Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cup 'o Pens

What do you use when you write your greeting cards and invitation? A ballpoint pen? A felt-tip? A roller ball? Or maybe, even – a fountain pen? I have to admit to a penchant (get it?) for the Uni-ball Rollerball, as I do love the liquid ink. I just checked out Uni-ball’s website, and it said “Rollers are for consumers who demand the smoothest writing.” Actually, I like to think it brings me closer to a fountain pen experience, but then again, there’s nothing like that, either! Fountain pen enthusiasts will tell you how personal using such a pen can be. First of all, there’s that whole thing with the nib – the pressure a person exerts on the pen while writing shapes the nib, which is sort of like someone wearing in a new pair of shoes. No one else can really wear them, and no one else will really be able to use the fountain pen with your nib intact!

I have to say that over the years, I have gotten quite a collection of pens going. It’s nothing like what real collectors have, I just mean how many I have in my pen cup (I have more than one) and in my desk drawers. Absolutely no one will dispute this!
Here’s a photo of my pen cup.

That big flower pen is from Pen-damonium. It came with a really cute cube of note squares, but I’ve gone through those already! Aside from the cute “from the desk of stamp from PSA Essentials,” do you recognize any of the other pens in there? I have an ergonomic pen from Yoropen, a ball point from Visconti (it’s orange and has my initials on the top), another pretty ballpoint from MonteVerde (it’s black and red), a turquoise and silver number from Xonex, a Fisher Space pen – great for taking with me to trade shows, a pen that was part of a gift set from Lady Jayne (that’s the black & white polka-dot one), a felt tip and some highlighters, along with the tools of our trade, a couple of regular pencils (including a really cool one from Faber Castel that has grips on it), a blue pencil, a red pencil and a green pencil (all used for marking floorplans – yes, the old-fashioned way!) Can you believe there are so many choices out there?!

Whatever kind of pen you use, I wonder - do you use a special ink color? Sometimes I try to match a color in a card, and I’ll choose a pen with a specific color of ink. I remember when I was in grade school I used to write out my Christmas cards making every other letter in green and red. Honestly, I may have also done this in college, right about when I was supposed to be studying for finals. Oh, but that was so long ago. When those silver and gold ink pens came out, I was in heaven. I bought fancy Christmas cards (from Caspari, I remember) with beautiful museum-type prints and foils – and the envelopes had silver or gold linings! Of course I used the gold and silver pens for my messages. This was well before I joined the National Stationery Show team, but I was clearly showing an interest in cards and finishes!

This past May at the National Stationery Show, our team left a personally signed welcome note in every exhibitors’ booth. We really wanted to convey to each exhibitor that we were excited for the Show, and that they were there. We also wanted them to know that we each personally signed (not scanned a signature, but really signed) the letter that they received. To do that we decided to use different ink colors. I signed on for the purple. Patti got orange, Arque had green, Rosanne used blue and Jess got the pink (she really wanted the pink!) Coincidentally, these pens were from Uni-ball, but were their Gelsticks. Since then, I have really been into the purple pen and having been using it and a purple Papermate around the office.

I think it is important to show a bit of your personality, not just with the card you chose, but with the ink and/or pen you sign with! It doesn’t have to be the same every time, but it’s fun to have the ink color match the message (a color in the card, or the mood of the message). I wonder how much importance our retailer friends give to writing instruments in their stores – be it fine writing instruments such as fountain pens and the like, or all the way down the line to the fun stuff – decorated pens, like some of the cute pens from Inoxcrom – like this one, featuring a design by Jordi Labanda -
or foufy pens like that one with the flower on the top. I could while away as much time in a store making my pen choices as I spend making my greeting card choices (and we all know how long that can take!)

I also really like pencils (it’s all in how the lead feels as I write), but that’s a different story!

