Sadly that was not to be today - duty calls.
But back in my quiet office, I've had time to process this trip and the experience, and I'm really in awe of the crafting industry.
I was in the lighting/electrical contracting business for nearly 20 years, and I attended a lot of industry shows. The format is the same no matter what industry you're in. The manufacturers buy booths, the retailers and distributors buy products. People make deals, track their budgets and form new relationships. The booths are sparkly creations dreamed up by talented designers. There are giveaways and swag. Everyone's feet hurt. You eat hot dogs. You drink terrible coffee.
But in all of my career, and all the shows I've been to - none have what CHA has.
CHA has love.
At CHA, the people you are doing business with are dearly beloved friends. They are people that you squeal when you see, and people that bring tears to your eyes when they leave. When they place orders, they are placing them with friends they've sent cards to, or will send cards to.
I can assure you no one is dying to take a selfie with their lighting rep.
But we were all dying to preserve just all the moments with all the talented people we love and admire.
And the people are GOOD people. Ethical people. People who care deeply about their customers and their retailers. They are friends. It's so, so unusual in an industry where the dollars are huge to see pure love and real friendship on this scale.
Some of the people who are just incredibly kind-hearted friends are the owners of your favorite stamp companies. Kelly Marie Alvarez from Lawn Fawn - you could not ask for a sweeter friend. Kelly always gets my secret Lydia Fiedler booth design award - her style is so whimsical and sweet.
Tasnim Ahmed from Altenew - gorgeous, sweet woman with a beautiful voice and a killer design sense. I am so lucky to have spent time with her. Her booth was incredible and you couldn't have gotten into it with a shoehorn.
Hero Arts - you could not find two nicer people on the planet. I actually think that kittens and puppies seem harsh in comparison to these two. What an amazing company. So grateful that they took time to talk to me for a bit.
Concord & 9th - Greg and Angie define sweetness and class. They are a joy to be around, and I'm thrilled for their success. They deserve it. Prepare for surprise and delight if you do business with them. Surprise and delight is my favorite.
DK Designs and has images with Impression Obsession, among others. Mitra - the owner of IO is a stellar human and runs a great business.
Lori Craig - is an instructor for Copic Marker, infinitely talented, and our advertising ninja. Also pictured are Dina, Michelle Woerner (who I FINALLY met) and Jeanne Streiff - our lead moderator at Splitcoast and a dear friend. Jeanne runs many design teams and does design work for many of your favorite brands, including Sizzix and Impression Obsession. Michelle works with Richard Garay.
It's just incredibly gratifying to work in an industry where you are always among friends. I didn't get a selfie with Heidi from Simon Says Stamp, but I wanted to say what a bright light she is - sweet, caring, funny as all get out, and would give you the shirt off her back.
I also didn't get a selfie with Suzy from So Suzy Stamps - but that woman - if I could have kidnapped her and forced her to be my neighbor, I would have. She and her mother are so much fun - if you are in New Mexico - please go see her. And prepare to laugh.
Iliana Myska - the inventor of the MISTI - had a fantastic show - she won the Hot Product award for the Mini and Mega MISTI (also called the Memory MISTI - it holds a 12x12 scrapbook layout) - and I have never seen a more deserving win. I cried like a FOOL. She is such a kind, smart girl - her inventor brain never stops. I could not be more grateful to her for her incredible inventions and for her friendship, and her ability to gather great people together for good. She is now selling wholesale across the globe, so look for her products in independent stores in March. Simon Says Stamp has carried her products from the beginning and is on my list of beloved brands.
Now, on to some of my fave products from the show - things I hadn't seen before.
There were some BEAUTIFUL parchment craft tools from GROOVI / Clarity Stamp. I went 100% complete crazy fan girl when I met Barbara Gray at the booth - I adore her.
Kat & Duke - a fantastic line of accessories for altering cardboard boxes for kids - I told them they need to make some for cats. Apparently I was not the only one that suggested that. Hashtag - crazycatladies.
Incredible hand carved shesham wood stamps from India - I just want to buy these and put them on a shelf - gorgeous. The company is Block Wallah. There's a lovely lady from Finland that started it and then moved to India to grow the business. Very cool, nice people.
Of course - Tim Holtz' crazy cats! I never figured out how to distract them all so I could come home with a set of these. Sorry Tina!
The Tattered Lace Dies booth was AMAZING - so many super intricate dies, dies for fondant - just really unusual designs that don't look like anything else on the market.
This booth - Two Lips Stamps - made me CACKLE - every one of their sentiments are hilarious. My friend Tina told me that Leslie loved these stamps.
I thought these Alice in Wonderland colorable cardstocks by Marion Smith were amazing.
A hot product finalist had the CUTEST product - again for kids - the kids products were incredible this year - these are little Buttoon-ies kits for critters you can make with buttons and some foam pieces and thread - no needles or anything that isn't safe for kids. REALLY adorable. They also make on of my other fave products called Proggys - which are kits for plushies where you push felt through burlap with a big wood needle - not sharp. Another great kid craft.
And here are some of my favorite people on earth - Iliana, Kelly Latevola, Danielle Walls - owner of Neat & Tangled, Tasnim Ahmed of Altenew, Laura Bassen, Debby Hughes, and Dawn Woleslagle from WPlus9. I call this photo the creativity bomb - the talent here - wow.
Here was a late night selfie by master selfie artist Susan Opel, of MFT. Everyone here is amazing, and I love them dearly.
I saw Jennifer McGuire on day 2, I think, and I asked her what I asked everyone who stopped by the MISTI booth - "So what's your favorite thing you've seen so far at the show?" She said "People."
Don't think I can top that.
People are my favorite craft supply.
(PS - I'll be back tomorrow with my prize winners from Season's Givings - I'm behind - forgive me.)