Creativation 2020 - Five Fantastic Days

I'm home from Creativation, exhausted but so happy with how the show went. This was my 7th time attending this craft industry trade show and each year is more valuable. If you are a part of the craft industry (as a manufacturer, retailer, designer, digital content creator, professional maker, educator, etc.), AFCI membership is extremely valuable and attending Creativation is a must. There is no better place to connect with other industry professionals and grow your business.

Over five days, I took classes, connected with manufacturers, saw the latest and greatest in craft materials, and met fellow creators from across the world. Read on for an overview of my 2020 Creativation experience!


Day 1: Thursday, January 16

I flew out of Sacramento at 11:00 am, landed in Phoenix two hours later, and took the Metro downtown. I checked in at the Renaissance, dropped my luggage, then headed to the Convention Center to get my Creativation badge. I am a member of the Digital Content Creator (DCC) section of the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI), but unfortunately whoever made the nametags changed Creator to Provider. Oh well. I suppose I do provide the digital content after I've created it. 

After getting my badge, I headed upstairs for a panel discussion called 'Content Creation: Work Smarter, Not Harder.' I came away with many ideas to put into action. Then I was off to a blogger meet-up at Mi Amigos for dinner, connecting, and crafting (big thank you to Xyron for providing the supplies!). 

I went back to my hotel room to find my roommate, the fabulous Betsy Burnett, putting together 100+ gift bags and door prizes, so I jumped in to help her. I really didn't have any choice, as our entire hotel room was filled with boxes of stuff! (I would have taken a photo, but I couldn't get to my phone or my camera.) We did as much as we could, carved out paths to the bathroom and our beds, and hit the hay. 


Day 2: Friday, January 17

Friday at Creativation is all about education, with a handful of meetings thrown in. Before my first class, I helped Betsy lug materials to the convention center. 

Then between my classes, I helped her finish prepping the gift bags.

I attended classes about Pinterest search, ways for influencers and manufacturers to work together, email marketing, and search engine optimization. All were excellent. At this year's show, there were graphic notetakers who attended many of the seminars and took notes on a large board in the back of the room. 

I LOVED watching the artists and seeing the completed board of notes afterward. Here's the one from the Pinterest class I took. 

All of the boards were on display in the registration area for the rest of the show. It was wonderful to be able to check out the ones from the classes I wasn't able to attend. 

Friday is also when meetings of the various sections within AFCI occur. I attended the DCC section meeting, where I was elected to the Board. It's a three-year term. I am very excited to be serving with my fellow digital content creators. I don't know why we didn't think to take a photo of the new board together. You'd think in a room full of bloggers and influencers someone would have thought to do that, LOL!

After my last class, I headed to the New Product Networking Event. Here, exhibitors show off their latest and greatest innovative new products. I am really excited by some of them, but I'm going to save that for a future post. 

As we entered the event, we each received a candy bar. Some had a Golden Ticket inside. My friend, the amazing Carolina Moore, and I each found a Golden Ticket, good for a $100 Amex gift card!

After that event, I went to a dinner meet-up for designers. I knew about half the people there, but intentionally sat with people I'd never met before. I'm so glad I did! I sat down with strangers and got up with new friends. 


Day 3: Saturday, January 18

The first two days at Creativation are great, but everyone is most excited for Saturday. That's when the show floor opens. But first, I had a 7:30 am meeting. All the Creator VIPs were invited to breakfast to discuss the future of the program and ways to strengthen our organization. We had great conversation and I am really excited about the future. 

Finally, it was time to visit the trade show floor. 

I spent the day visiting booths, trying out new products, and attending meetings, mixers, and meet-ups. This panel discussion about partnerships between brands and influencers was excellent. 

But the highlight of my day was visiting the Leisure Arts booth. Why? Well, I've been keeping a secret from you all. I designed and made 19 projects for their new Freestyle Diamond Art books!

Soon, you'll be able to purchase Diamond Art gems by color, much like you'd buy paint or embroidery floss. Kits will still be available, of course, but with Freestyle, the sky's the limit!

There are 16 inspiration books that go along with the Freestyle program. My projects appear in two of the books, one about paper crafting and one with holiday designs. The books aren't for sale yet, but I assure you I'll tell you the moment they are! 

