I wrapped up the NYNOW Summer Show last night where I exhibited my own collection of jewelry to the trade (ie. to retail stores, not individual customers) while Aayenda, the new jewelry brand of the Afghan collective launched the lapis/turquoise collection I designed for them. Here are some photos of the work.
And here is my own work on display:
Have you ever been to a trade show? Well, go as a visitor if you can, not an exhibitor! I set up my booth over two days, hauling tables, chairs, office supplies, jewelry stands and jewelry to the Javits Convention Center, then merchandising and labeling the jewelry while forklifts grind their way down the aisles. Crates, cardboard boxes and bubble-wrap spill out everywhere. The lights are low and there is no air-conditioning, neither at this August show nor at the February event. Heat I can take. Last winter, I set up the jewelry in gloves, a heavy coat and a scarf covering my face, only eyes showing. It was FREEZING.
My 10-foot by 10-foot booth, like the others around, had black curtains separating it from surrounding booths. Its a funny, flimsy little three-sided box that one lives in for four days straight. When the show starts, the air-conditioning kicks in, blowing those curtains apart. Not only can you hear your fellow-exhibitors’ conversations, you can now see as they furtively stuff their faces with a tuna sandwich in what they think is a quiet, private moment. Or you’re staring straight ahead at them across the shallow aisle in the open-faced booths as, for a split second, their faces fall when a potential customer turns away from their booth. They too see my shoulders hunch over then hear me crack my elbow joints as the hours tick by.
What I’m getting at is the extremely close proximity one has to one’s neighbors at these fairs. As I was sitting on the carpet screwing legs into a tabletop (please dismantle all notions that this is a glamorous profession), my neighbors arrived, one by one. It is with trepidation that I said ‘hi’ as I have had some really rough diamonds around me. Three shows ago which was also my first, I had a handbag lady who draped bamboo blinds over into my booth, then hung her wares with four-inch pinhooks through both the blinds and the curtains that made quite a pattern on my side. She decided she didn’t have quite enough space so pushed her displays back against our fabric walls, knocking over my tables.
Meanwhile, a band of Italian-speaking guys are building out the entire row in front of me into white hard-walled spaces with white shelving, white tables, white-everything. Their enormous, thus unmovable crates occupy the entire aisle. A handful of union workers from the convention center assists. While a woman hammers nails into a wall unit, a man watches, his arms folded over his chest, chin tucked, leaning back slightly. No, he is not a supervisor. He is a Jamaican man. This I know from his stance, from his demeanor. Most of all the fact that he has found a way to look busy while someone else does the actual work!
He confirms his origin when an attractive Asian woman arrives and he turns to her, flirtingly, asking where she is from in a broad Jamaican accent. I have to laugh. A while later, he hears I am a ‘yardie’ and he wastes no time finding out if I am married, how long, how many children I have. When he hears I am happily married and have a teenage daughter, he gives up on the chance of ‘breeding’ me and decides he will feed me instead, offering to bring fried fish, ‘festivals’ (fried cornmeal and flour), and callaloo to my booth the following day. Man, I love my countrymen!
The Asian woman in a finely-pleated dress and a fashionable bowl-cut ‘do and her casually-disheveled husband climb over the crates and into their booth, calling ‘hi’ in hearty German accents. On the other side of me, a jolly, mid-Western giant pops his head through the curtain and introduces himself. A sun-dressed, uniquely-styled young woman arrives with two suitcases. French, for sure. Like the fellow in a cerulean blue jacket with white piping and a fresh, short haircut who gives a nod from across the way. My neighbors have arrived.
It helps that business is good. But the best part of the show are the people I meet. I’ll share them with you in order of acquaintance: Caren and Stefan of Caren Shen are a delightful couple who live in Vienna. She is part -Taiwanese, part-Energizer Bunny. She models her amazing clothes all day long with a wide smile. He is part-German, part-Gnome. Both are magical. Then there’s Bill of Exotic Sands who kills me with his humor and the fact that his shipping crate from Utah contains – in addition to his booth displays – a gourmet Keurig coffee maker, a picnic basket, a large brown leather armchair and matching ottoman. He describes his packing style as Beverly Hill Billy. I say he’s a show pro! Not only that, he can pop out 9-foot high tracklights by stretching out his arm. No ladders needed, no wonder he can fit his extras. Next is Soma, a sweet, gentle French jewelry designer, who works with the energy of stones. Beside her is Alexandre of Alexandre M.S. who is charmingly ‘French-pressed’ in crisp trousers and jackets. All are warm, kind, and generous spirits, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be surrounded by them.
Then another ray of light appears – Diane. She is bedecked in my designs, a cuff, a neck collar and earrings, that she wears like no other. Style and perfect posture aside, I admire her deeply. She is a true ‘spider’ – creative, self-sufficient, independent, hard-working, resilient and completely uncompromising in all she stands for.