Todays episode is pretty exciting. Yes … I’m going to share some of my stories and insights from Creativation 2020.
If you know what Creativation is, you’ll be wanting to me to get stuck straight in, I’m sure! However, I appreciate that not everybody has been obsessing over attending this event for over a decade like myself, so if you’re unfamiliar I’ll give a brief run down and answer some questions I received in the lead-up to the show.
In short … Creativation is a craft industry trade show put on by the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). In a past life it was known as CHA (Craft & Hobby Association) and was held in Anaheim, California. However, in 2017, the show moved to Phoenix, and it looks like it will be there for at least another year to come.
When CHA first popped up on my radar, I was teaching at a local scrapbooking store. The magazines and papercrafting world was abuzz with chatter at CHA time, and as YouTube grew in popularity, we started seeing video footage of new products and well known crafters. I so badly wished I could go, but I had young kids at the time, I wasn’t offered the opportunity when working for a store, and frankly, there’s no way I could have afforded it. When the show rebranded to Creativation, I was just starting up my online stamp store, and so I started to pay closer attention to the videos and photos popping up on social media. It was a great way to see new release items, gauge how excited people were about them, and therefore, make more educated decisions about what to order. It was about now that I really started to grasp that this was not some crafty version of comicon, this was a proper trade show … a dedicated event where business owners can go to show their wares to retailers … store owners can see the new products and a lot of business is done. There is also an educational aspect to it, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’ll talk about that a bit more later on. It was actually during Creativation 2019 that I decided I was done wishing I could attend, and it was about time I got serious about attending in 2020, thereby ticking a very large long-term dream off my wish list. The business was doing well enough that I could afford it, my kids are adults now and I could justify the expense. I did a lot of research, booked everything and obviously … I made it to Creativation 2020!
The number one question people were asking me in the lead-up to Creativation was this … “Can anybody go?”. Short answer … no. It’s not like the craft shows that we are used to in Australia packed with retailers from whom we can buy many crafty goodies to take home with us that day. As a trade show, it is the place that those retailers go to get the goodies to bring to you at the public access craft shows. As a retailer buyer, I could place an order at the show, but it was invoiced and shipped at a later date … you don’t walk away with product. To attend you need to be a member of the AFCI, or attend as a members’ guest … for example … a design team member, staff member, designer, influencer or designated buyer. To become a member I had to answer a LOT of questions to prove I was a legit business, and pay a membership fee. Essentially, you need to be working in the craft industry to attend. I know what you might be thinking … hey … maybe Dawn can take me as her guest next year. Well … as much fun as that would be, there is a limit to how many people you can get tickets for under your membership, so I can’t invite you all.
The next question is similar, but always second when people find out they need to be affiliated with a store or a brand to get in … “Can I get in if I’m an influencer?”. Yes. There were a lot of influencers there this year, but having a YouTube channel and Instagram account isn’t enough. You need to be collaborating with brands and seriously dedicated to providing consistent and high quality content to your audience, making it worth a company’s while to give you one of those golden tickets. I was lucky enough to meet the gorgeous Jess Fancisco on the first day (I will link to her Instagram below … check her out, her work is gorgeous). I watched that girl buzz around from booth to booth, assisting with demo’s, make & takes and helping out a bunch of different brands. Sure, she made it look effortless and did it with a smile and perfect bouncy curls (seriously … her hair is gorgeous), but she worked her butt off for three days straight on open floor days. When you are at Creativation, in any capacity, you are there to work.
I naively thought that it would take me 1 hour … 2 hours tops to get around the entire showroom floor and see everything, then I would go back and take a closer look. I was sooooooo wrong! I walked in the door, saw the Doodlebug display and immediately stopped! There were people to chat to, both vendors and other retailers / influencers I’d met at the education days or social events. It took me hours to make it to The Stamping Village, and I did not see everything on the first day (and I had 8 hours to look!). On the last day of the show I was racing to the end to put in orders, open accounts and connect with people. It might not have looked like it, but I worked for 5 days straight … learning, connecting, networking, researching, trying new products, watching demonstrations, putting in orders. Yes … sometimes it was gentle work, like sitting at the Pinkfresh Studios make & take table and chatting with Laura Bassen for half an hour whilst playing with liquid watercolours. Other times it was a frenzy of racing from one side of the building to the other to make the next seminar on time.
Another question that came up a few times during the show was “Did you get star struck meeting all the craft celebrities?”. OK … I’ll be honest, Tim Holtz walked past me while I was having my name tag and class vouchers printed, and despite the fact that I knew he was going to be there, it suddenly felt VERY real and I may have become a teensy bit hyped up. And I might have been a little shy about just walking up to Jennifer McGuire and saying Hi … like who even am I to be allowed to do that??? But on the first two days of seminars and social events, I had already been talking to some pretty amazing business owners, like Lesley Offerman from Heffy Doodle and Amanda Stevens from Pear Blossom Press (who incidentally was the one who dragged me out of that shy zone and introduced me to Jennifer, who was an absolute delight). I went in expecting to feel one way, like maybe this was going to be my version of Woodstock, but instead it was something else, and I felt incredibly at home. It became so easy to just walk up to someone and say hi, ask about their product, have a chat, give them a little gift, even ask for a photo. I just did it … and I was surprisingly comfortable doing so.
