood type, printer's blocks, type cast on the Ludlow, and lines from the Linotype. We finished the prints by sending them through the thermography machine. Few places in the world have a collection of equipment to rival Printer's Hall. Handpresses, C&P's, tabletops, Windmills, Vandercooks, and things I didn't know the names for. It was a printer's playground. It's an honor to print there.
After the events of the second day, we had a banquet dinner in a pavilion on the property. It was hot, the food was hearty, and the locally made beer was delicious. Storytelling commenced, and a feeling that had been building finally blossomed. These were my people, my tribe. I belonged here. We laughed and got loud and I smiled until my face hurt. It's been too long since I relaxed enough to have that much fun. I laid down my burdens and enjoyed the here and now. The evening continued back in the motel's "hospitality room," with students and teachers and printers - from far away and locals, enjoying each other's company. We were silly, we were serious. We talked smack and we got sappy. We stayed up past two. (It's been years since I stayed up that late on purpose.)
It all felt so important in the moment, and my urge to write it all down in detail on the flight home was overwhelming. Perhaps I was tired of travel or my hand hurt or time and miles pass - but written down it seems more straight forward, less whirlwind than it did then. Maybe it's okay that the tornado stops and there's calm again. Being away was a giant release after months of holding my breath. It was heady with joy and people who understand. Maybe it's selfish and silly to get swept up. But for a few days, I felt useful, skilled, well spoken. When we're all sick with the same obsession, I'm not crazy - I'm home. I left home and found home, and like always, travel leaves me torn.
The drive back from Mount Pleasant to the airport in Des Moines was safer than my trip in the other direction. The roads are totally different in the light of day. Once there was darkness and unknown, but on the way home it was wide open and green as far as the eye could see. I drove and listened to music and tried to figure myself out. Fireflies and lightning were replaced with red winged blackbirds, crossing my path in bright flashes of color. I loved them and I never wanted them to go away.
I followed signs for the American Gothic house. I drove through the tiny town and made my fine art pilgrimage. It was hot and raining softly. I picked a bright yellow flower. I stood before the little house and felt alone. But a half smile, heart tugging, sick with love, melancholy alone.
I want to grab all these moments and immortalize them, because they feel somehow vital and I don't want to risk losing them. I fell in love with Iowa a little bit.
I have a lot of feelings. Many at once. Big ones and small ones, pushing each other out of the way, fighting for my attention. It's just how I am. I came out this way. I like my feelings. They let me feel inspired and hopeful and sad and scared and cold and empty and full and joyful and in love and amazed and young and growing and beautiful and small. I wouldn't send them away for anything. They make me more human. Without the feelings, I'm a hard working efficiency monster with an infinite to do list and no empathy. But lately there are so many feelings, they get jumbled. It's like I can see something large coming on the horizon, but I can't tell if it's a bear or a truck or a storm cloud. Here comes a feeling! Here it is! Wow, it's a big one. What is it? I'm knocked down but unsure if I'm mauled or flattened or just getting rained on. I grasp for words to describe my feelings, for people to help me discern. But though I find immeasurable value in sharing experiences with others, and I generally believe we all share the same basic feelings and desires, hopes and needs... I'm scared of hurting others with my vagueness. I have to find the words to explain and express.
Being away, after what feels like a lifetime of crazy circumstances at home - away felt like freedom and deep breathing and open road and sense of self. I talked and shared and stayed up late. I taught and learned and laughed and got rest. I thought about the reasons I started my business and the things I want to do. I felt like me. I felt valid and worthy and anchored, but moving towards the future. I felt like part of a tribe. Others understood and saw and nodded heads and were kindred spirits. I rolled all this up into one giant IOWA feeling that I didn't have a category for.
For several months (okay, maybe years) I've had major life stuff to deal with, and I've ignored how I'm doing to keep juggling 1,001 things. Nothing really got dropped except for personal well-being things. Leaving home (especially leaving my son for the first time) brought on a lot of guilt, but guilt is a liar. After returning home, two different people told me to take care of myself. And they're right. I can't care for my family or my business if I fall apart.
