January 24, 2014

Window Stitching: Atlanta 2014

Posted by Cathy Heck

Gosh, I am so sorry to be so long in posting some pictures from the Atlanta Show. I just have one excuse. Food Poisoning. If you have ever had it, you will know why I can’t really say the words “shel_ fi_h” ever again.

BUT, the good news is that we were able to see our pretty window in the front of the C.R. Gibson showroom before I went for a fun dinner and ordered … well, you know … the food that shall not be named.

So, finally, here are some pictures from the debut of our Made With Love collection. The original stitchwork for the covers and interiors, fronts to backs, were stitched by our own little fingers. We were drawing with thread! We hope lots of new babies will feel the love we poured into this group of baby memory books.

CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow1 CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow2

Above are several of the new products from the collection, which you will be able to buy at retailers across the country. You can contact C.R. Gibson for more info. (The new collections are not up on their site yet, but will be soon.) The cute fox seen in the photo above, however, is not part of our group …  he was just the perfect spokes-model for our Made With Love stitches. (He comes from the family of adorable critters from the blabla group of knitted toys.)

One of our favorite additions to the collection is this adorable jaunty elephant coin bank, pictured below. And the cute Grandma’s Brag Book will just make you want to … well … smile!

CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow3 CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow4

Of course, the best part of seeing a new group introduced, is seeing the wonderful people who collaborated to make it happen.  We were so happy to see the director of the project, Sherrie McCulloch, (below left) who worked with us on every detail, from the perfect paper stock to the prettiest book binding.  And, below right, is Betsy Ferg, who we know gave up some Christmas holiday time to make sure that the fun window display was ready by the first of January!


And, below, is the person we really have to thank for this inventive collection coming to life … Ellen, herself. The original sketches for this group came from her head and hands.  Her persuasive encouragement went something like this …

Ellen on phone: “Really, mom, I do think we can stitch a 72-page interior by the deadline … if we all do it together. Jules can help, too. We can do it!”

Mom: ……..

Ellen: “Mom … mom … hello, Mom, are you there?”


But, Ellen was right … we did it … and it is, indeed, a labor of love. Be sure to keep an eye out for our new collection … and as soon as we receive our samples, we’ll be hosting a fun giveaway.

In the meantime, here is my next call to Ellen:  “So Ellen, I had this idea for a 72-page interior that we would mold out of clay, what do you think?”

January 8, 2014

Hello Atlanta, Hello World

Posted by Cathy Heck

We are off to the Atlanta Gift Show for the debut of our new collection, Made With Love. We created this group of friendly characters one stitch at a time, and, it is indeed made with love just in time for cute babies arriving in 2014.


If you are headed to the Atlanta Gift Show, be sure to stop by the C.R. Gibson showroom to see our new baby collection. We hope you will feel the love, too!

We’ll be sure to tell you all about the show and share pictures when we return.

Love, the Heck family stitchers … well, except Neville (the dog) … he can croon, but he does not stitch.

October 26, 2013

To Market, To Market, Jiggity Jig

Posted by Cathy Heck

We are wondering how many sewing machines were making the same whrrrrrrr ours were making this week before International Quilt Market .  And how many floors looked like this?


We will have so much to share when we return from Houston.  Most importantly, I (Cathy) will be able to demonstrate that you, too, can learn to sew in one month!  It’s true.  I even learned to make my own piping, so I am feeling like a sewing stud. If I can do it, you can do it!


When we received our beautiful samples of the new Cuteville County Fair fabric, which we created for Henry Glass Fabrics, we pulled out our sewing machines, and I pulled out my sewing machine manual.  I made a little quilt, and Ellen made a big quilt. Thankfully, Ellen taught herself to sew in the 5th grade when it was clear to her that sewing was not in her mother’s skill set. We will show the quilts at market and the big quilt even has a free downloadable pattern on the Henry Glass site.

Here is Julianna pretending to be a quilt model in the back yard on Ellen’s big quilt.


Come see us at the Henry Glass booth at 2pm today (Saturday), where we will be sharing a bit about the way we work together from our studios in Austin and Berkeley. Even though I have been designing for fabric companies for ten years, it’s more fun than ever now, because Ellen and I create the collections together. Also, we are bringing a gift for the first 30 visitors–a DIY kit which includes everything you need to make a fun personalized embroidered pillow using the Cuteville fabrics … I bet you know a Best-In-Show baby that needs one!

Photos below are of Julianna making excellent kits. Thank you Jules, you are definitely the Blue Ribbon studio elf of Cuteville County.




