So the other day I attended the Seattle Gift Show. I didn’t know quite what to expect, as it was my first time going as a buyer in any capacity. You know how all the malls that aren’t super high end seem to have the same windmill booths and alpaca ponchos in little booths? I now understand where it all comes from. It comes from gift shows. I saw rows and rows of rhinestone jewelry, beads, paper journals, and cards with witty sayings. There were perfume stands, baskets, even cookbook distributors.
(Photos today are vaguely related; I felt odd trying to snap photos in the show proper.)
This is not to say that I didn’t learn things, or have a good time. I finally met the amazing Crystalyn Kae, who makes handbags and clutches using bright colors and vintage materials. Karen and Ariel of Forte Chocolates were showing off their new Gusto line, with savory notes like fireweed honey and balsamic vinegar, and even showed me photos of a twenty pound sugar sculpture they recently installed at the Semiahmoo Resort. I learned about vertical gardening structures that looked awesome and talked wine with the ladies of Caloric Cuvee. There were organic soaps, toffee, home spa products and popcorn chips, and enough stuffed toys and games to fill a house.
What really scared me was hearing the comments from some of the other buyers that this was a small event. I don’t know how well I’d do at a larger one.
This also reminded me to follow the semi-wise words of Tom Lehrer: Be Prepared. (Yes, I know it’s not attributed to him, but Tom Lehrer’s more awesome.) Most of these conferences and events have their own branded bags; they were out when I arrived. What I really needed was a rolling suitcase, and many of the buyers had sleek carry-on sized affairs.
Even more intriguing was how much of it was for sale. There was a whole cash and carry section, and at the end of the show edibles and small objects were bought, many to take to co-workers and suppliers, others for pleasure. I bought a small disc of beeswax balm, as it seemed to help my chapped hands a bit, and at $4 I could give it a whirl. Yes, there were samples – I left with two full bags of cards, flyers, and products – but there were so many things for sale. I was glad I didn’t know that ahead of time, because I would have come home with a heavy load of fair trade linens and crafty things.
During my debrief with the boss, all I could think of was how weird this was. I’m a forester, and assumed I would stay along that path in some form. After I got initially interested in communications and media, I thought I would just move to non-profit PR or something similar. Now I find myself wanting to travel and bake and plot all day, and explore more crazy (to me) events like this one. I know I have some time to think and figure stuff out, but there are no deadlines and I really should be researching nutria behavior patterns. That both excites and scares me, and that’s okay.