The American Made Show - Washington DC

Exhibiting at a trade show was high on my list of goals for 2016. In fact, I spent a great deal of 2015 preparing for it. The American Made Show at the convention center in Washington, DC was my first trade show experience, and now that I've had time to process everything, I thought I'd share some personal insights. 

First thing's first: a trade show is NOT a craft show. I have done many a craft show in the last few years, which was valuable experience, but the trade show was a whole new ball game. Each exhibitor is essentially setting up a temporary store, and the attendees are not looking for fun little Christmas gifts for their friends - they're buyers for boutiques, or sourcing products for a catalog. 

I have been wholesaling for a few years, but never in person. I already felt confident in my jewelry line, it's a great product that does well in the stores that carry it, so I felt it was time to get out there and be proactive. A trade show is a great place to be found!


Taking on the tradeshow challenge, I started designing my booth (and budgeting for it) nine months before the event. My background in commercial interior design came in handy - I used a drafting program to draw everything to scale because I knew I wouldn't be able to do a full mock up (the booth was 10' x 10', and my foyer just isn't big enough for that). My booth color palette reflected my branding, and the materials were all thought out in great detail. 

I decided not to rent anything from the show other than lighting, because I intend to exhibit at future tradeshows so it made sense to invest in my own furnishings and displays. The shelving I chose was purchased at Ikea, and it easily comes apart for transportation purposes. The velvet drapes in the background were also from Ikea, and had to be treated with fire retardant to meet code. The carpet tile was donated by Milliken (it's the same carpet that's in my studio), and got a lot compliments throughout the show. 

My favorite element is the plywood displays. I designed & dimensioned drawings for each one, then my handy husband fabricated all of the 20 panels from Baltic birch plywood. Each panel is perfectly suited to display the various jewelry items (pendants, rings, earrings, etc.).


In addition to planning the booth months ahead of time, I also began the very tedious process of creating my very first catalog. I'm a DIY kinda gal, I enjoy photography, graphic design, organizing things, and so forth, but this catalog kicked my butt.  Developing the SKU's REALLY kicked my butt. Even though I limited the catalog to my popular Curious Cameos line, it was still a massive amount of inventory to make, photograph, layout, and assign SKU's in a system that would make some sort of sense. With the help of my handy husband once again, the catalog looks amazing, and I really felt proud to hand them out to potential buyers at the show.

Although I had nothing to compare this tradeshow to, since it was my first rodeo, so to speak, I was very pleased with the orders I took, the contacts I made, and everything I learned during the process. Now that I've gotten my feet wet, I'm itching to do this again. Good thing the American Made show is coming to Greenville this summer. You know I'll be there!

If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know I'm very open about my business, and it's all because I want to help others. If you're considering trying a tradeshow, and have questions, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to share what I learned and talk specifics. 

Oh! I almost forgot - what's the one thing at the end of the day that can make you forget all about your sore feet and a sore smile? Good food (and drink), of course! We ate some AMAZING meals in and around Chinatown. If you're ever visiting, I highly recommend these restaurants. In fact, make sure you're visit is long enough that you can try them all! 

Cuba Libre (Cuban): try the classic caipirinha, malanga fritters, papas rellenas, lechon asado, arroz con pollo. This place was so good, we ate there twice during our 5 day visit.

Nando's Peri Peri (Portuguese): start with a glass of sangria, then go for some hummus, grilled chicken, mashed peas with chili and mint, and red potatoes. 

Acadiana (Contemporary Louisiana): definitely order a mint julep, BBQ shrimp with bread, and friend green tomatoes. 

Silo (New American): cider, butternut squash soup, grilled brussels sprouts, roasted chicken with snow peas. 






Treasure Chest: a peek inside a jewelry designer's jewelry box

I dig jewelry. Big surprise, right? I design it, I make it, and I wear a ton of it too. I wear my own work often, but I’m also a huge fan of other jewelry designers and my personal collection is always growing. My dresser is in a constant state of organized clutter. I keep my favorites out on display in little dishes, because I simply can’t wear them all at once, but darn it, I want to look at them on a daily basis at least.