It would be fun to hear from you about your favorite ink colors, or if you have a favorite pen, or even how you incorporate pens into your merchandise mix, if you have a store.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Twist on Halloween Traditions

Earlier in September, I attended the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY, for the first time. For those of you who have never heard of it, the Renaissance Faire is an escape back to the days of Shakespeare and court jesters, knights and dragons.

The days when there were no words like “computer” in the dictionary. Wait – did they even HAVE a dictionary? Anyway, being there and seeing all of the colorful, detailed costumes got me thinking about Halloween and the past Halloween parties I’ve thrown.

Although I’m not throwing one this year, I have hosted some fun Halloween bashes! Parties filled with skeletons and bats, glow in the dark lights and spooky music – year after year my collection of decorations grew. Like many holidays – traditional Halloween images haven’t changed much. Pumpkins, bats, ghosts, skeletons and witches are always a hit. And, the scary masks, animal costumes and trick-or-treating door-to-door are perennial favorites. But so much has evolved; there are twists on the traditions that are so much fun!

Growing up we had plastic pumpkins or D.A.R.E. bags to tote around our treats. These days’ kids have a few more options!Peaceable Kingdom Press has created a glow-in-the-dark goodie bag (safety and fun all in one – something my mom would have liked!)

Want to be a bit more fashionable? How about Groovy Holidays’ felt bags? I think I would probably use this bag for more things than trick-or-treating!

When I threw Halloween parties, I couldn’t find any invitations that I liked, so I made them myself on the computer. Not only did it take a long time, I often ran out of printer ink along the way. Companies like Picture Perfect would have solved my problem quickly – Halloween invitations for kids and adults that are fun and easy to read.

These days everything is about customization and personalization…anything you can come up with! So, if I want my napkins and cups to read something like these below, all I would have to do is order them from Print Appeal and *like magic* – I have the perfect table settings!

So for the party I am not throwing, there is only one thing missing…something no one will expect (it’s Halloween – it’s a must for all parties). I think these nametags from Groovy Holidays will work:

What about those people, like me, who are not throwing a party? Well, these days – no holiday is complete without the perfect greeting card to help acknowledge it. There are many great companies with fantastic cards. I am personally not able to pass up Up With Paper/PopShots Studio Halloween cards. They’re cute, they set the mood; they’re a party all in themselves!

And last but not least…what’s the best thing to send a friend that couldn’t make your party? Or, a distant relative that can’t see you on Halloween? A picture of what they missed! We often see personalized cards such as these for winter holidays, but did you ever think to send one for Halloween? Picture Perfect did.

So, all you need to do is go out and find yourself a costume. I’d love to hear what you’re going to be. Let me know! My husband and I are going as Alvin and Brittany from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Now all we have to do is find a party to crash…

Until next time,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Back-to-School – or is it Reality Bites “Back?”

The back-to-school frenzy officially took hold in my household when the girls came home from camp a month ago. First, though, we had “re-entry” to life with rules, boundaries, showering – thank goodness -- and yes, air conditioning! Oh, did I forget to say parents? That, too. So once the five of us got reacquainted (I am including our pup, Maggie), the hunt for the clothing and school supplies began.

Some might consider it an adventure – the concept anyway. But it has become more a right of passage to dress the part – up to the “affordable minute” -- from accessorized head to sneakered toe (Converse or Vans, of course!) -- and the back pack or side slung bag is a must, in the right color. We went for black for the freshman, Sydney, and lilac for the 6th grader, Carly. It works. But, what to do about capacity – do we buy the double zipper, plus the three compartments inside, with the exterior water bottle (“mom, that’s for hikers”, said my little one, Carly). We decided on the one with organizational features and not worry about thirst-quenching. Sydney went for the quintessential simple black one – two exterior zippers, one front compartment and a few secret stash places on the inside. Carly’s was straightforward, and a lot less money!

