July 7, 2015 • Sarah Schwartz
Editor’s Letter: The Same Table

As my feet slowly recover from National Stationery Show (NSS) and I organize press kits, review photographs and follow-up with friends old and new, I am again reminded of how lucky we all are. For while many of us technically compete with each other, there’s a warm camaraderie in the stationery industry I don’t really see in other gift segments.

To that end, I feel fortunate to sit at a corner table and observe the trajectories of makers big and small. Even better, it’s a gift to occasionally help. Each time I can connect people and, hopefully, transport their businesses to the next level — either on the show floor or within these pages — it’s my small way of applauding their artistry and visions.

But it goes way beyond me. Organizations like Tradeshow Bootcamp and Stationery Academy provide the tools for each designer to find and negotiate their path to success, with a lot of laughs and good friends thrown in the mix.

Stationery stands apart amongst other gift categories because its creators infuse their distinctive perspective into their work and speak to their own audience. Stationery also has a near-magical ability to touch someone in a way that a more generic gift can’t — a certain card can draw laughter or deep thought in a way that, say, a candle never could. Lately Emily McDowell’s Empathy Cards have gone viral and spurred a national dialogue on how we relate to those sickened by cancer or other long-term illnesses — what other type of product could do that?

Because it connects individuals across time and space and celebrates intimate ties, stationery is very nearly an animate object. And that’s a great thing since stationery needs all the help it can get in its struggle against the digital revolution, which threatens to make it obsolete.

This collective battle should unite us all, for we all sit at the same table. Every time someone buys a card, mails an invitation or writes a letter, we all benefit. This is something many of us inherently sense. If we build each other up, we’re all stronger. When we engage in traditional “competition,” small and ultimately meaningless battles distort the true goal.

Luke Pontifell of Thornwillow Press recently told me, “Hermès was a saddle and harness maker, and when the horse stopped being the commodity vehicle that took you from one place to another, Hermès became about identity.”

That was a smart move! We’re only going to redefine what stationery is together, and I invite all of you to sit next to me at the table to reinterpret and reinvent it.

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