So this week I got honest (for real) about my limitations. I'd like to believe I'm super woman, but I'm not. I'm a communicator, and I need to talk about things - everything. Even the scary stuff. So I scheduled a few things: date night with my husband, time to make and experiment, and a meeting with a counselor. They're no brainer things now that I've done them, but they felt like mountains to climb when I realized I'd been missing them. Being a new mom, a wife and the owner of a rapidly growing business is a lot to juggle. And there is no shame in admitting you need to talk things through and handle things differently. In fact, it's healthy. (I say this to me as much as to you.)
I also need to get the heck out of town on occasion, because travel is clarifying and challenging for me. The things I can ignore at home hit me like a ton of bricks on an airplane or a road trip. I left home to teach a class and speak on a panel, and I came home with dear new friends, “fuel for the fire,” important realizations and some new grace for myself. Taking the time in Iowa for myself gave me new wind for my sails.
And yes, I took an 8 month break from writing for the blog. In the last 8 months, I became a mom and grew our stockist list by more than 100 stores. It's been nuts around here! If you'd like more frequent updates, go follow me on Instagram. I'm @constellationco.
Last weekend we celebrated our move and new shop with a "shop warming party" for friends and family. It was a pretty magical evening. Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with us!
Here are a few of our favorite photos from the evening. More photos can be found on our Constellation & Co. facebook page.
Here it is, the long awaited update. (You've been long-awaiting, right?) We've moved! Sometimes when the right pieces fall into place, progress happens suddenly. It's been that kind of year this year, and the good changes just keep coming.
We've been talking about a storefront space for some time. It's a big step, and one we've been excited to pursue. But it had to be the right space, for the right price. We'd been looking and looking in Pioneer Square and not finding the right thing. Then one night we went to dinner with my parents near our house, and found the perfect place. It's a storefront space with lots of foot traffic, in our price range, and it was available right away. Those are the grown-up, reasonable reasons for it being the perfect place. Here are the irrational, emotional reasons that make it feel like a huge gift to just me:
This new space cuts my commute from 1-2 hours each day to under 10 minutes. I've been struggling with my time in the car for quite awhile, and this is a huge relief. The new space is in the Fisherman's Terminal, which means I get to spend my time right next to the water. I get to eat my lunch on a bench while looking at boats. If I'm overwhelmed, I get to walk out on a dock and listen to the water hitting the side of a wooden boat. I grew up next to the water on a beautiful canal. My dad and I spent countless weekend afternoons out on the harbor in our canoe. They are sweet, comforting memories. Part of why we picked Seattle is because of its proximity to the water. I need water to live. I need to see it, feel it, smell it. I love being this close to it every day. This new space also has a spiral staircase. The little girl inside of my squeals every time I walk up those stairs. I've got a deep, absurd love for spiral staircases, and this one is all mine.
Okay. So we found the space, called the number on the sign on September 2nd, and were moved in and open by October 4th. We do these things, and sometimes I don't realize how crazy they are until they're done. September was nuts. We found the space, moved our studio, AND Brad and I have been going through the adoption process - all at once. It reminds me of the time we graduated from college, planned a wedding and moved cross-country all at once. Sometimes the best times are the ones you shake your head at later. Moving letterpress equipment is terrible, with or without advance notice. But it's done, everyone (presses and people) are here safely, and we're open for business!
We got moved in and set up quickly, because October 4th was the annual Fisherman's Fall Festival at the Fisherman's Terminal. It's the biggest day of the year around here, and we knew it was an important day not to miss! We hustled, and opened our doors to the public for the first time on Saturday. The event was incredible. Thousands of people came out to eat seafood, enjoy live music, and do free activities with their kids. We got to meet many of the neighbors, and had a really wonderful day.
Please note the tiny Wolverine in the bottom left of this photo. I just noticed him, and it's my new favorite thing.
Expert knot tying!
If you missed it, put the Fisherman's Fall Festival on your calendar for next year. You seriously missed out. Needless to say, we are exhausted and happy and in need of a week-long massage. I'm getting over a poorly timed cold. But the shop is open (11am - 6pm, Monday - Saturday at 1900 West Nickerson Street, Suite 101, Seattle), the leaves are changing, Brad and I are adopting, and life is good. More updates to come soon.
