Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Meeting Amy Butler, or the Handarbeit and Hobby Fachmesse

So I met the famous American fabric designer, Amy Butler, here in Germany! How did that happen? Well, let me tell you:

Allison contacted me to see if I was interested in attending the Internationale Handarbeit & Hobby Fachmesse in Köln (the International Craft and Hobby Trade Show in Cologne) last Friday. We last met up when my husband and I stayed at her place last summer, so we were due for another little adventure and this peek into the more industrial side of German crafting promised to be interesting (and it was!).

A word on the photos: indoor photos with fluorescent lights -and about a million other little lights in the booths- made taking decent pictures impossible, so bear with me here! Also, Photoshop was making me cross-eyed this time, so some of the text in the collages is pixelated, which probably bothers me more than you, but oh well.

We had a total blast and it was really fun to have a girl's day outing together. Allison has a shop, Stillwater Designs, where she sells her lovely jewelry and handbag creations, but her specialty is imported American designer fabric from the likes of Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, Kate Spain, etc. This was a business trip for her, so our time at the Messe was sprinkled with buyer meetings with sales reps and so on. I think she was worried I would be bored, but it was SO interesting to see this aspect of running a shop! I loved tagging along!  Below you can see some of the booths and a shot of Allison contemplating which fabric to purchase. I loved getting some sneak peeks of to-be-created and to-be-delivered fabric lines from certain designers! SO COOL!
This fair was mainly about sewing and knitting. There were sewing machine companies, people selling fabric, ribbon, patterns, knitting needles, knitting patterns, how-to books, yarn, yarn, and more yarn -it was crazy! There was even a speed-knitting competition going on during the weekend. Knitting is HUGE in Germany, so it's no surprise that half of the show was devoted to it!
Some of the booth displays were more...unusual...than others. Take for example the yarn and pattern booth featuring mannequins with massive antlers. That was eye-catching! However, you do need to attract attention, right?

I liked this little ribbon booth; I wish I could remember the company name! (UPDATE: they are from Baenderei Kafka) There was ribbon for sale, but not a lot. There easily could have been a greater selection of ribbon at this fair, ah well.
In addition to ribbon, buttons were available in many booths. One booth was even selling some and, as you can see below, was attracting quite a crowd! I love how they had a little spring garden theme and had buttons for sale in the metal cones hanging on the fence and in terracotta flower pots nestled in crates. Such a great idea!
Like knitting, felting is also HUGE in Germany, so booths selling various felt, felt yarn, and felting supplies were easy to find. I was interested to learn that you could get a needle felting attachment for your sewing machine. Who knew? I like how this one booth displayed everything from adorable felted owls to felted birds perched on nests created from swirled felt yarn -so cool!
Embroidery and cross stitch elements were also to be seen, but they weren't as common. This next collage is my attempt to show a decorating style common here in Germany: a delicate modern Scandinavian country style of decor.I like this style to an extent, but after a while it's just too cute and delicate for my taste.
Another major trend in German crafting, well sewing/fabric, is pastel colors. I would say I see far more pastels (like Tilda) on German crafting blogs than I do on American ones...or? It's either really pastel or really colorful (auf Deutsch = Bunt) in a red/blue sort of way. In general, American fabric seems to embrace a much greater variety of colors and motifs, but below you'll see some of the pastel German displays I spotted. And yes, I think the octopus is cool...except for it's angry eyes! Why must it have angry eyes?? (Was ist los mit dem bösen Augen?!)
Kokka's Japanese fabric booth was incredible! I love Japanese fabrics and it was so fun to see things from the Enchino collection and many others. Their fabric is definitely oriented towards a bold, modern and more colorful feel.
The highlight of our time was spending time in the massive Coats booth where they had a huge section featuring Rowan/Westminster Fabrics including Kaffe Fassett and a huge Amy Butler selection....and Amy Butler herself! See how colorful and diverse these American fabrics are? American fabric designers really do have their own flavor and it's so fun to see how the different countries have their own sort of style. I love how Amy Butler's oilcloth (Waschtuch) collection was featured with several darling bags and raincoats on the mannequins! How fun would it be to have one of those raincoats??
The gumdrop pillows/poufs and quilts were also spectacular, but the real treat was getting to meet Amy herself. I've often read that she's really friendly, but we were so impressed to see just how humble, sincere, and down-to-earth she really was!
Allison (far left) and I (far right) felt like two giddy little American schoolgirls, but somehow we managed to have several conversations with Amy throughout the day. We met her when we first arrived and we chatted for a bit and then she asked us to come back again after Allison did her buying, so we did; we all talked for quite a while!

