Wiser for the journey / by Susie Lubell


Seven years ago I tried my hand at the National Stationery Show in New York. I had never been and I was five months pregnant and I had decided I would just wing it with my own line of cards. I did very little research, spent a few thousand dollars on the booth and a curtain and renting a table, plane tickets for my Mr. Rosen and my mom and I, and off we went flying by the seat of our pants. And I remember one night before going to bed saying to Mr. Rosen, what if I don't bring enough brochures or what if I can't fulfill all of my (zillions of) orders. Brother. 

We got there and I felt completely overwhelmed. People had shipped or ordered whole store fronts. Everything in my booth we packed in our suitcases. I remember renting a car and driving to the IKEA first out in Jersey and then on Long Island looking for stuff to make our booth a little more substantial. We only had a day. We stayed with friends in Soho and used some of their furniture. And friends in New York stopped by the booth. It was cute in the end. But I remember feeling mostly dejected by the whole thing. Everyone had the same kind of stationery - little icons of purses and heels in pinks and greens, all preppy throw-back. Some of it was exquisite - the Hello! Lucky stuff and other letter press creations. But that cutesy stuff was selling well. Hardly anyone stopped in my booth. I had to kind of lure them in and puff out my belly so they'd think I was kind of cutesy. In the end it wasn't a complete bust. I got five contracts and one was even from Whole Foods in NYC. But still, altogether they maybe amounted to about $1000. Not exactly what I was expecting.

I sold that collection (it was the inner toddler stuff) for another few years, here and there. Some on ETSY and some to shops. When I was on maternity leave with number two I had renewed energy and actually reached out to some blogs. I even got some coverage on Cool Mom Picks and Design Mom. It was fun. But the sales weren't exactly pouring in. So I stopped. I mean, I was also working full time and raising these two kids. It was more than I could manage.

And then after taking some time off I got a second wind. Started my blog. Started reading other blogs. Got inspired by what some other self-taught artists were doing and started painting again. Different stuff. Started developing my own style. Started getting into ketubahs and Judaica and sort of found a little niche for myself. And here we are. Seven years later.

Two weeks ago one of my images debuted at the National Stationery Show with a company called Calypso. Not a whole collection, mind you. Just the one. But I didn't have to fly my pregnant self there and spend a week and a small fortune getting it seen. I just got an email one day in March that said they wanted to use an image. We agreed on licensing terms. And here we are. Ironically it's a "congratulations on your move" card. I have a stack of them at home now so when someone does decide to buy our house, I am well equipped to congratulate them.

Funny how sometimes the choices we make lead us back to the start - wiser for the journey.