Friday, August 31, 2012


Once again the heat was on for the fall gift fair in New York. We've tried Chicago's equivalent of the gift fair but nothing compares with the New York event. Held throughout the huge Javits convention center, Piers 92 and 94, and then in the permanent gift and showroom buildings scattered throughout the city the fair spreads its opening and closing dates over a five day period. If you were to see everything you'd need every minute of those five days and still not be able to take it all in. The thing for us is we don't feel compelled to have to bother with every booth or every aisle or even every section of the fair. Once you've seen one solar powered waving Queen and her corgi you don't need to see a dozen more even if she makes you want to pee a little from laughter every time her hand does that sun powered royal wave.
But as always, there were some highlights. The show opened on a Saturday with Pier 94 and the home section. This is the section we tend to scrutinize the most intensely. This trio of stacked faux vintage clocks was one of the first things that caught my eye. The sloppy couch behind it was an example of the trend toward neutrals that you see in both fabrics and wood finishes. Restoration Hardware does it best and throughout the show we saw a lot of imitators.
Some of it was a little too derivative but then there were pieces that were beautifully crafted like this French inspired chest
and this metal console with rivet details and impeccable proportioning imported from India by Manglam Arts.
Some of the imitation we saw we thought was unfortunate. One of the earlier sections to open was the Handmade Global Design section way up on the fourth level of the Javits. Many of the vendors here focused on sustainable, eco-friendly products made by local artisans from impoverished areas of the world. One of the first things to catch my eye was a booth right as you entered. Escama Studios had paired up with a group of Brazilian artisans introducing these beautifully crafted bags made from discarded pop-tops. Two days later I was walking through one of the fair's largest vendor's booth when I saw the same idea ripped off for a fraction of the price and quality. It's the unfortunate way of the merchandising world.
Another exciting find was in the realm of signage. Spicher & Co had resurrected a vintage look of signage to cover almost any thought you'd need to display on your walls.
I loved the periodical chart in old school chalkboard black.
On the cheerier side Design Legacy has continued to evolve their collection of light-up letters and signs. How great is this coffee sign? It's the right amount of kitsch combined with a good dose of design.
This sign had me thinking. I had to wonder if their sales rose or fell with antics of England's third in line. We weren't in Vegas but if we were this sign should probably have stayed there.
Here's what we found from vendors we already have relationships with. Lafco has come out with a new line of diffusers to complement its line of candles. The blown glass vessels are an extension of their original candleholders. This product is not only a treat to the senses but when the candle has been extinguished what remains is a beautiful piece of art glass. The challenge for us is to come up with a use for these pieces of art glass when you start approaching a stack of a dozen or more. The new fragrance for this season is called The Powder Room. It has that fresh scent of baby powder, clean with the promise of a fresh start, like a newborn.
I've been in love with this lamp from Lazy Susan for several seasons. This year they added the sea with this perfect azure shade. Light is always difficult to capture on film and I'm sure my photo doesn't do this lamp justice but take my word for it the lamp is a stunner.
Another favorite of ours is Shiraleah. They came out with this wire collection that we thought was impressive for both its inventive use of the material as well as its reasonable price point. Wall mounting trays and platters can be a stunning way to fill out a vertical surface in a room that needs an upward lift.
The biggest trend at Pier 94 and the Javits was the abundance of signage proclaiming products made in America. It was everywhere, and it was big.
They added a new division to the show this year on Pier 92 called Artisan Resources. I almost missed it. This Pier hadn't been a part of the show for quite some time. I didn't even realize they had opened it this year so I had to trek back there on the second day of the show. You have to take an elevator up to the exhibition level at Pier 92.  It's one of those cargo type elevators big enough to hold Gloria Vanderbilt and all her luggage on a month long cruise but slow enough to make you think twice about whether it was worth the trip up to the exhibit floor. You get on the elevator at one end on the ground floor and then exit off the back end at the exhibition level. Several people on the elevator were facing the wrong way and had to turn around when the doors finally opened. Like a herd of cattle we were all funneled through the security checkpoint and then we were allowed into the exhibitor space. Disappointing. More than two-thirds of the hall was curtained off and the exhibitors they had were scattered around the room in an attempt to make the room seem fuller than it was.
I thought it was a waste of time until I came to the last booth. They call themselves the Source and they represented a large collection of South African artisans, each with an amazing point of view and a unique product. There were these crazy poufs made from felt by Ronel Jordaan. There was this beautiful coiled blue felt pouf that straddled between looking like it was made from denim or pulled from the sea, a series of felt made river rocks
and an octopus of tendrils winding over a plinth.
These woven plates with metal or leather centers were beautifully crafted and worthy as wall art.
Another artist wove incredible geometric inspired designs out of reed with the artistry of a master craftsmanship.
I'd love to have this mud and wire chandelier. It's a perfect collision of the primitive and the elegant. It is that unexpected exclamation point you could hang over a polished dining table to take the edge off the seriousness of a overly fussy dining room and bring in a sense of humility.
It's a lesson learned at the Gift Fair, never leave a rock unturned and an aisle you may think doesn't have a thing you'd be interested in may turn up to be the prince you were looking for instead of a frog you thought was all that aisle would hold. How's that for mixing metaphors.

Fair Isle, 1996
Mark Power, photographer
Represented by Amador Gallery

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