This weekend we participated in the School of Visual Concepts' 13th annual letterpress Wayzgoose! We built a new display and brought our cards out for a day in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day. We met lots of lovely new customers, ate lots of beautiful Top Pot Doughnuts, and saw lots of awesome posters printed with a steamroller.
Poster by Tether
Last month, we exhibited at the National Stationery Show for our first time, and it was incredible. We've been busy printing cards, filling orders and following up with the amazing people we met at the show. Here's the recap of all we learned, what we'll do differently next time, and all the things I need to gush about.
THINGS WE LEARNED
Buyers = Friends The people who placed orders with us were kindred spirits. They laughed at the humorous cards, awww'd at the sweet cards, and were incredibly encouraging. Meeting our buyers face to face was a wonderful reminder that these people are our friends! We enjoyed meeting them, talking with them and hearing their thoughts. I want to keep remembering that through the year. It's hard to remember to follow up with a business contact, but easy to remember to check in with a friend!
Follow your gut. There were a lot of things I was worried about right before the show. Will buyers reject our non-standard card sizes? Will black envelopes be a deal breaker? Will anyone order? Will our work be too different from everything else at the show? (I had moments of second guessing everything I've ever done.) But at the show, the buyers' comments were overwhelmingly positive. Not a single person questioned sizes, envelope colors, or any of the other things I had stressed about. They were super encouraging about our low-tech image making and print methods, and our line's simplicity and masculine appeal. Many of our buyers were male or buying from our line for their male customers. I'm not a dude, but I am married to a dude. And I'm really not a "girly" girl. The stationery industry can be very feminine, and I was worried we'd stick out in a bad way. But it was really nice to hear from buyer after buyer that our work is a welcome change. So I suppose the lesson here is: You followed your gut when you made these choices in the first place. Stick to those decisions. Consider them good ones until you hear differently. Ignore the blinding pre-show panic.
Planning for emergencies is actually a good strategy. While asking myself crazy, irrational questions was bad for my sanity before the show, it actually came in handy once we got to New York. I was really worried about checking suitcases with all our paper goods inside, so I put almost everything in two carry ons. (They ended up being 40 lbs. each - sorry Brad!) Well, the 5 hours our bags spent on the runway in Chicago and deplaning the suitcases in flash-flood-warning rain in New York left our checked bags COMPLETELY soaked. Thankfully, they were only filled with clothes, plastic bins with tools, etc., and one box of catalogs. We had to hang dry all of our clothes, and 5 catalogs were damaged, but it could have been MUCH worse. (Also, rest in peace blowdryer and curling iron.)
I also packed two of pretty much everything. In different bags. And had a back-up box at the studio, just in case. Something will go wrong, and planning ahead (in obsessive detail) gave me greater confidence to know I could tackle most problems as they came up.
You need a helper. Brad came to New York with me, and it was incredibly helpful to have someone on hand to help with set-up, bring me coffee, watch the booth while I went to the bathroom, and for general moral support. I can't imagine tackling the show without my right hand man.
Plan ahead. I went to Paper Camp in October, and started preparing for the show as soon as I got home. I had most of the major things done months in advance. I ended up getting really sick a few weeks before the show, so I didn't pull any late nights in preparation. My body just wouldn't allow it. While I was laying in bed, I was feeling really thankful that I started preparing so far in advance. I've done things for the business in the past in a way that allows me to become completely overwhelmed by stress. Others can thrive under extreme pressure, but it gets ugly for me without plenty of sleep and checked off to do lists. (Trust me.) The advance planning I did allowed NSS to arrive without any major breakdowns. I planned thoroughly, prepared months in advance, and ignored all impulses to majorly change or add to my original plan. I'm sure this coming year will have its own challenges, but I want to prepare similarly in advance. That basically means starting to design next year's line right now. (And we've got our first C&Co. new line brainstorming day on the calendar!)
