Friday, May 29, 2009

Sitting Pretty in Vermont with Bills and Coins

A colleague of mine breathlessly buttonholed me one day during the National Stationery Show. "Peter. You've got to see this guy!" Yeah, yeah, sure, sure.

The cover of Johnny Swing's brochure has a photo of a welded sculpture that twists and turns in all sorts of directions. Not sure what's the big deal here until I open the brochure to see Johnny Swing sitting on a large couch made from coins. Still, I'm no fan of coins. I'm rather fond of dollar bills, but this looked interesting. And sure enough....

Johnny Swing was exhibiting some of his creations at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, just below the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center. I went down to visit and learned that he's a fellow Vermonter living about an hour from me and we have mutual friends.

I loved his Nickel Couch, made with 7,000 nickels, and his Half Dollar/Butterfly Chair, which uses 1,500 half dollars.

But what struck me most, being the dollar bill guy, were the pillows and stuffed animals made from - you guessed it - dollar bills.

I don't normally make suggestions to those who create beautiful and functional works of art, but I mentioned that he might be able to get a deal on some dollar coins. There are lots of them just sittin' around....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Banknotable Anniversary for Crane & Co.

I was wandering through the Crane Museum of Papermaking the other day and just happened to notice part of an exhibit I really hadn't paid much attention to lately. I guess I should be more attentive more often, as I almost let a big anniversary get by me.

The exhibit is about Crane and United States currency paper, which they have proudly made since 1879. Let's the math, Peter! 130 years. And guess what? Here's the original letter from The Ohio Icicle, Treasury Secretary John Sherman:

Yup; that's today.

There's a story behind that letter; a story that can be long or short depending on the talents of the storyteller. I'll do the short version.

W. Murray Crane, then only 26, took up lodgings in Washington, DC, when it was learned that the Treasury Department was dissatisfied with its current supplier of currency paper and was issuing a request for bids. He and a dozen or so other bidders camped out in the capital, with Murray corresponding with his father, Zenas Marshall Crane, almost daily.

May 27, the deadline by which to submit bids, arrived and all the competitors handed in their sealed envelopes well in advance of the final hour.

As the story goes, all believed they had submitted their best and final price, and were gathered in the bar of one of the local hotels, trading stories. Murray must have gotten wind of what was believed to be the lowest bid, and left for his hotel room to prepare another, lower bid.

Once it was discovered that young Crane was about to pull a fast one on the crowd, they locked him in his room and repaired in good spirits to their liquid spirits.

But Murray was a tall, slender New Englander - built like a buggy whip - and managed to climb out through the transom and rush to the Treasury building to submit a second bid only minutes before the close.

That bid - a half-cent per pound cheaper than the next lowest - won the company its first contract to manufacture United States currency paper, 130 years ago today.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Crane's Engraved Stationery on the Globe 100

Back to reality after the National Stationery Show. I've got some more photos to show and some more stories to tell, and will get to them as the dust settles. But today, I just wanted to hook you up with a new video on the Boston Globe 100 site.

I did an extensive interview for the filming, but I had such a bad day that they left me out completely. And that's a good thing. I remember I was describing the unique qualities of engraved cotton papers, and said something like, the fine-line detail and the signature bruise on the back of the card were the "hallmarks" of engraved stationery.

Oh well, the good news is that I should get an extensive blooper reel....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Whirlwind at the National Stationery Show

I have a short memory. I've been doing this show for quite some time now, and every year, it seems I forget how busy I get when making promises about blogging and tweeting.

Yesterday is pretty much a blur, with more than a dozen appointments with writers and editors from national magazines, all anxious to see what's new. And there is plenty that is new and exciting, but none more so than yesterday's debut of Martha Stewart Stationery for Crane.

We had a great time at the Top of Rockefeller Center in the Rainbow Room, highlighted by a visit by Martha herself. Here are some photos from the event:

Martha with Crane Chairman and CEO Charlie Kittredge.

With Crane Vice President Anita Brady.

Darcy Miller, editorial director for Martha Stewart Weddings, was also in the house.

The view

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Opening Day at the National Stationery Show

Well, the big day is finally here. I'm at the Javits Center a little early. There's lots of buzz in the aisles and in the booth. Here are more photos of merchandising displays in the Crane booth:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Windows to the World of Crane Stationery

The display windows at Crane's booth at the National Stationery Show are the stationery equivalent of those made famous by Bergdorf Goodman. Every year, thousands of people circle the booth to see not just the new stationery items making their debut, but how to merchandise them in their stores.

