Normally, each January I travel to the Creativation trade show, along with thousands of manufacturers, retailers, designers, and fellow content creators in the craft industry. Obviously, nothing is normal now. Creativation was moved to March, renamed Creativation+ and co-located with Namta's Art Materials World, and took place entirely online. I attended the 5-day conference from my own home.
A digital experience can't match seeing and touching new products in person and connecting with friends and business partners face-to-face, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good Creativation+ actually was. Sure, there were a lot of downsides to being virtual, but I chose to focus on the positives. And there were plenty. I saved a lot of money I'd usually spend on plane tickets and a hotel room, I didn't have to pack anything (I hate packing), I slept well in my own bed and kept my usual hours, and I was able to eat dinner and spend time with Steve and Trevor each day. (The show was on Central time, which meant everything started around 7:00 or 8:00 am here in California and concluded by around 3:00 pm.) Most importantly, I wasn't exposed to the germs that follow many of us home from an in-person trade show.
Another major upside to a virtual show was that recorded content made it possible to attend multiple classes that were scheduled at the same time, impossible to do at an in-person show. And the chat feature let us network and ask questions immediately. The content will be live through June, so we can watch anything we missed, rewatch the most valuable stuff, and continue to browse the booths and meet with exhibitors.
Creativation+ ran for five days. I took around 4 classes a day, most on business topics. They were interesting and valuable, as the education always is at the show. Between classes, I visited all of the exhibitors' virtual booths and had meetings with both familiar brands and those that were new to me. I attended networking events and even hosted one that brought together manufacturers and influencers. Product samples have started showing up in my mailbox.
One of my favorite things to do at Creativation is to look for trends. It was a bit harder since I wasn't physically in booths taking photos, but I did spot some things that are definitely trending in 2021, including:
- geodes and painting techniques to mimic geodes
- stacking blocks that aren't cubes
- tall, narrow rainbows with non-traditional colors
- resin, paint pouring, and marbling
- 'Colors of the World' products and greater representation of human diversity
- high gloss paints, often painted leaving some bare wood exposed
- ready-to-use kits
- paint by number
- potted plants
- vinyl / DIY tumblers
Some of last year's trends are still going strong, particularly lemons, bees, and gnomes.
As successful as the virtual trade show was, just about everyone is eager to return to an in-person show. That is the plan for 2022! That show will repeat some of the changes made for this year, including co-locating with Namta's Art Materials World and moving the date to spring. It will be even later next year, April 10-12 (with education added on one end or the other) and will take place in Orlando.
I'm looking forward to it.