THINGS WE'LL CHANGE
Solo booth. Exhibiting with Ladies of Letterpress was absolutely the right choice for this year. It gave me a show under my belt, lots of lessons learned, and the validation that this whole tradeshow thing is a good idea for us. But next year, we're planning to tackle our own booth! Brad and I spent time before the last day of the show walking around and looking at locations, booth sizes, etc. We've got a lot of exciting ideas!
Hard walls. The walls we had in the Ladies of Letterpress booth were 3/16" foam core, and they felt really flimsy. They had seams and zip ties in all the wrong places. Every time the booth behind us did something on set-up day, the wall would sway dramatically. I was running to make sure my standing shelf didn't get pushed over every few minutes. Not ideal! I know hard walls are more expensive, but I feel like the extra cost is worth it to look more professional and be less precarious. I'm researching several options - rent them, build them ourselves and ship them, etc. This part is scary, but we will tackle it one day at a time. (Only 11 months left! hahahaha.)
Shoes. I am on an epic quest to find attractive, comfortable shoes for next year's show. I made some pretty terrible shoe choices for this year. Standing in one place from 10 am to 6 pm for several days is rough. I didn't have room for a chair, and Vans are a bad choice for long term standing. (Be they cute and chambray or not!) We ended up taking a late night teary-eyed (on my part) walk to a Manhattan Kmart for Dr. Scholl's inserts. Your cute and comfortable shoe suggestions are welcomed!
Sit. We saw several booths with a cocktail height table/bar, and a cute stool. This is genius. You're up high enough to not look like a slacker, but you also get to take a load off every once in a while. Genius.
Eat. Our intention was to go grocery shopping on the night we got into town, and to pack lunches, snacks, etc. for during the show. But our flight was delayed 5 hours, and it was midnight and POURING when we arrived in New York, so that didn't happen. Decent food is hard to come by in the Javits, and will cost you approximately your firstborn child. We were warned, but didn't have a ton of other options. I didn't take very many food breaks during the show, and that's just not a great idea for health. But it seemed like every time I went to take a break, someone would come to place an order or ask questions. Brad did a great job helping, but I wanted to be there. I think the solution for next year is a stash of small, hearty snacks that can be eaten quickly while hiding around the corner.
More gift items! Bigger line! Keep going! I have so many ideas. So many. Notebooks full of ideas ranging from impossibly crazy to simple. This coming year we will continue to focus on growing our selection of items. We've got a whole booth to fill!
THINGS THAT WERE AWESOME
Instagram: awesome. I met so many people at the show who I'd been chatting with on Instagram for months beforehand. It felt like a giant reunion with all my best friends from the internet. So many hugs and high fives. We met fellow designers and printers, Seattleites, and store owners/buyers who we've connected with on Instagram. We picked up a huge quantity of followers at the show (using #nss2014), and several people mentioned that they saw us on Instagram and made a point to find us at the show. Social media win!
Our Ladies of Letterpress neighbors: amazing. We spent several days in close quarters with the other ladies o' letterpress, and they were nothing but delightful. It was really fun to experience the show with so many others who were also debuting. We lent each other tools and tape, watched booths during potty breaks, and talked non-stop. I miss them!
The weather: perfection. After the first night's crazy rain, the rest of the trip was awesome. It was sunny but still cool, gorgeous every time we went outside. We didn't get much time outside, but it was really nice to walk out of Javits and see sunshine. We filled our free time in New York as full as we could. We caught up with old friends, saw some sights, ate delicious food, and enjoyed the city every moment we had. New York and I have reached a decision. We like each other. It's official.
Tradeshow Bootcamp: invaluable. In addition to the camaraderie of the LOLP booth, I had the support of the Tradeshow Bootcamp community on my side. I've gushed about TSBC before, but I'll do it again. Those people are solid gold. I was so proud to have the TSBC Alumni ribbon on my badge! One quick anecdote: A few weeks before the show, all my planning for acquiring the standing shelf in my booth fell through. It was the one piece of furniture I needed, and it was looking grim about how much money I'd have to spend to get it there. I posted something on the TSBC facebook group, and Sam from Near Modern Disaster (a fellow Washington D.C. Paper Camper) volunteered to pick it up at IKEA for me and deliver it to my booth. AMAZING. I got to the Javits, and there it was. I cried when I spotted it, because it was such an amazing and supportive act of kindness. (Her box of whiskey and assorted items of appreciation is shipping soon!)
