Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Report from the New York International Gift Fair

On Monday, for our day off, Jae and I went to check out the New York International Gift Fair at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. There are thousands of vendors at this fair, but we focused on finding things of exceptional quality and originality handmade by independent artisans in small-scale production. We saw lots of things we liked, but actually placed orders with two new artisans that we're very excited about.

The first, Judy Geagley, is a woman from Kentucky who designs and sews the most loveable stuffed bunnies, bears, and dogs. We've been looking for things that will appeal to little girls in particular and think we've found 'em! Some of the bears have jointed arms and legs, and many have been distressed to look long-loved and carefully repaired, but not in a kitschy way. For youngest children she makes flat stuffed cats and Humpty-Dumptys from tattered old quilts and sweaters (that she washes well before using). Then there are the irresistible chenille bunnies. They should be here in a month or so and I can hardly wait to have them in the shop! I will write more about Judy, a remarkable woman who breaks all stereotypes of the successful entrepreneur, and post more images of her work. Meanwhile, you can see one of her bears on Broadway in the musical Gypsy. How famous!

We also made an order for something we weren't looking for but fell in love with when we saw them: Sol Mate Socks. These are brightly-colored, beautifully made socks of cotton and wool for adults and kids "mismatched with care in Vermont." They are produced in North Carolina by a small team of machine knitters and sewers, then sent up to Vermont for finishing by home-based craftspeople. We will have a few dog coats as well, which are made from socks and lined with fleece. The company is owned by a woman, fondly known as "the Socklady," who got her start knitting nearly 40 years ago and fell in love with making colorful socks in complex patterns, so she started this great business. Look for them to appear in our window display in March!

Another similarly small-scale, ethically-minded company caught our eye as well, Little Merry Fellows. They make tender hats and blankets and stuffed toys for infants from incredibly soft, American-produced organic cotton. But since these are already available to the neighborhood at 3R Living, we didn't make an order with them. (We don't want to be redundant with other shops in Brooklyn, and certainly don't want to disrupt a good relationship between an artisan and another colleague.)

We'll be going to the Buyer's Market for American Craft in Philadelphia as well as the American Craft Council fair in Baltimore later in February to see what's out there and scout for a few more new artisans, and will keep you posted on new work coming in to Greenjeans.

Meanwhile, I have been busy rearranging the shop this week, so please stop by and let me know what you think! I'm trying to give it a lighter, more airy look, but Cousin Jason (who works here occasionally) thinks the front window looks too colorless, so maybe I'm erring on too-airy. I'll post a picture when it's done. Cheers!

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