I was thrilled to see some of my projects on the covers. On the paper crafting book, that's my rainbow card and my purple flower favor box. For the holiday book, I made the blue ornament, as well as the cross, snowman, and Christmas tree.

Not only was it amazing to see my designs in the book, but it was super cool to realize that most of the other designers featured in the books are friends of mine! I'd guessed I would know a few of the designers, but since we'd all signed a non-disclosure agreement, none of us knew who else was working on this top-secret project. This is my good friend, Ann Strecko Koeman, showing off her Eiffel Tower project that made the cover of one of the books.

It wasn't until she pointed out that her project was on display in the booth that I realized three of my projects were too! That's another first for me, having my artwork on display at Creativation. That's my rainbow card on the left, my 'Congrats' banner at the top, and my cream, pink, and gold gift bag to the right of the ABC. 

After a full day on the show floor, I chatted with friends at the Exhibit Hall Happy Hour and then attended a panel discussion about the state of the craft industry. It was very beneficial and entertaining, as well. 


Day 4: Sunday, January 19

I started Sunday with another 7:30 breakfast meeting, this time at the Plaid booth. All the Plaid ambassadors were there. My friend Erin of Erin Reed Makes recorded Plaid's booth tour, so you can learn everything that we ambassadors did. I definitely recommend watching, particularly for the behind-the-scenes of how they designed and created their displays. So interesting!

This was my favorite part of the booth.

Specifically, this. 

Afterwards, I took a painting class....

.... did some make-and-takes...

... joined the crowd learning from Tim Holtz...

.... and worked as a demonstrator at the Screen Sensation booth. That was a lot of fun. 

Screen Sensation is an easy-to-use tool for at-home screen printing. You can print designs onto fabric, paper, or whatever else you want using their ink or any water-based paint or ink. The machine comes in two sizes, one for printing 12"x12" and the compact for printing 5"x7". Both generated interest, but it was the MYOS (Make Your Own Screens) Machine that really wowed people. It's a game-changer and it was fun to be the one to tell people about it. 

Next up, the Industry Awards ceremony. In addition to awards for Retailer of the Year, two people received Industry Achievement Awards, one got a Special Recognition Award, and four legends were inducted into the Hall of Fame. You can read about all the winners here

I had dinner with my dear friend, Julie Tucker-Wolek, and her family. They live in the Phoenix area and took me to a great new-to-me restaurant called Match. I met Julie at my first show (then CHA) in 2011 and we've been friends ever since. 


Day 5: Monday, January 20

Another day, another 7:30 breakfast meeting. This was the Annual Business Meeting and Town Hall. Despite the early hour, I always attend... and I'm always surprised that so many people choose not to attend. I think it is critical to stay informed with what's going on in the organization. I appreciate the chance to ask questions and offer suggestions.  

After the meeting, I headed to the show floor. I did the Stamping Village "Stampenger" Hunt, a collaboration between 11 different stamp manufacturers. You can see my favorite product from each booth on my Facebook page. Then, I had a class on Google Analytics. I spent the rest of the day looking for trends (that's a future blog post), doing make-and-takes, and creating a must-have list for when the products come to market. My favorite make-and-take was this travelers notebook at Pinkfresh Studio using their fun Super Cool collection (affiliate link).

I also spent some time crashed on one of the couches at the My AFCI pavilion. Creativation is awesome in every way, but it is also exhausting. 

When the show floor closed, I headed to the airport for an evening flight back to Sacramento. I'm already counting down to Creativation 2021!


  1. I would love to attend one day! I am so close spending time with my grandkids in Phoenix and yet so far away:):)

  2. Wow. That was a lot for the few days you spent there. Glad you always make the most out of your time there.
    And how awesome to meet up with Julie and her family. :)

  3. I was SO HAPPY that we were able to meet up and have dinner together!! I wish we would have had more time! :) LOVING the pics from the show, and HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE CONGRATS on having your projects on display and in print! That is AWESOME!!!!!!!

  4. Great wrap up! It was very nice to meet you! See you next year!

  5. Thank you for "taking us" to Creativation with you. I enjoyed the highlights and the behind the screens feel.


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