Creativation 2019 passed in a whirlwind of travel and long show days! Here’s a look at what I did and saw during my three and a half days in Phoenix to attend the show.
[Disclaimer: This content is sponsored by AFCI and the Creativation 2019 show. I am a member of the Plaid blogger program.]
To get to Phoenix, I left Daytona Beach before dawn on a 6am flight. It made for a long day, but with some quick footwork through Atlanta Hartsfield airport it got me on board a flight to Phoenix that landed before 11am!
When we left Atlanta, the crew announced that our arrival in Phoenix would be their very first time arriving at the just opened new terminal in Phoenix. The new terminal, while it might feel small to people more familiar with massive airports like Atlanta, is gleaming and beautiful. With excellent shopping and plenty of restaurants, travelers will find everything they need. (Especially if that thing is coffee – I counted no less than three Starbucks between curbside and my gate!) Being a modern terminal, it also has plenty of power outlets for gadget recharging and even laptop workstations. All in all, it is a vast improvement over the massive construction zone that has greeted Creativation attendees the past two years!
The Phoenix Convention Center consists of three huge buildings, taking up several city blocks. The one on the left hosts Creativation.
The building on the right was hosting a a Harley event, among other things, during Creativation this year. People staying at the Hyatt Regency, Renaissance and other hotels walk through that building as a shortcut to get to where they are staying. There’s also a popular Starbucks that can be reached by walking through that building.
People driving to the show location on Sunday morning this year may have encountered another event that Phoenix was hosting during Creativation – the Rock n’ Roll marathon. It closed a couple of streets a few blocks from the convention center for a time early Sunday morning.
The first two days of Creativation are education days. Many classes were sold out, and attendees lined up early to get their pick of seats. Attendees in the photo below were lining up for an Altenew class on Friday that was scheduled to start shortly after I took the photo.
One of the best reasons to take a class, even if you are an experienced crafter, is to learn a new technique. Sara Naumann taught a packed class on Friday how to do various techniques with WOW! embossing powders.
Mixed media is taking over the paper crafts industry. Judging by attendance at Dyan Reaveley’s art journaling class for her Ranger Dylusions line that I visited, lots of industry people are interested in learning more about it!
Another popular mixed media education event was the Jane Davenport “workalong”, where attendees learned how to use Jane’s product line from Spellbinders.
Calligraphy is the up-and-coming hot thing in the industry. World famous calligrapher Paul Antonio, who has a product line with Spellbinders, drew a crowd of aspiring calligraphers in his class.
Just as important to running a successful craft industry business as creative education is business education. A variety of business classes were on offer for show attendees, including seminars for store owners from the ever-popular Kizer & Bender. Below, 2019 AFCI Industry Achievement Award honoree Tammy Browning-Smith teaches a class called “What to Share: Sponsorships, Endorsements & Interests”.
Friday evening, the traditional New Product Showcase took place. This year the showcase was in a space on the back of the show floor. Since construction was still going on building booths, showcase attendees walked down an aisle that had been draped off on both sides to reach the showcase. The showcase area was curtained off on all sides as well to screen unfinished booths from view.
The early part of the showcase event was wall-to-wall (curtain-to-curtain?) people, as attendees fought to weave their way through the crowd to the showcases for their first glimpses of what might be the next hot product.
Once some of the crowd filtered out for dinner, it became a bit easier to get a view of the various different products.
If you missed the Facebook Live that I did from the New Product Showcase after the crowd thinned out, you can view it below via YouTube:
Saturday morning arrived, and with it, the opening of the show floor for business! Entrance to the hall was via an entrance that was decorated to look like a house, declaring the theme “Home is where creativity is!”
Once the show floor opened up, attendees quickly filtered throughout the hall to their chosen destinations and the hall that had held a hushed quiet moments earlier began to buzz with activity!
Some attendees, of course, headed straight for their favorite companies’ booths to start looking over products and placing orders. (Echo Park is shown below.)
My Facebook Live from the Echo Park booth shows how busy they were – I kept running into people while running around trying to film!
Many booths were offering make & takes, and so that is where a lot of attendees headed when the doors opened. The chance to try a product out before they order, and create a sample to take home to their stores, is invaluable to many store owners.
Here, attendees take part in the Tim Holtz idea-ology make & take while others wait their turn in line.
(And yes, that cap and those bare legs can only mean one thing…that’s the one and only Mario Rossi keeping an eye on the whole operation from in the aisle.)
In a different area of the hall, Lynn from Spellbinders had show attendees die cutting, stamping and coloring at the make & take she was running.
Over at the Hampton Art/Jillibean Soup booth, show attendees participated in a make-n-take that created a trendy embroidery hoop wall art project.
Seth Apter had his make-n-take students at Paper Artsy getting so mixed media ink and paint happy that aprons were required for everyone’s protection!