See you in Houston.  And, for those who will be following the show through the blogosphere, we’ll be sure to report back next week.  Off to Cuteville.


June 28, 2013

SURTEX 2013: Lesson #4: The Most Important One

Posted by Cathy Heck

Lesson #4:  Make new friends.

Our favorite part of Surtex is meeting the people who live around us for four days.  Not only do we learn trade tips and tricks, but we have made life-long friends from our trade show seasons.


A new friendship at Surtex might start like this: “Oh my goodness, all of my artwork fell in the night, do you have any tape?” “Here are some Command Strips, they are much better.”  “Will you watch my booth while I just grab some coffee?” “Disney came by while you were away, and we signed a deal for you … is that okay?”

No matter how the friendships start, they are lasting.  Here are some of the new and old friends who were living near our Little Big Top this year, deep in the heart of Surtex.


We were delighted when we arrived to see that the Surtex staff had moved our neighbors from last year to the very same corner to which we were moved.  Right across the aisle were Elliott, Sherry and Debbie of the Debbie Taylor-Kerman team.  Not only did we get to hear Debbie’s wonderful Scottish accent for three days, but we loved being near her husband, Elliott, who still makes us feel starstruck because … well, you will have to read about him here!


When we first saw Debra Jordan Bryan walk in, we were in awe … she was wearing high shoes!  We are so very impressed with artists who can stand in their booths for three whole days with high shoes. Then it turned out that she was not only fashionable, but very talented … and adorable.  When clients weren’t clamoring to meet both of us, we were able to visit and learn that we had so much in common … well, except trade show shoes. CathyHeckStudio_SurtexFriends4

Across the aisle was Sheila Meehan, who is an agent for a great group of artists, and lucky for them, because Sheila is one of those people that you just want to be around.  She is fun and funny.  Sheila has also been in the design licensing business about the same amount of time as we have … which is basically since it began, so it was fun to compare notes and reminisce about the old days now that we’re both so wise.


The team from Roaring Brook Art was catty-cornered across from us, which really made our corner feel upscale and elegant, because their booth had the feeling of an inviting living room. I hope they weren’t concerned when they saw that a bunch of loud circus clowns were moving into the neighborhood.


Ed Miller, who was new to Surtex, was across from us and his booth was as cheerful and fun as he was.  We knew we were going to love him, when he stayed for booth set-up as long as we did (which was loooong) making awesome paper garlands from his great juvenile patterns.


And last, but not least, a fellow Austinite!  Samantha Stevens is the licensing agent for Terri Puma Design.  When we were introduced, we learned that  (1) Samantha was from Austin and (2) Terri has a child at Colorado State where we have a child.  And then it turned out that (3) Samantha has a child that played lacrosse against my child.  We were both lacrosse moms!  It just doesn’t get any small-worlder than that.


So these are the new and old friends that lived near the Little Big Top, USA for three days. During those few moments between signing big deals, we were able to share photoshop tips, copyright info, organization ideas, and even camp stories.

We feel very lucky to be part of an industry full of artists and agents who are so willing to share and support each other, and also just so ding dang fun. (See! I learned that great expression from our booth neighbor and dear new friend, Debra Jordan Bryan. You never know what you might learn at Surtex.)




June 27, 2013

Surtex 2013: Lesson #3

Posted by Cathy Heck

Lesson #3: More on marketing: When is enough enough?

Once you have your trade show theme brewing in your creative stew pot, most of your other marketing tools will fall right into place. We started with a fun trendy color story to use for our booth and our marketing: Dusty Turquoise, Coral and Kangaroo with a touch of Banana and Lime. We were going for vintage with a twist.  We think this group of colors is a fresh new choice for a gender-neutral color story. And, just today, I was delighted to see that Project Nursery predicted a similar story.


We knew we would be needing envelopes for mail-outs as well as something to contain our press kits.  Lucky us that Paper Source had an envelope that perfectly matched the dusty turquoise from one of the circus prints that would accent our booth.


We also knew that we had lots of baker’s twine on hand from my overzealous twine trials for the animal cracker box handles.  (See previous post.)  So I thought of this excellent way to use up at least one roll of twine.  I’m not saying that I designed this press kit around the twine, but let’s just say it inspired me.



The cover page was designed so that our little mighty mouse would be peeking out, most certainly luring a busy editor to want to learn more.  Plus, I was dying to use a phrase I found on a vintage circus poster somewhere in our booth, but it didn’t fit on our walls: “Pachyderms, Pulchritude & Pantomime.”  So, imagine my delight when this verbiage could find a home in our press kit. Plus, this word usage will also provide a great ROI measurement … if any trade magazines use “pulchritude” in describing Cathy Heck Studio, we’ll know our press kits worked!  Although, it might turn out to be a coincidence, since pulchritude does actually mean “physical beauty and comeliness,” and well, just sayin’.


