Week 5: See what's out there!
So back before Sean was born, I went shopping with a friend of mine to find some paper to make baby announcements for her first baby. We ended up in this crammed-full little stamp shop in an old Victorian house. Neither of us knew anything about rubber stamps. The owner saw us staring blankly at a container of embossing powder and happily demanded that we come over and let her show us how it worked. She spent the next hour stamping and embossing and answering questions. We left the shop with stamps and paper and embossing powder to make baby announcements and Christmas cards. But she didn't just make a sale - she inspired us. We were really excited about what we'd learned and what we could do with it. And? We actually went home and used everything we'd purchased.
This is why I tell you that: It's time for a field trip. You need to get out. You need to see what's out there, check out the supplies and fun stuff waiting for you to use them, and see what other people are doing. And I'm not talking about just going to a store and "buying stuff." It's not about the buying. It's about inspiring yourself!
I know some of you have magazine subscriptions to scrapbooking, stamping, art, knitting, gardening and other magazines that specialize in your particular flavor of fun. That's great. It really is. But I think there is a bit of a disconnect between magazines and real life. When you see something in a magazine it's... well... it's in a magazine. So are car ads, furniture you'll never be able to afford and impossibly clean houses. You need to get outside of that.
Locally owned stores are a great idea because they are usually staffed by people who know their industry and love what they do. While I was in Baltimore with Betsy last January we stopped into the greatest yarn shop in Hampden. The owner could give you advice on just about anything yarn related and while we were there two separate times women stopped in with their in-progress projects to get advice and chat about what they're working on.
Yearly trade conventions are also an excellent place to see the new products being demonstrated in person! Every year in greater Cincinnati there is an event called Stampaway USA. Before my first trip, I was hesitant because I wasn't sure I did enough stamping to make it worth it. I personally enjoy rubber stamps for their graphic element - being able to produce the same image in different ways by changing your ink type and color. But only about half of my stamping is on paper - I like to stamp on metal objects, cloth, glass and other collage items. I just didn't think Stampaway was something I'd get into because I assumed it was going to be a mess of handmade greetings cards and not much more. BWA! Was I wrong. Thankfully, so very wrong.
Stampaway showcases rubber stamp companies but many of the products and projects displayed are three dimensional, metal-work, jewelry and other collage type work. Incredible companies like European Papers out of Columbus, OH and Stampers Anonymous (a Cleveland company, I think?) have great found items and images that are versatile enough to be used in just about any way you can imagine. I bought a set of vintage glass map pins from European papers, some metal spinners from Stampers Anonymous (you know, like on a board game where you spin for your turn.) There is also a woman who sells custom cut glass for soldering projects which is something I've been having a hard time locating. If I hadn't gotten past my "it's only greeting cards" mentality* I'd have missed a great opportunity to be inspired and also to make some contacts for new supplies!
An example of still being able to be inspired by going out and seeing what's new? Something I bought at Stampaway this year was glitter. To some of you, that probably sound stupid, right? But I bought glitter! I've never liked glitter before. I thought it was too "kindergarten art" for me, even though I've actually never looked at it in any of the art stores I've wandered into. When I got to Stampaway this year, I happened upon someone doing a demo with ultra-fine vintage green glitter. It had an antique look to it, like some of the postcards I inherited from Rusty's great-aunt. I loved it immediately, but still wasn't sure what to do with it. After ten minutes of watching some demos I was hooked and bought four or five little containers of vintage colors and can't wait to start messing with them! If I'd have gone into Michael's and bought this stuff I'd have brought them home forgotten about them in a few days. But after seeing someone using them, in person and in real time, I have ideas of specific things I want to try based on what I saw firsthand. It really does make a difference when you see items being used as opposed to seeing a finished project that merely listed the supplies in the footnote.
Now, another good source of inspiration is art fairs or craft shows. And you may not see the items being made first-hand. But you do get to see some decent artwork and the artist is usually there to answer questions. If you're a quilter, quilt shows are amazing because quilters love to talk about their work and share what they do. I've found the same to be true of home and garden shows and local festivals - the people who take the time to be there are there for a reason. They like what they do. Sure, they want to sell their items. But they truly love that someone is buying their handmade garden chair or wrought-iron plant stand because they know it will add something unique to your home. Take advantage of that. Ask questions. Tell them what you are looking for and see what they suggest. Or just look around.
Autumn is a great time of year for local festivals featuring artisan crafts, carpentry, welding work, etc. And over the winter there seem to be quite a few conventions for stampers, scrapbookers, quilters, etc. (I guess more people tend to stay inside?) So keep your eyes open for a field trip experience that will get you out among others who share your particular passion. Even if you don't buy anything, you'll get something out of it. And please, don't make a trip to Michael's or Hobby Lobby be your field trip. I want you to put a little more effort into finding people who love the same things you do! I mean, I love the smell of the fine arts department just as much as anyone else... but no one at Michael's is going to take an hour to sit and chat about the finer points of gel medium as an adhesive verses good ol' Diamond Glaze. I have to go look for that kind of enchanting conversation!
I can give some suggestions for some local places here in Ohio. And if you're not local but you have some good ideas of locally owned stores, or maybe trade shows or conventions coming your way? Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section and I'll add them to the post!
*I've gone to Stampaway every year now since 2003 (the year I wondered if it was worth it.)
If you're in Ohio, try these:
- Stamp Your Art Out (Blue Ash/Greater Cincinnati area) - This is not a great site but I've included it for contact info and address. The store is awesome, crammed full of fun supplies and great samples.
- Marco Paper (Dayton/Centerville) - This is one of my favorite places. There is almost always a demonstration going on in the back, they're great about showing you how to use something. And they have really great stuff!
- Stampers Anonymous Convention Schedule - Personally, if Stampers Anonymous is going to be there, I say it's worth checking out. So far they're scheduled to be in MD, OH, TN, VA, WI and CA through the end of the year. Not sure they have a physical store-front. Will look into that...
- European Papers (Columbus) - I haven't made it to this store in person but their booth at Stampaway is always one of my favorites. The owner is passionate about what they do and thought the ongoing mail-art war between Jodi and myself was great (she saw photos of the cow mail.) Can't wait to take a day-trip to Columbus to visit!
St. Bovina. Patron saint of mail art.