Service of Stationery That’s Not

May 25th, 2017

Categories: Gift Cards, Graphic Design, Retail, Stationery, Writers

Card by Jesse Levison, Gold Teeth Brooklyn

My visit to the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center is always a treat as I love fine paper, eye-catching graphics, fancy giftwrap and embellishments and there was plenty this week to satisfy from wrapping paper stunning enough to frame, magnificent ribbon displays especially by May Arts Ribbon and Ampelco Ribbon, paper party plates, favors, banners and accessories, books, candles, portfolios, boxes, balloons, and a riches of note cards for birthdays, holidays—you name it.

Jesse Levison of Gold Teeth Brooklyn’s whimsical, well rendered motifs in saturated colors screen printed on superior paper [photo above] appealed to me. She wasn’t alone: Talented artists abound at this show. I worry that there may be too many of them, but then I could say the same for gifted writers and musicians, journalists, filmmakers and so many others with training and talent that may go unrewarded in a financial sense.

Neon flamingo by Sunnylife

I play a game with myself when I cover such a trade show. Would I order this or that for my imaginary stationery store? That’s when I noticed exhibitors who were selling items that didn’t fit my idea of stationery. Examples: Barware; bath and body creams; fragrances; tea pots and tea; neckties; leather luggage; backpacks; baby clothes; jewelry; sunglasses; Sunnylife’s pool toys, neon birds, lobsters and cactus [that I loved] and decorative pillows.

And then I remembered that supermarkets and drugstores sell stationery as well.

In addition to art, music, journalism, filmmaking and writing, what other industries are overcrowded with talent? How and where will these gifted people find a way to be paid? What items have you been surprised to see in any store that you’ve traditionally visited to buy something else?

Ampelco ribbon

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8 Responses to “Service of Stationery That’s Not”

  1. hb Said:

    Your thoughtful post brings to mind one of the most memorable lectures of my life. My senior year at school, the head, of all things, of our French department, Dr. James H. Grew, gave a lecture on books, not on what was written in them, but on what they were made of, how they were made and how to care for them.

    Dr. Grew, a mild mannered, unassuming little man, was a compellingly sincere lover of well-made books, and after hearing what he had to say, I agree with him that there is no man-made object more beautiful than a finely crafted volume of no matter what. His passion was contagious. Since then, I have looked at books differently than I did before. I now treat nicely made ones with deep respect.

    Of course, what are books made out of? Paper.

  2. Martha Takayama Said:

    I adore beautiful stationery, wrapping paper, paper drawer liners (especially with lavender scent). Japanese organza ribbons are exquisite and are beautiful hair ribbons also.

    Monogrammed stationary is always elegant and convenient. It signals a sense of thoughtfulness with regard to the recipient. It still seems much nicer for certain occasions to send a handwritten note than electronic mail. Email invitations can be gimmicky and annoying. Email cards are often charming for light greetings.

    It seems, however, a matter of necessity for stationary exhibits to have a wider range of products simply for economic reasons. Related paper goods like napkins, cocktail and other, paper plates, place mats all are a comfortable fit. The other items you list combined with cards form much of the inventory of many hospital and gift shops. Many of these items are non-essential, but suitable for quick impulse buying and last minute gifts.

    I haven’t felt like shopping much lately and confess to not having been impressed with unexpected items except for delicious snacks in a local, tiny pop-up cafe.

  3. Jennifer Powell Said:

    Jennifer wrote on Facebook: That’s fantastic! I shouldn’t be surprised, and I am ashamed to admit it, but I never knew there was such a show! Sounds like fun.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    In my haste to publish this post I neglected to note that there were also plenty of books exhibited at this show!

    I too appreciate the texture of good paper whether in a card or book. The convenience of reading on a tablet is fine but I still prefer the heft and hand of a book.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with you about a handwritten note. I have a stack of thank you’s to write for a work-related project. My handwriting, always atrocious, is worse now that I rarely apply myself so that I do only a few a day. I still think that the recipients may give up after the first line or two. In fact, I first type the note as my mind has switched to thinking through my fingers as they type, not as they write.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s a fun show to cover and manageable as well.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    There’s little doubt that a horrifying amount of talent has been slipping through the cracks down the centuries. Life is unfair, so agonizing over the waste won’t help.

    One small way to stop today’s bleeding is to tout individual efforts, like buying their products, such as stationery, and using them. It’s a long shot, but a card might be seen by the right person, and voila, a contract w/Hallmark follows.

    The ability to amass and work connections to ones advantage may go a long way to achieving success. Playing the “starving artist” card has also been known to work — but as in life, there are no guarantees.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As I read your first sentence I thought, “What about actors?” I left them off the list.
    You are right about the millions who have slipped through the cracks–think of the composers who died penniless and whose work today is played by countless classical orchestras, in schools and professionally.

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