So, when is enough enough in marketing for a trade show?  Maybe when one has a burst of creative genius and is certain that one should provide mustaches for possible photo ops with booth visitors.  Or, maybe enough is enough when one decides that mustaches would be trendier than trendy if they were made from our Little Big Top patterns.  Or, maybe enough is enough when one begins this little project at about 11pm the night before her flight to said trade show.



Clearly, I don’t know when enough is enough.  And I’m pretty sure that we will not earn any marketing awards for this small part of our marketing package, BUT, it sure was fun.



Photos above top: Kim Andersson, textile designer, who was helping Carol Van Zandt, stopped by for a little mustachio. And below, Ronnie Walter and Jim Marcotte model our show ‘staches … wow, Ronnie, we all knew you were stylish, but, you even wear a mustache with a certain panache … and I am pretty sure Jim has worn one of these before.

Here are a couple of links to some fun mentions we discovered after the show, which may have been influenced by our press kits, or possibly our matching mustaches.  One was the post-Stationery Show/Surtex wrap-up by Gifts and Decorative Accessories, in which I was very honored to be included in the list of “familiar names in our industry at large.” (Thank you.  We love being known as familiar  … it’s a little bit like being called a good friend.)  And, another article and photo surfaced in Illustration Today, which is written in another language, but we are confident that the description of our Surtex booth is full of praise … although we’re guessing it does not include the term, pulchritude.

So, next year, when you are trying to decide whether to do a bit of marketing before the show, I say, yessiree, do it.  But, maybe not the mustache idea.  I mean, really, enough is enough.



June 26, 2013

Surtex 2013: Lesson #2

Posted by Cathy Heck

Lesson #2: Marketing works, so just bite the bullet and do it.  And speaking of biting …

Every year, a few months before May, we think about our Surtex theme, and since we love food of all kinds, we might even begin with brainstorming about our Surtex Show Snack choices. I won’t say that we designed our entire circus-themed booth around our animal cracker show snacks … but I won’t deny it either.


A few years ago, we gave away animal crackers to celebrate the debut of our Welcome Home Noah collection … and long after the little cookies had crumbled, we received a call from a new client who was holding the box in his hands as he spoke, “I want the elephants on this little box.” We thought, “Hey, our show snacks worked.”

So, this year, since we had created a fun new vintage circus collection, we decided that good ol’ Barnum’s Animal Crackers could make their comeback as the giveaway snack under our Little Big Top booth. Not only would the packaging offer us the opportunity to use every corny circus slogan possible, but, hello … they’re good for you. Note the very strong mouse below.


Personally, a major part of animal crackers’ charm for me is the little purse-box that houses them. No matter how old a little girl might be, there is just something fun about carrying a “purse” of cookies around. This lead me to the search for perfect purse handles: baker’s twine to match our vintage circus boxes, and yes, we now own enough baker’s twine to open a bakery.

We also have to take a moment to thank our wonderful helper, Linda, (busy hands below) and our great printer, Barry Colvin at Republic Printing, for, once again, helping us to get these boxes printed, scored, assembled and shipped before the “now-it-will-cost-an-arm-and-a-leg” shipping date. Below you can see the transformation from Barnum’s Animal Crackers to Cathy Heck Studio’s Critter Crackers.

CathyHeckStudio_animalcrackers3 CathyHeckStudio_animalcrackers4

We actually called our giveaways “trade show emergency snacks,” because many of our clients and press visitors told us that our snack became their dinner on the train or in their hotel rooms. So next time you think of animal crackers as a simple carpool snack to last until the soccer game, think again. This little snack might just be the lifesaving-nectar-of-the-gods to a new client who couldn’t fit in a lunch break.


Above, little purse-boxes of critter crackers displayed in our booth from a nifty vintage-y luggage piece which we found at Paper Source. I know you’re probably hankering for an animal cracker right about now, but unfortunately, this limited edition has been devoured. However, you can find them in your local grocery, and they will taste exactly as you remember!


June 25, 2013

SURTEX 2013: Lesson #1

Posted by Cathy Heck

Lesson #1: Check your booth signs before you leave your studio.