Next on our list was school supplies. We searched high and low for the cool, the chic, the just right for each kid. So to Office Max, Staples, Office Depot and Target we ventured, and a few zeros later, procured the perfect combination of striped, plaid, argyle, solid saturated color, multi-zippered, spiral or perfect bound, sticky, but not too much, not-to-dry and wet ink white-out or white tape, a variety of folders, binders, index cards, pens, pencils, dividers, accordion organizers, dictionaries, thesauruses, locker magnets, combination locks, protractors, calculators, graph and lined paper – oh, and, composition books! I probably forgot a few items, but you get the gist.

Here’s just some of what was selected:

Amassing the supplies in living color

Carly went for the fluorescent flowers against the black
Syd went for the stripes with coordinating pastels

All told, it took nearly a full week to gear the girls up. We had fun, we had a lot of laughs – and I was able to give them a little lesson in design trending along the way. Was it any surprise that some of the patterns and prints we saw in the clothing stores were also applied to the packaging or covers of our school supplies? “We are such a fashion-forward industry,” I tell them! Well, they’re all set! Me? Another story.

It all gets quiet the night before. Girls tucked in, and magically everything is all ready when the kids awaken. Syd’s out the door first…Carly’s backpack must be in the kitchen!

Now, I have all the rejects to return…better have the receipts, better know what I bought from where, better have my patience to do it within the 10-day-mark. Get ready, get set. Because once these are restocked, I’ll be off for the Halloween extravaganza. Scary thought.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Getting Personal

With an uncommon name like Arque, I had to develop a fondness for personalization because I cannot find my name on anything. There is a story behind how I got my name and I can share that with you at another time. I’m a fan of sending personalized greetings (especially for Christmas), although I have not done so in a while. These last few years, I have gone to the Hallmark Store, found a design that fits who I am, filled out the cards, and popped them in the mail. Sounds simple enough, right? Well here’s my latest dilemma. I just purchased a co-op, (thanks to Kelly Bristol, who introduced me to her realtor), and now I need to decide from which company to buy “I’ve Moved” personalized cards, and give them the honor of announcing my relocation to friends and family. My colleague Lori Robinson (if the name sounds familiar she used to manage the National Stationery Show) chuckled when I said the word “honor,” but then she thought about it and realized that it really is an honor. Think about it, whichever company I choose will communicate one of the biggest and long lasting decisions I will ever make in my life!

I could invest in an Epson Printer (or borrow Kelly’s) and do it myself, but I’m not sure I would do as good a job. You see, although we are living in the age of technology, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m technologically challenged, in large part because I am not a fan of reading directions (it always frustrates my sister, Kenda). I’m the one who thinks that with a little common sense I could figure out how an item works by ripping a box open, plugging up whatever is in it, and them pushing a few buttons. I’ll have you know that this approach has worked for me on a number of occasions! Ask me sometime about my IPOD experience!

If I had the luxury of time, I would probably try printing them myself. But I’d like my new whereabouts to be known this century. So I have decided to leave it to the experts this time. I have worked on the National Stationery Show for 15 years, and have developed hundreds of wonderful relationships with exhibitors that specialize in personalization. How do I narrow it down? I could simply choose from the pool of exhibitors who have given me personalized thank you gifts over the years- Perfect Printer (see the pink heart notepaper at top); Olivia Mullin – I really love this notecard below -

Personalized Expressions, (here’s what they gave me at this year’s Show, below – love the stripe, Patti was right, stripes are in!)

and NRN – they gave me this, right after I got married.

But that would be too easy. I want to put more thought into it and expand my options.

I have decided to start by doing a search on the National Stationery Show website and looking at those companies in the personalization, imprintables, or invitations and announcements categories; then visit their websites and check out the designs, colors, and typography. I’m looking for simple, but elegant. My favorite color is navy blue, so I will definitely be drawn to anything that has blue in it.

I’m not sure who will end up with this important job, but I will update you in a future blog. I’ll even post the winning company and the design I chose. I’d love to hear who you suggest! Does anyone have any recommendations?