We talked about tons of things, from tips on sewing with patterns (Schnittmuster), how your business and creativity can and should evolve over time, what her favorite collection is (it's always the one she's working on), and then I was begging her to create a line of ribbon.... =) She's thinking about it.  =) We also heard about new fabric materials that she'll be working with in the coming months, so Amy Butler voile, corduroy, and other treats are in the works!

I could go on and on about our pleasant and interesting conversations with Amy, but honestly, I had a truly fabulous time hanging out with Allison! It was so fun to spend time with another American with whom I have so much in common. It was so fun to geek out over fabric and laugh over some crazy displays. We both thoroughly enjoyed dinner out at a Mexican restaurant by the Messe train station ...good Mexican food is nearly impossible to find in Germany, just like finding good Italian ice cream is nearly impossible in the US!

What about you? Anything catch your eye from the trade show? Are there certain crafting trends you notice where you live?

PS- to see more pictures from the show, check out Allison's post!


Müllerin Art said...

Da bin ich ja ein bisschen neidisch... das war ganz in der Nähe und ich war nicht da... Liebe Grüße

C N Heidelberg said...

OMG Kokka booth!?!? I live for those fabrics!! It's so expensive here though. My dream is to fabric shop in Japan one day....

Antje said...

wow, that looked like a lot of fun! I think it's funny that you write that knitting is huge in Germany but I picked it up here in the US! :-)

Juliette said...

Michaela - schade dass wir nicht am Samstag gegangen könnte! Ich habe es gewünscht, aber es hat nicht geklappt. =( Ich wollte deine 'Messe' auch besuchen! Nextes mal...

Antje - seriously, right? Although if there was ever a corner of the US with knitting fever, it's where you live, so it fits! =)

Jul said...

Love those antlers. Do you think we'll be seeing a lot of them next season? :)

miss b said...

oh my, this is so fabulous and colorful, i didn't know it was such a big fair happening in Germany!

I'm sure it was a wonderful experience, as you describe it! Thanks for sharing, must write it on my "must see" list : )

Traveling Mama said...

That is just TOO cool!!! I am so excited for you girls! What a fun thing it must be to say that you met Amy Butler!

Allison said...

Gee, what else can I add to this other than I had a great time too! Thanks for being my "partner in crime" for the day!

Kelly said...

What an awesome adventure! These are great pics - I know how hard that trade show lighting can be. :-) Did you come home with inspiration overload?

susanne said...

Hi Juliette,
die wunderschönen Bänder sind von der Bandweberei Kafka (www.baenderei-kafka.de). Danke für die schönen Bilder! Viele Grüße Susanne

Juliette said...

Thanks for the name and link, Susanne -I've updated the post!

Kelly - yes, total inspiration overload. How on earth do you handle the quilt markets?!

Georgianna said...

Ohh, Juliette, this is pure heaven! What a marvelous day you had. And the photos are wonderful – they really capture the color and energy. It must have been so much to absorb but how unforgettable to spend so much time with Amy Butler. Thanks so much for sharing! – g

Jutta said...

I totally agree with Georgianna, love your photos! Looks like such a great place, and it must have been so interesting talking with Amy Butler.

Belichek said...

In Prague recently held an exhibition of patchwork. And there were a lot of interesting things)) but your show seems to me more exciting)) thanks for the photo)))

Carolyn said...

How fun is this? Amy Butler! Love her stuff. And fun that you had a friend/American to do it all with!

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