We are maybe the slowest booth putter-uppers at Surtex, and it has really been cutting into our shopping hours. So this year, with our two college daughter helpers, as well as Jim, my really tall husband who can reach the top of the booth without a stool, we designed our booth to go up faster than ever, with hopes of a Chelsea shopping trip to follow. But, alas, we had a tiny little set-up snaffoo:

CathyHeckStudio_SurtexSigns1During Booth Set-up on Friday:

Cathy: Wow, we are working so fast. I bet we will be out of here by 4.
Jules: Okay, Mom, what next?
Cathy: Aisle Signs. Here they are.
Jules: Um, Mom, these say Booth #550. We are #640.
Cathy: Uh-oh.

I had used the same files from years past to print our signs–when we were always #550–not #640. So with supplies from our handy dandy emergency tool kit, we hand-cut our new numbers … 2 per sign x 3 numerals = 12 cut-outs = more time than one might think. But, we powered through and finished our booth set-up … albeit not in time for shopping, but in time for a fun dinner.


Above: the traveling studio. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (as you might have guessed) so Jules had to talk me into believing that the juvenile hand-made aesthetic of our new lettering actually coordinated with the look of our booth. We even decided it looked better than before. So, we set off to reward ourselves with a piece of Crack Pie, which was sold at the Milk Bar, located just around the corner from our hotel, which was handy and dangerous, as we felt we deserved a reward every single night. (And yes, we are still walking off our Surtex rewards!)

June 4, 2013

SURTEX 2013: How to Set Up a Booth in 60 Seconds or Less

Posted by Cathy Heck

If you are wondering how to set up a booth for SURTEX in 60 seconds or less, please see the How To Video above. Okay, you’re right. It took us a little longer than 60 seconds, but thanks to our on-site photographer, Margaret Heck, and video ninja, Julianna Heck, you can enjoy it in 57 seconds flat. We had a great show. For us, it’s a bit of a family reunion with our girls arriving from finals at their colleges to help set up, man, and take down our booth … surely the dream vacation for any college student, right?!  Don’t worry, we pay them with our undying love and some excellent dinners.

We also reconnected with dear old friends, met some wonderful new friends, ate delicious meals, walked far, and laughed often. We even sailed with our SURTEX neighbors by Lady Liberty while a DJ was spinning 80’s disco tunes … which was a little surreal, since I actually began my illustrating career in New York humming to those very same tunes! (I was instantly transported to the joy of delivering final art to my agent, while dancing down the streets of New York listening to Gloria Gaynor on my Sony Walkman. But that’s another story.)

More about our experience at SURTEX 2013 in the next blog post. In the meantime, please press play above to join us under the Little Big Top, NYC, May 2013.

March 19, 2013

QuiltCon Debuts in Austin, Texas USA

Posted by Cathy Heck


You might have noticed that our blogging has been a little bit sparce lately.  Here are the reasons:  (1) Cathy received a sewing machine from Santa and is learning to sew during her blogging hours. More on that later.  (2) Ellen’s blogging time has been filled recently with a move to a location around the corner from Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.  Deliciously more on that later.   (3) Ellen and Cathy attended QuiltCon in Austin, Texas.  More on that right now!


Now, about QuiltCon: oh my goodness and wow!  Ellen joined me in Austin for a weekend of quilting awe.  This is the first year that the Modern Quilt Guild has introduced this wonderful event, and happily, they chose Austin, Texas for thousands of modern quilters to gather. It included classes, lectures, and a juried quilt show. When I registered in the fall, I didn’t even know how to sew.  We were originally planning to attend to see the fun projects that are made with our fabrics, but as a new “official stitcher,” I had a completely different experience.  We were able to look at every single little stitch very, very closely.   (No kidding, there was but a thimble-length between our noses and each quilt.)


Not only did we enjoy the juried show, but a separate group of quilts by Denyse Schmidt was also on display. “Modern quilting” is a little bit different than the kinds of quilts one imagines when thinking of traditional quilting. Lots of solid color and negative space, wonky shapes, and creative, improvisational designs. To attend a Modern Quilt Guild show feels a little bit like attending a show at the MOMA, only in this case, the artwork is made of fabric and thread.

The show was meticulously coordinated. The modern color palette used for all of the pre-show advertising was replayed throughout the show with signage, literature and even the hand-crafted award ribbons, shown below.


With all the Modern Quilt Guilds (MQG) in town, an extra treat for us was that several members from Ellen’s very own Bay Area MQG came to Austin, and with their friendly personalities combined with adorable Australian accents, they were most certainly the stars of the night when they took a break from quilting to go boot-scootin’ at the Broken Spoke!