They're behind glass, so photography doesn't really do them justice, but here goes anyway. More updates later on.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Last Sneak Peek Before the National Stationery Show

There are so many things to do tomorrow before catching the train to the city on Saturday, that I'm going to wrap up our exclusive sneak peeks at Crane stationery debuting at the National Stationery Show.

I'm chickening out on making a single pick for the best-selling holiday card this season. Too many opportunities to be wrong, so I thought I'd even out the odds just a little. So, without further waffling, here are my top three picks.

And here's the dark horse: Rounded edge, gold foil, printable menu cards. These are a budget-friendly way to dress up any dinner table - even an intimate dinner for two. They come in white and ecru, with either gold or silver foil - 25 for $26. The example shown below was printed on my little Epson inkjet. They have an imprintable finish and are made with 64-pound paper. One cautionary note. You can't put cardstock like this through an all-in-one printer. You need to have a printer that feeds from top to bottom without sharp turns. You will probably waste a couple until you get the hang of getting them started in your printer, but it is way worth it!

Once the word gets out - and it will at the Stationery Show - these cards will sell like hotcakes (with real Vermont Maple Syrup)! See you at the show.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A World of White in Crane Holiday Cards

Of course, holiday cards are sent in the cold of winter, at least in the northern climes, so one would expect to see lots of snow and ice and other things white on holiday cards. It's a little tough to put images of snow on white paper, (polar bear in a snowstorm?) so there are some limitations.

Today, I thought it would be fun to look at white as a design element both literal and figurative in holiday cards making their debut at this year's National Stationery Show.

And my personal favorite:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Absolutely Amusing Animated Animals

National Stationery Show T-Minus 9, and I must be getting punchy on a Friday afternoon, resorting to vowel-centered alliteration. To close out this week's exclusive sneak peeks at designs debuting at the National Stationery Show, here are some animals I find amusing:

And my personal favorite:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Crane Gift Set Gets High Marks for Mother's Day

Sarah Shetter and Alison Palevsky, owners of Shetter and Palevski Interiors of Santa Monica, California, and bloggers for the Huffington Post, have selected a stationery gift set from Crane as one of their Ten Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for $50 or Less.

They write: "Most of us don't take enough opportunities to express to our mothers how much we love and appreciate them. Take the time to write a handwritten note on beautiful stationery. Sharing one or two of your most memorable childhood experiences or perhaps a few humorous moments from family vacations will add an extra special touch. We love this set of Cambridge Blue Damask note cards and matching envelopes. Cost: $29.00.

Perhaps your Mom would like her own set of Cambridge Blue Damask Note Cards.

hint, hint.....

Solid Gold Motifs - Stationery Show at T-Minus 10

You reach a certain point, when you've got to be out of town for a few days, where decisions must be made:

Do I plant my tomatoes before or after the show?
What if it rains and I can't mow the lawn before I go?
What it it doesn't rain? Will my lettuce die?

All that sort of stuff as well as scheduling laundry, shopping for new clothes and on and on. You can probably tell I don't do this very often. But I'm looking forward to my annual trip to the Big City, and if you're a Crane retailer, I'll look forward to seeing you there.

Today's sneak peek at new stationery designs making their debut at the show centers around gold - engraved gold motifs that adorn new cards and notes:

And my personal favorite:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is Crane's Best-Seller Among These Creatures?

Remember when we met this guy?

To refresh, our little friend here was the best-selling boxed stationery item in 2008, part of Crane's Paper Collage Animals Collection.

Well, move over, little fella, there's some new contenders on their way to the National Stationery Show in just 11 more days. So, for today's exclusive look at Crane designs making their debut in New York:

And my personal favorite:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bold Engraved Images Grace Crane Holiday Cards

Only 12 days to go until the National Stationery Show. For today's exclusive sneak peek at designs making their debut at the show, I've started to narrow down my favorites for engraved holiday cards. And by favorites, I mean not only personal favorites, but those that will appear on the most mantles during the holiday season. I've got money riding on this....

I'll show you four gorgeous designs today, all enhanced with the unique properties imparted by the engraving press. Sometime before the show, I'll announce my winner for this year, and we'll see how it fares later on.