Did I meet a lot of craft royalty? Yes I did, and I took every opportunity to get a photo with them, because who knows if or when I’ll get to do that again! I gave out presents, and I chatted with them about all sorts of things, some for just a moment, and others for longer. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen the photos (you can see them here as well) … I met some pretty serious heavyweights. But I also met a lot of other amazing people. My new friend Claire is a crochet & knitting pattern designer, who drew a lot of attention with a tiny knitted green child tucked into her crochet chain necklace/scarf. Claire was kind enough to introduce me to Make it by Marko whose amazing products are going to be coming into the shop soon! I also met a lovely couple from the UK at the new product showcase over wine and cheese … Emma & Dale from My Perfect Stamp. We bumped into each other constantly and ended the last day by sitting for 2 hours in the emptying Phoenix Convention Centre, talking through our plans for our stores when we got home. It only took 3 days, and we are proper friends. And while this may sound a little controversial to some, one of my favourite connections was with another Australian store owner, from Queensland. While technically we might be considered rival stores, that’s not exactly true. Our customers enjoy very different styles and we have different strings to our business bows, as it were. And while we do stock some of the same brands, there are others that we don’t share in common. I’m thrilled to have someone reliable I can refer my customers to for items I don’t plan on stocking, like Catherine Pooler inks! Honestly … I didn’t meet a single person I didn’t like, no crazy egos … just lovely, approachable, real people. As if I needed more reasons to love this industry, right?!
A lot of people assumed that I would be given a ton of freebies. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I can tell you that the space that was taking up gifts in my bag on the way there was filled by catalogues and samples on the way home. I did quite a few make & takes, which was a great way to try out product first hand. One of my favourite tools is the new large blending brushes, which I saw released by PinkFresh Studios and Altenew. Being able to get hands on with it made it a slam dunk decision to order these brushes … they are really quite phenominal, and that is what the make & takes are for! So I came home with quite a few handmade cards, a few catalogues, a whole lot of business cards, and a few samples. But it wasn’t a free-for-all with companies handing out full stamp sets or ink pads to everyone who came along … that myth has been busted. I was lucky at the end of the last day to still be in the building when Dress My Craft offered to give away paper pads because they didn’t want to take them home, so my new friend, Emma, and I helped them out with that very generous offer and were delighted we hadn’t left quickly! But I wasn’t there for free stuff. I mean … I just got my craft space organised, so I don’t want tons of extra stuff to cram into my at-capacity cupboards. What I did want was to get up close and personal with the products and talk to those who make them … which is exactly what I got to do.
Earlier I mentioned that there is an education component to Creativation, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. The show is five days … the first two days are education-based, including workshops, seminars and round tables. The last three days are open show floor, but there are still a few educational sessions happening throughout the show. I booked in for something each day, and only missed the last one because I was deep in conversation, which turned out to be just as educational (I can always learn about Google Analytics another time). Seminars and roundtables are free, but workshops cost real money (plus you have to bring a bunch of tools, which honestly, I didn’t have room for in my luggage!). I opted for seminars and roundtables because I wanted to focus on the business side of the education days. I looooove talking business, and the opportunity to talk about craft business was way too juicy to pass up! I started out taking notes, and seriously, two minutes into my third seminar I realised that my brain was never going to keep up or absorb it all, so I started recording them. I am so glad that I did, because I did forget a lot almost immediately, and I figured that would keep me busy for the long flight home if there was nothing good on the inflight entertainment. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the seminars, and while one or two didn’t really yield much in the way of life changing or business changing information, every single one had a valuable takeaway, and I’m very happy with the ones I chose. Some of the sessions I sat in on included Facebook groups (oh, this is where I walked in the room and accidentally plonked myself down in an empty chair right next to where Amanda from Pear Blossom Press had dropped her bag, and we had plans to catch up that night! … AND one of the round table facilitators was Angela Henderson, who I had met at The Artful Business Conference last year! My husband reckons that I am the only person who could fly to the other side of the world and still bump into someone I know!). Others included, marketing, how to run a retreat, working with influencers, running pop ups within your business, taking your business from online out into the real world and how to use Pinterest effectively (which I am not doing, oh dear!). There was time in between to chat to those around me, and some organised social events, like the Creativation newcomers meet (where we played a getting to know you bingo game that was actually kind of fun), and the New Product Showcase. Wine and nibblies, lots to see, people to meet … but casual and unrushed. I really enjoyed those first two days.