Ladies of Letterpress We exhibited in the Ladies of Letterpress shared booth with 13 other businesses. Constellation & Co. had a 5 feet x 8 feet section of the booth, and all of the businesses shared the costs of the booth, carpeting, walls, lighting, some advertising, etc. We were located in the 2400 aisle, all the way at the end. It would have been a terrible location, except that our booth was giant and pretty darn inviting. It seemed like buyers were making it to us, regardless of the location.
If you're a female letterpress printer, join Ladies of Letterpress. (Because duh.) And if you're interested in exhibiting at NSS, this is an amazing way to start. It's significantly less expensive than having your own booth, and it gives you a chance to get your name out there and learn all those first tradeshow lessons with a smaller financial investment.
New Stores! We walked away from the show with 11 new stores in 10 new cities! My goal was 10 orders, so I really can't complain! (For a full list of our stockists, check out our stores page.) You can now buy C&Co. products in 15 US states and 3 Canadian provinces! Our little business is growing, and we're so excited to see what comes next.
Top 5 NSS best sellers: 1. You & Me Card - I expected this. But it also tied with: 2. Bitterness Card - I did not expect this! (Non-standard size, and a black envelope. Who knew!) 3. Independence, Sweet Independence - Another surprise! A lot of buyers mentioned that the summer patriotic holidays are hard to buy for. 4. Library Cards, Overdue Bday & Page Turner - This was actually our only birthday card on the wall. I know, I know! I'm working on it.5. Chipboard Postcard Bundles - Their simplicity and open-ended creativity were attractive to our buyers!
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment a few blocks away from Javits. It was so convenient to have a walking distance place to stay, and it was really relaxing when we got home every night. Plus, it ended up costing less than most hotels. Hopefully the Airbnb hoopla in New York gets settled before next year. We plan to rent the same place again if possible! The photo above is the view from the apartment building's rooftop deck. There's nothing in the world like waking up to see the sun rise over Manhattan!
We spent 9 months preparing for the show, and it feels like we've been preparing for it since day one of C&Co. (So I suppose it deserves this crazy long blog post.) During the show, I sustained a level of enthusiasm and excitement that was just ridiculous. It was awesome to see the booths of companies I've looked up to for years, to meet SO MANY amazing people, and to write orders for incredible stores. It never got old. I loved it, every second. (If you don't ask my feet.) It was a joyful, wonderful, life changing couple of days. I cried like a baby when we walked away from the Javits on the last day. The show was 100% wonderful for us. There's been a lot of conversations in the industry about cost, show size, etc. - but from the eyes of this first timer, there's nothing like the National Stationery Show. Can't wait for 2015.
We leave for New York today, and we're so excited about the show! We'll make new relationships with buyers, reconnect with old friends, and see all the beautiful paper we can handle. Will you be at the show? Come say hello! (We'll have lots of free goodies to share.) Here's our official release:
Constellation & Co., a Seattle letterpress stationery company, will be exhibiting for the first time at signature mix. The signature mix market, in NYC May 18-21, 2014 brings together a group of trade shows in the Javits Center: The National Stationery Show, Gift>it, C&LA and #fresh. Constellation & Co. will be exhibiting at The National Stationery Show, in the Ladies of Letterpress booth #2463-7.
Founded in 2009 by husband and wife team Brad and Sara McNally, Constellation & Co. has several years of client work and wholesale experience under their belt, and has set out to make 2014 their major trade show debut. In addition to their Ladies of Letterpress partnership, Constellation & Co. will also be joining sixty-three Etsy Wholesale sellers in Etsy Wholesale’s signature mix partnership.
All of Constellation & Co.’s stationery products are printed on antique hand-fed and treadle-operated printing presses in their historic Pioneer Square studio. They use traditional print methods, hand setting wood and lead type one letter at a time. Their new line includes boxed and single greeting cards, postcards, mini cards, art prints, and blank books. The line includes two local collaborations, including a series of vegetable cards that enclose a package of organic seeds from Seattle Seed Co. and a series of cards and blank books featuring Treehouse Point’s handcrafted treehouses (of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters fame). Many of the pieces in C&Co.’s new line feature one of Sara’s hand-carved wood engravings. Dating back to the 15th century, wood engraving is the perfect historic complement to hand-set type and letterpress printing.
