That's the nature of the massive, biannual New York Gift Fair, a compendium of what's new that blends the slick and chic with the homey and charming.
It's a working fair, meaning that store owners are there to buy. If you want to know what the trends are, watch where the crowds gather to place orders.
A sampling of what was popular:
This look holds strong going into Holiday 2012 and beyond: burlap and kraft paper gift wrap, enamelware storage containers, forged iron tabletop items and bushel baskets full of old-fashioned textile prints turned several booths into ersatz general stores.
Dutch company Pip Studio had a busy booth filled with country floral porcelain, bags and paper goods in girly hues like rose, powder blue and pink. Merel Boers' china and napery collection featured her signature girly, curliqued artwork, given a contemporary edginess in black and white. At Wu and Wu, illustrator Fiona Hewitt's eye-catching Asian kitsch collection of fawns, wide-eyed children and bluebirds graced a collection of craft kits, cookie tins and little purses.
Merben's booth had an interesting array of mohair and felt throws, pillows and accessories, embellished with crocheted flowers, ribbons and fringe in beautiful vegetable colours and made by Nepalese women.
Los Angeles-based Annabel Inganni's Wolfum studio offered napkins, pillows, and a collection of Baltic birch ornaments, bookends and wall hooks hand-printed with bold Southwestern and ikat motifs.
Natural Life, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based maker of girl-centric, bohemian-style accessories and home goods, featured an artful collection of painted kitchen tools, ceramics, hemp bags and trinket trays. Much of it was emblazoned with the company mantra, "think happy, be happy," or similar upbeat phrases.
Animal-themed decor was big. KarmaKiss had cool ambient lamps in the shape of owls, cats and birds. Mercantile Home's booth was abuzz with people checking out ceramic squirrels, raccoons and mice clad in bright paint-box hues like orange, blue, chartreuse and fire-engine red.
TECH ACCESSORIES AND TOYS
Whimsical, colorful cell-phone cases and designer headphones peppered many of the giftware and toy booths. There were neon silicone sleeves, some with goofy bug antennae, and some cool holographic 3-D ones with jungle animals or beachy waves.
Native Union showed sleek, slim-profile handsets for mobile phones, as well as some fun new patterns and colours in retro-style handsets.
Popar Toys demonstrated Augmented Reality technology that lets kids webcam themselves into 3-D adventure books to become astronauts, construction workers or scientists.
Protocol demoed some remote-control helicopters and vehicles aimed at a young adult market.
Gently glazed or matte-finished pottery was a strong element. Artist Alexandra Fallon, of Brielle, N.J., had tiny pinched-rim cups at Source and Tradition. The Dutch-based Label Aleph offered pretty pastel-hued clay vessels. The soft, ice cream colours added to the sweetness of these pieces, and they stood out from the bolder brassier graphic wares at booths like Jonathan Adler's and French Bull.
Letterpress cards and wrap dominated the stationery marketplace, with homespun designs rendered in eco-friendly soy ink on recycled papers.
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