For those who wanted to get hands on with the latest stamps, a demo area in the Creativation Stamping Village provided a variety of make & take options throughout the weekend. The stamping village also included a large social area (behind the demo area in the photo below) to rest your tired feet between turns at the make & take table, or to peruse catalogs before handing in your order at nearby booths.
While there were many make & takes on the floor that were “drop in” opportunities, some educational events on the Creativation show floor were more scheduled. Some, like the classes taking place in the Plaid booth, required signing up for a seat in advance. A few lucky show attendees got to fill extra seats by lining up to replace last-minute no shows (like a certain scrapbook news blogger who completely lost track of time Saturday morning while doing a Facebook Llive and suddenly realized I’d missed my scheduled class….whoops!)
It wasn’t just exhibitors offering scheduled education on the show floor. AFCI was offering offering an organized slate of education at both the Schoolhouse and the Sweet Spot. The Sweet Spot education, as its name implies, was for food crafting while the Schoolhouse offered business education sessions.
The Schoolhouse was a really convenient venue for attendees to get education right on the show floor (and the events were free). This session on Sunday by Kaylee Pope on email newsletters – an important topic for most industry businesses – was well attended by industry professionals eager to learn how to improve their newsletter usage.
For some show attendees, scheduled educational events in the booths extended outside show hours as various companies hosted early morning events for buyers and/or media. In the photo below, Plaid Senior VP Debbie Henley talks to members of the Plaid blogger program about the company’s new Mod Podge Ultra product on Sunday morning.
One of the quasi-scheduled items on the show floor is always the appearances in their various booths by popular designers. Many of them have to bounce between multiple companies where they have products so you have to pay attention to the schedule to know where to catch them when.
Calligrapher Paul Antonio, a relative newcomer to the Creativation celebrity guest scene, could be seen in the Spellbinders booth promoting his product line.
And of course, Tim Holtz attracted a crowd at Ranger as usual. This year he was demonstrating his new Distress Oxide Sprays.
Knowing the schedule so you can get to a celebrity designer’s demonstration right when it starts (or even before) is very important. It’s the only way usually to get a front row seat. This is especially important if you want to film – and it seems these days, everyone does.
Increasingly, demonstrations on the show floor, especially of the most popular companies, look like the one below by Seth Apter. Designers face a wall of cameras, and within minutes of it ending a half-dozen versions of their demonstration will be online for the public to view on Facebook, YouTube, or other video services.
It’s not just demonstrations being filmed, either. Christine Urias and her husband Mark Giles of ScrapTime have long been known for their high quality booth tours from the show, and now the genre has become a industry standard for anyone producing video content.
A few companies even bring in major tech for their Creativation filming, like this crew I ran into in the Hero Arts booth.
And of course, I can’t forget to mention the original livestreamer from the show floor…Elena from Charity Wings! She was doing her usual livestream this year with a new assistant, her adorable son Devin. It seemed everyone at the show wanted to meet Elena’s “baby unicorn”. And who could blame them – he was the cutest thing at the show!
And why did so many people want to meet Baby Devin? It’s because crafting is a community, and through our journey in it we make so many friends of other people in the community. Creativation is a chance to come together with those friends and share our journeys, wins and losses from the last year. It’s a chance to get inspiration from each other, learn from each other, and even find new partnerships to build.
(Now if I could only get someone on the show floor to teach me how to take a better selfie…)
This community is why the day doesn’t end when the show doors close. There were plenty of events to attend after hours at Creativation this year – the Prime VIB blogger party, a Hero Arts event, and a social event hosted by Simon Says Stamp, to name a few – but I opted instead for quiet dinners with what I consider some of my industry mentors. There is something to be said for sitting down and talking about where you are at, where you are going, and what your challenges are with just a few trusted compatriots.
Doing this meant taking advantage of some of downtown Phoenix’s wide assortment of restaurants. I think my mom nearly disowned me when I texted her this picture of her basketball idol’s restaurant – and then told her we weren’t stopping.
But we were headed to another kind of burger joint, called The Counter. Here, there are so many options of ways to get your burger (including even what kind of patty and bread) that they give you a paper form to fill out checking off what you want! So yes, if you want to have grilled pineapple and bbq sauce on your burger…you can totally have it! I did, and it was delicious. And the fries were amazing. And the root beer float made the perfect dessert!
But if steak is more your speed, The Arrogant Butcher is the hip place to be in downtown Phoenix. This prime rib practically melted in my mouth, and the flourless chocolate cake was so rich I couldn’t even finish it!
Stay tuned for more reports on Scrapbook Update about Creativation 2019…and if you missed it, be sure to check out the Scrapbook Update Creativation 2019 Top 10 Hot Picks!