Here’s a look at my favorite designers, in no particular order, and the pieces I fell in love with and wear all the time. It’s easy to brag on these folks. They’re all extremely talented!

1. Cuyler Hovey KingI’ve run into this designer several times at ICE Atlanta, and each time, I can’t help but splurge on something new. Her eye for shape and finish is exquisite, and I’ve found her pendants layer extremely well with other pieces. Wearing as much jewelry as I can at one time without looking ridiculous is my goal in life, and her work is simple and clean enough that it makes that possible.

2. Lily PotteryOut of Greenville, SC, Lily Wikoff creates funky statement jewelry using stamped clay. Her whole line is gypsy-tastic, but somehow I always end up buying rings. Rings, rings, and more rings! That’s all I have, not much in the way of variety considering she makes just about everything, but hey, I’ll eventually run out of fingers and will have to branch out and get one of her “charmer” necklaces.

3. Bold BFrom across the planet, Australian artist Britta Boeckmann’s work literally made my jaw drop the first time I saw photos online. I only have two of her pieces so far, but I absolutely adore them. The wood she uses is native to Australia (and therefore very exotic to me), and looks stunning mixed with the tinted or gold leaf-flecked resin. Whenever I wear these pendants, I find myself constantly inspecting them, utterly distracted while I try to figure out how in the world she makes them. They’re flawless!

4. Audrey Laine CollectionOut of Asheville, NC, Audrey’s line features intricate metal cutouts and castings inspired by nature and geometry. Although I have a lot of her work already, probably more than any other artist on this list, I’ve got several more specific pieces on my wishlist right now. I suppose I have an Audrey Laine addiction!

5. SpectrumJulie Riffel is behind this fabulous brand, and her work ranges from geometric wooden beads, to glass bubbles, to simple brass shapes. What I love most is the variety. There’s always something new to lust after.

6. January Jewelry: From Columbia, SC, Melissa Giglio is the artist behind January Jewelry, and she crafts modern metal pieces that are perfect for everyday-wear. My husband discovered her work at Indie Craft Parade a few years ago and got me a pair of simple triangle stud earrings, and that’s how I first became a fan. He gets credit on this one!

7. Illyria PotteryFormerly out of Greenville, SC, currently out of the UK, Katie Coston is a brilliant pottery artist who’s work I enjoy both by wearing (jewelry) and in my home (decorative pieces). The necklaces I have are definitely some of the largest pieces I own, but they’re surprisingly neutral and go with everything.

Below are some newly found favorites - designers I've only recently discovered, but will definitely be buying more from in the future.

8. Among the RuinsI first found Kim Curtis on an Etsy Team, of all places, and just recently treated myself to a delicate little bracelet from her shop. The reason it took me so long to finally buy one? I literally couldn’t decide. I kept going back and forth. I had 6 in my shopping cart at one point, and finally just had to pick one because I realized couldn’t go wrong.

9. Pink DogwoodsNan Faulker is another local designer I occasionally run into at craft shows. A few weeks ago I caved in and took home this elegant but fun whistle necklace. I’m all about the leather tassel and long brass chain, but that whistle is just too clever. Plus, if anyone ever tries to steal my purse on the street, I have a secret (and oh-so-fashionable) defensive tactic!

10. Happy ArsenalMade in Taylors, SC, by Chris Jones, these etched copper and brass pendants are graphic and versatile. Very lightweight, great for layering. Tons of options available from someone who knows a thing or two about graphic design (he’s responsible for my new logo!)

So what pieces from my own handmade jewelry collection do I personally wear? I have a few favorites, of course! Let’s call it a “job perk”. Believe it or not, it took me a long time to get comfortable wearing my own work in public. I used to dread someone saying “Love your necklace, where did you get it” because I’d always turn bright red in embarrassment, break a sweat, and say something stupid like “I got it on Etsy”. I had such a terrible time taking credit for the pieces I worked so hard to design and create! I’ve gotten over it by now. Sort of. Kind of. Almost. Anyway, these pieces are the ones I made and just couldn’t part with. You might think being in a house where my entire inventory is available would mean I’d wear something different every single day, but that’s just not the case. These are the few treasured items I kept for myself.