Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Stitches Show, NEC Birmingham (20th - 22nd February 2016)

On Saturday 20th February, I picked up Donna Wright, and drove us to Birmingham to spend a couple of days at the Stitches Show - a big craft trade show. Our American friend Karen Burniston, who designed die cutters for Sizzix, and now Elizabeth Craft Designs, was coming to the show and when she emailed me about it, I decided that Donna and I should definitely go!
Karen was arriving later in the evening, so Donna and I entertained ourselves for the afternoon. After going to the wrong Ibis hotel first, then driving round Birmingham Airport one way system a couple of times, we finally managed to park the car and find the right hotel!
Chilling out in our hotel room for a bit.

The show was open to the trade only, so Donna and I had registered online as designers (which we were, with Karen's products) in order to have access to the show.
After a bit of time at our hotel, we walked across the road to the Airport and caught the monorail to the National Exhibition Centre. We still had a huge walk through the NEC to finally get to the place where the show would be held the next day. The place was pretty deserted, but we were able to use the codes we'd been given online, to print out our entry badges.

We came out of the NEC and spent a couple of hours in a big shopping centre nearby. Donna was just getting into nail varnish too, and was keen to buy some, but no joy. I bought a nice light blue shirt from Gap.
Messing around by the NEC sign afterwards.

We headed back to the hotel (making friends with two women who we bumped into a couple of times over the weekend - fondly known as 'the lift ladies'), and kept in contact with Karen who was travelling from London by train. She'd accidentally caught a slow train, but at last made it to her hotel, also on the Airport complex. Donna and I waited in the foyer for her and I was actually a bit nervous! We've been in contact via blog land and the internet for about three years now, and have got on well, but I'd messaged her saying what if we hated each other's guts in real life?! Happily we didn't, and we walked over to the Airport and had a meal while talking busily the whole time. Lovely to all be together in person! Karen insisted on buying everyone's meal.
We stayed in the restaurant till it closed, and walked Karen back to her hotel, then went back to ours.

The next morning we met in Karen's hotel again, and went to the NEC together. Karen had to go off then, and meet the people responsible for the stand she was part of. Donna and I had to wait a while before the show opened.

We met up with Karen again once inside, and chatted a while, but we didn't want to hog her, as there were quite a few people around. 
Here's Donna and I doing a 'Make'n'Take' with Richard Garay. He's another craft product designer, who I'd not heard of before, but some of the other women around the place thought he was quite a big deal, and were doing a bit of fan worship.

We also met up with Caz Counsell, another of Karen's Design Team Members (not that Donna and I are on the Design Team any longer). It was great to meet her in person too, after years of being in the same Facebook group etc!
I love this picture of the four us all together!

The same supplier who was representing Karen was also representing Tim Holtz, and I saw him milling around and asked Karen for an introduction. She knew him from their days both working as Designers for Sizzix. Tim is one of the biggest names in the industry. I was chuffed because he'd once featured one of my cards on his blog, as part of a 'blogworthy' post. It made the number of visitors to my craft blog absolutely sky-rocket!

Donna and I spent the rest of the day wandering around the show, picking up a few freebies, watching demonstrations and looking at the products. I had wanted to go to the giant CHA craft show in Anaheim, California, in January, but couldn't because of my Fire Fighting course. This show wasn't as good as that one, in that Stitches also included fabric and wool suppliers, but didn't include all the big papercraft companies, plus it wasn't the time of year when companies are revealing all their new products. It was still fun though, and nice to wander around with Caz for a bit too.
We also watched quite a while, while Karen demonstrated her products to people. It was fun seeing all her sample cards, which we were familiar with from the internet!
Donna and I grabbed lunch at the show, but later on Karen managed to get away from her stand, and came for a wander with us, and we had afternoon tea with her and Paula Pascual, another die designer, who I knew by reputation only. We all chatted like mad, and it was such great fun hanging out with craft celebrities!

In the evening, Karen was supposed to be going out for dinner with Tim Holtz and the other people represented by her UK suppliers, but she said she'd rather hang out with me and Donna, so we went back to her hotel and had a very nice meal in the restaurant there.
We went up to her room afterwards and just talked for ages. She'd also bought us gorgeous scarves. It was great hearing about all the behind-the-scenes goings on of the craft world! Karen also facetimed Els (who owns Elizabeth Craft Designs and who I know a little from the internet) and it was nice chatting with her too!

Back at the hotel, I spent some time on the internet. During church that day, I had been released as Stake Young Women's President, and Scott and I had been called as Stake YSA Couple. I received some lovely messages from people, and it was touching getting back and reading them.
A message from one of my Young Women:

''Thank you for being such an incredible young women's president!! Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into the young women's program. Thank you for all the love and light you share, at every camp, fireside or a simple pass by. You are my role model, such kindness you have, Christs light shines through you. Thank you for everything! I'm going to miss you!! x''

And from another friend:

The vote of thanks unanimous but of course unspoken, so for every young person's parents, whose children you have blessed, thank you both for your service and example. I feel sure you will bless many in your new calling too, so glad you can do that together. Helen, you may never save a life in a fire fighters suit but I think you could in this calling!

On Monday morning we met up with Karen again and went to the show together. Donna and I spent part of the time on the stand with Karen, and part of the time wandering round again.
Here's a picture of me and a lovely guy we met who owns a paper company. He was interested to hear about the blogging world, and said we could take as much paper and card as we wanted for free, and that he'd happily send us more free stock as long as we wanted, and in return we'd mention his company on our blogs.

At one point, I returned to Karen's stand, and Karen said something like, 'Oh here's Helen now', and a couple of women wanted to talk to me, because they knew my blog and were fans! It was pretty cool!
I enjoyed helping Karen out for a bit on her stand, and just chatting with people interested in her products.

Donna and I had registered too late to be able to attend Karen's formal classes in another section of the building, but she got us making some of her card kits up, to time roughly how long they'd take. It was so much fun to actually be crafting with Karen - and even seeing things like her famous glue bottle from her craft videos!
(Donna and I have our fabulous chunky rings on in this picture, which we made at the WOW! stand with a couple of hilarious people!)

Saying good bye to Paula, before we realised just how little time we'd allowed to get back to the hotel, check out and get our car out the car park before the cost went up astronomically!
We said a hurried good bye to Karen and then had to run the 2 miles back through the NEC and Airport to our hotel! Afterwards Donna said she might need to work on her fitness! We made it to the car just in the nick of time, and then drove back home. We were both pretty worn out, and had a quiet journey. 
I had Breathing Apparatus training at the Training Centre that evening!

My Facebook post from that afternoon.

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