Sara and Brad, Constellation & Co.’s founders, moved to Seattle in 2009 after graduating from the Ringling College of Art & Design with a pair of graphic design degrees. For their work in C&Co., Sara is the owner/operator, designer and letterpress printer, and Brad takes care of the web & tech side of things. For more information, to place an order, or for additional press information, visit C&Co. at the National Stationery Show in booth #2463-7 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello friends, it's been awhile. It's about time for a giant update, so here goes!
National Stationery Show
I've been busy preparing for NSS, but it's been more of a fun-busy than a stressed-busy. It's been the perfect opportunity to design and print all new branded pieces, dream up crazy giveaways, and focus on who we are as a company. It's been torture not to Instagram/tweet/blog/shout from the rooftops about the fun new things I've been working on. But I'm determined to keep things secret until just before the show!
We're really excited to be back in New York for the show. It's a special city, and one I'm happy to have a yearly excuse to visit. I don't have too many expectations for the show (or at least I'm trying not to), but we're setting a small new stockist goal and planning to celebrate it with a nice dinner. Any suggestions for where we should go?
I know I gushed about it in the Fall, but I want to reiterate how important Paper Camp and the Tradeshow Bootcamp community have been in this preparation season. I was a mess thinking about NSS before Paper Camp, but with my binder, my new friends, and the massive load of knowledge I stuffed into my carry-on when coming home... I'm feeling confident and excited. Katie, the founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp, is offering a full scholarship to the next Paper Camp this September in Los Angeles! You can apply here. Don't hesitate, just do it. You won't regret it!
We've done five SideTour workshops so far, and they have been absolutely wonderful. It's a joy to welcome new friends into the studio, share my knowledge and see their eyes light up at the chance to create. I learned a ton about printing history in preparation, and can now share 500+ years of history from memory (with a few notes here and there). Feel free to quiz me! It's been really fun to let my nerd flag fly.
One of the biggest surprises from the SideTour workshops have been the kids. We've had a few kids in the 10-14 age group attend, and their enthusiasm is incredible. It's really gotten me thinking. I love teaching, love kids, and love seeing the craft of hand printing passed on to the next generation. Still brainstorming on what to do with all of that, but it's on my mind.
Looking For Help
I'm looking for a freelance letterpress printer to add to the family. I do all our printing in-house, and I adore it. But the downside of being 100% hand-fed and treadle-operated is that sometimes things get busy and I am 100% exhausted. It would be incredibly helpful to have someone to bring in during busy seasons. It's a paid (hourly) position in our Pioneer Square, Seattle studio. I'm looking for someone who is experienced on platen presses, flexible for scheduling and fun to be around. Please pass this info along to anyone you think may be interested. Please send a resume & print samples to email@example.com. I'm not looking for an intern at the moment, so experienced applicants only please!
Last weekend we hosted our first official tour/workshop through SideTour! SideTour is an online marketplace for experiences that help you explore your city.
Although SideTour has been active in other cities for some time, they just launched in Seattle last month. We are excited and honored to be one of the first tours offered in our fine city! Our tour/workshop is titled: Reveal the Art of Antique Letterpress Printing. Our very first (and sold out!) tour started with a brief history of printing, from the invention of movable type through the manufacture of our early 1900's iron handpress. After the history lesson, our impressionable students (how punny of me!) rolled up their sleeves and jumped into the world of letterpress to design their own poster with vintage wood type and printer's blocks.
It was super fun to see what they came up with! The photo above shows one of my favorites: "If it's not awesome, we're not doing it!' Once they'd put the finishing touches on their idea, each participant got the chance to print their design on the iron handpress. I really enjoyed seeing the look of joy on each person's face as they saw their image printed for the first time. That feeling never gets old!
If you're here in Seattle, we'd love to print with you at a future tour! You can find more details and sign up on our SideTour page.