Somebody did ask me about after parties and meet-ups, and I am happy to report that I did get out and socialise after the doors closed for the day. On the first night we headed to the Xyron craft bloggers dinner at a mexican restaurant, which was fun. I met some awesome people, tried an intriguing mexican desert, and even won a lucky door prize! Another night I headed out to dinner with Rachel & Zoe from Darkroom Door (which is where I met Michelle for the first time), and afterwards we hit a sports bar for the Stamp Junkies meet up (which was tamer than it sounds, but was still incredibly loud). Some nights I just went back to my hotel room and worked, and regrettably on the last night I had to turn down an offer to go to Michaels and Hobby Lobby, because I had a 3am start to get to New York, and wasn’t packed. It genuinely hurt to say no to that one!
One of the things I’m glad I did was to sit down at the end of the day and write out my days activities. I photographed all my meals, and kept notes and receipts and eventually I’ll create a little scrapbook album of the trip. I skipped a few days of doing that in New York, but to be fair, I had good reason, and I caught up on that on the flight home. If I hadn’t done that as I went along, I would have forgotten a whole lot of little details … like trying biscuits and gravy for breakfast on the second day (for the record, they were delicious), or having to microwave water for a cup of tea after spending 33 hours travelling because the urn at the tea/coffee station was empty. If you’re travelling and doing lots of exciting things, make time to take notes, and if you’re not into handwriting them, send yourself an email!
So … I mentioned New York. I figured, as long as I was in the country, why not take a few days to go somewhere I had always wanted to see. New York. While it’s not specifically Creativation related, I did do some fun crafty things in New York. On my first day, I did a lot of walking, and I’ll be honest, I’m a little proud of myself for how far I walked. I was staying at Columbus Circle, right at the lower left corner of Central Park. I’ll pop a map over on the blog so you can see where my New York travels took me … and if you’re looking for that you can find it at dawnlewis.com.au/podcast 23. I walked up to the Museum of Natural History, passing some fun movie monuments along the way, including Spook Central from the original Ghostbusters movie. I checked out a cute little yarn store called Knitty City on West 79th Street. I wandered through Central Park and saw the frozen lake, and squirrels playing. I checked out Whole Foods which turned out to be a great place to grab lunch most days, and later in the day I walked down Broadway to Times Square to see what all the fuss was about. Very pretty lights, but I got out of there pretty fast to avoid the scammers. I tried cheesecake from Juniors at the recommendation of Tim Holtz and my friend Karen (who ironically is the person who introduced me to Tim Holtz Distress Inks!) … it was very very nice!
Next day, serious excitement, my lovely friend Elena (owner of the now-closed KennyK Stamps) was coming into New York and offered to show me around. I was feeling a little tired … but not surprising … I did walk a LOT, and had just come off 33 hours of travel, a 5 day full on trade show and another full day of travel. We had so much fun … she drove me over the bridge from the Spiderman movie, I saw Manhatten from Long Island and I finally got to see the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. We checked out a cute little store called The Ink Pad, which was packed with wood mounted stamps and some gorgeous ephemera. We hit up Chelsea Markets and she amazingly found a proper English tea shop! It was SUCH a fun day, and we were meant to spend the next day exploring some more, but unfortunately I came down sick that night. I ended up at the doctors the next day and I learned two things about this experience. Number one … I will never take Medicare, bulk billing and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for granted ever again. Getting sick in America is expensive! Number two … don’t muck about when it comes to taking out full travel insurance, because without it, I’d be in trouble! I had picked up the flu with the start of pneumonia in a really short space of time. Because of the caronavirus scare (which I had completely missed because I had been in a craft bubble) I was deemed unfit to fly, and confined to my hotel room. Hence, why I became lax on taking notes. I spent a lot of time resting, snoozing, chatting with my travel agent and rearranging flights, etc. I will say one thing … the doctors were very thorough, and they took great care of me.
Did this put a dent in my trip. Not really. It has been a very long time since I took a break, so I did a lot of resting, enjoyed some amazing food (which was practically on my doorstep), listened to the sounds of New York, and watched a lot of YouTube videos just for fun.
Would I go to Creativation again? Yes … in a heartbeat! I had a wonderful time, I learned a lot, I met great people, and it made me very happy.
What’s next? Well … I have a very long list of things I’d like to do in 2020, and no doubt if you follow me on any social media or are signed up to my newsletter, you’ll be seeing some of the new brands and new projects coming soon. I have an idea for the cardmakers out there who want to use their papercrafting superpowers to support people in fire affected areas, so keep your eyes peeled for that. First I have to finish recovering from this flu … so I’m off to do some crochet in front of Netflix and be boring and sensible.
Jess Francisco – Instagram
The Perfect Stamp, UK – Instagram
Pear Blossom Press – Instagram
Heffy Doodle – Instagram
RinaK Designs – Instagram
Simon Hurley – Instagram
Tim Holtz – Instagram
Lynda Kanase / iCrafter – Instagram
Darkroom Door – Instagram
Jennifer McGuire – YouTube
The Crafty Chica (Kathy) – YouTube
Laura Bassen – YouTube
Claire Reagan – Etsy