by Emily Wismer, BBH Snarkmaster Supreme
Ah, the NY gift show. After many of these shows, Brandon writes about the great things to be seen, and there are great things - creative and skilled folks selling the fruits of their intense labors. Our journey, however, will be a bit different. Join me, your intrepid guest blogger, as I lead you into the bowels of a hell so wondrous, so tacky; an altar to the possibilities of plastics; a tour through a crystal castle the Snow Queen would envy; a search to find the tackiest gift of all. And be certain, the competition is fierce.
To be honest, the first 2 days of the gift show are a bit of a blur. There is set-up, and sweating, splinters in the fingers. I meet BBH's favorite bartender in NYC, Barry, and have the first 2 martinis I ever like. The blur is more literal for Brandon, who somewhere in the first night's drunken stumble back to the hotel loses one lens from his glasses and has to spend the following day in a perma-squint.
Barry Foley of the Hudson Yards Cafe
By day 3, I am ready to venture from our comparatively tasteful booth full of dirty cards into the wilderness of geegaws, knick-knacks, and tchockes. I aim first for the other lovely letterpress booths, seeing fine work by Oblation, 9Spot Monk, and Snow and Graham, and then, toes acclimated to these rapid waters, take the plunge. The water is cold, and loud, and a lot more colorful than I remember water being. The gift show is, above all things, an assault on the senses.
As I begin, I try to think of what it might be like to be a blind person led around the aisles, listening to the bings and hoots and whirs of various toys, the mood music and constant salesperson chatter. And after seeing a few more booths of flower-topped pens, rhinestone-studded hats, and enough tiny crystal animals to sink the Ark, I wish I were that blind person. I ask to take pictures of various booths for this blog, and am surprised that absolutely no one asks for my credentials or thinks I might be writing anything other than a boffo review. Is any press truly better than none?
And here are some of the highlights:
I'm not sure of the purpose of these furry visors. A joke when you take your client to the golf course? But I like that the sign specifies that they are "the original." Lord knows, no one would want to be caught dead wearing an imitation visor with fake hair, that would just be embarrassing.
The guy at this booth was so nice I almost felt bad that I was only taking pictures to make fun of 2 foot high Star Wars carvings that retailed for about $1500. But really, if you're willing to stand by and try to sell this stuff, I can't take responsibility for that. My personal fave was one I call, "ass with hands." It was life-size and I had a hard time picturing the classy individual who would hang it proudly on a wall to show off to friends, or their mom.
The totally tubular fuzzy phallic lamps. This is the name I've given them, and I think it works.
There were about 6 different booths full of these headless ladies who can hold necklaces, bracelets and such. For some reason, they really creep me out. There's something very, um, serial killer about them, and if I had one on a nightstand I think I would wake up in a cold sweat too often.
Ok, so when I first saw this booth, I thought I'd found the holy grail of tacky. This one had everything, a bizarre wall poster, sparkly porcelain animal heads the size of a moose trophy in a hunting lodge, doll heads that begged a psychiatric evaluation for the makers. And yet...By the time I'd toured the floor a few times, bored by the run-of-the-mill hideous, this became, by far, my favorite booth. Even now, I have a little dream of receiving that black, glittery chihuahua head and putting it above my letterpress, feeling its cheery stare on me as I slog away with my metal type and cantankerous old machine.
And so our trip ends, until next time Brandon is foolish enough to let someone else take over the blog. I'd love to tell you more about the slap-happy nature of the final gift show days, and to make make you feel the Tim Burton undercurrents that flow beneath the gift show, I'd even love to buy you a drink with Barry at the Hudson Yards, but you can't have all that nice stuff unless you chose to suffer as we did: don your badge, sit in a booth, and be part of the grand carnival, the search for the creme de la crap.
Emily Wismer is one of those apprentices at BBH that wouldn't go away when their apprenticeship was up, and now she gets paid to be a smartass. She has a letterpress studio as well, called Lady Pilot, which she runs out of her basement. You can check out her blog, Lady Pilot Takes Off, here.