The next day, we toured the main lecture hall, where the walls were adorned with quilts created by Modern Quilt Guilds across the country, for the Block Challenge using the QuiltCon color story. The blocks were sent ahead of time, and twenty were chosen to make a quilt that was selected for one lucky winner. The remainder of the blocks were then made into many amazing one-of-a-kind quilts. Following the show, all of the quilts were given to the Austin Children’s Shelter as a way of saying thank you to the city of Austin. I wish I could see a photo of a room in the Children’s Shelter filled with these beautiful modern works of art wrapped around little Austinites.

Below are the required fabric colors from the QuiltCon site, and an example of a challenge block by Heather Davidson of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild.


We attended several lectures, and enjoyed every single one of them.  A highlight for us was to see our friend, Laurie Wisbrun, speaking with a panel discussing the business of fabric design from the perspective of designers, as well as manufacturers.  The lectures covered a wide range of topics from David Butler’s photography secrets to Anna Maria Horner’s design process to the keynote speech by Denyse Schmidt, sharing her constantly evolving creative journey.  But interestingly, although every presentation was different, they all resounded with one similar message: Be True to Yourself.  We marched out of QuiltCon rejuvenated and ready to draw, paint, mouse and stitch.  And, of course, to be true to ourselves.


And in keeping with the lesson, we decided that to be truly true to ourselves, we needed to top off our last day with a delicious crepe from the very authentic crepe restaurant, Le Cafe Crepe, across the street from the convention center.  Quilts topped off with crepes … it just doesn’t get any better than that!




June 27, 2012

Trade Show Tips from a Lemonade Stand Magnate

Posted by Cathy Heck

Before we leave our rainbow-colored trade show memories, we would like to share a bit of the preparation and marketing we created for both SURTEX in New York and the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. I am a marketer from way back … like the tender age of 10. Along with many a lemonade stand, I also held magic shows to sold-out audiences–our garage held at least 20 neighbors. And, even then, a good magician knew the importance of getting the message out ahead of time. Not only did I create compelling hand-made flyers, but also hired my younger siblings to do a little door-to-door pre-selling. Of course, I promised that they would be compensated from the profits earned from ticket sales, which were sure to be big, big, big!

So, here we are in a slightly different arena, and yet, flyers still need to be made and the word still needs to be spread. However, these days, I do actually pay my helpers for their work.

As you have seen in previous posts, we decided to show our collections this year with a Color Wheel-Rainbow-PaintSwatch theme. After 25 years of making art, we had plenty of critters and patterns to fill the color-spectrum display. Then, we had fun creating all of our marketing pieces to reflect our theme and draw licensees to our booth. Before marketing materials were designed, we started with a booth plan that looked something like this, and thankfully, our plan measurements were correct.

We added a colorful painter’s ladder with paint cans full of product. Paint sticks, too. We ordered flowers arranged in rainbow order. We even decided to wear painters’ aprons in the booth … bordering on nerdiness I know, but sometimes you just have to go all the way. (We did not make Jim wear one of our thematic aprons … but only because he was too big.)

We assembled show snacks that sported our particular rainbow colors (white chocolate M&Ms, which are excellent, but perhaps a little dangerous to have in a booth all day). We added package headers to each bag of M&Ms with our matching characters and logos.

We served our tasty show snacks from a paint pan dripping with rainbow paint. (That might have been a little over-the-top, but it is possible that we had started to develop a mild case of ORD (obsessive rainbow disorder).

Next to our show snacks were the take-away cards, for remembering our booth and our work. This year we created spinning mini-portfolios suggestive of paint-swatch fan decks. However, the swatches in our fan decks were not color choices, but rather character choices. “Hm, I can’t decide honey, should we try blue striped zebra or turquoise ostrich mama?”

We continued the “Color Me Adorable” concept in pre-show mail-outs, email send-outs, trade show magazines, online sites, and post-show emails. Interestingly, we can definitively report that we received visitors who were responding from each of our different marketing methods.

After reading the many post-trade-show discussions on Facebook and LinkedIn, and the questions from new artists as to which marketing solutions work best, our recommendation would be: Try them all! Then, ask visitors how they found you. You will learn which marketing efforts work best for your art styles and product categories. And, we do recommend that if you decide to invest in a trade show, you must be prepared to invest in some kind of marketing to encourage new clients to visit your booth. You probably don’t need to rainbow-paint your card holder, but you do need to send out an invitation to your party. So, those are a few trade show tips from Cathy Heck, Illustrator … and before that, Chief Marketing Director of Cathy’s Amazing Neighborhood Magic Shows and Refreshing Lemonade Stands.

We wish you much success and profits that are big, big, big!

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