Thanks to the generosity of the promo experts at Universal Links Inc. http://universallinksinc.com/ I was able to attend the PPPC National Convention 2016 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre yesterday, accompanied by my trusty side-kick and photographer, Gabriella Luchetta. PromoCan/PPPC presented their annual tradeshow featuring the newest trends in the promotions and corporate incentives business (like these wacky pens above), and I wanted to share the sights and sounds with my readers…so come walk the aisles with Gabriella and me on this virtual tour.Everything and anything you can stick a corporate logo on is featured here. Coffee mugs, coasters, stickers, pens, apparel, frisbees, decals…all shapes and sizes are available. Companies like Universal Links source merchandise like these then offer to their clients (known as end-users) who distribute to their customers as give-aways or special promotions and corporate gifts. Gabs and I saw so many cool things we’d like to be given as “gifts”…..We had a lot of fun with the folks in the Soft Stuff Creations booth hugging teddy bears, I even tried to hug the hunky “booth babe” manning the display but I just made him laugh…LOL!Of course, we went straight to all the chocolate promotions like the Taylor-Grant booth below where Gabs chowed down on samples and I made do with just looking at the yummy catalogue (I really MUST lose some lbs).There’s always lots of fun squishy stress relievers…here are some of our favourites:Gabriella found this cute froggy (below) which she promptly pulled apart… it’s actually a memory stick/USB as are those other cute characters behind.Great to meet Karen (below) from Martini Promotions who showed us some funky sparkly apparel and reversible totes.Suddenly, Gabriella and I were stopped in our tracks when we spied this stunning grey wrap jacket. Are you kiddin’ me? This is a promo item? So stylish and feels like a baby cashmere goat….wow, who made it?Founder and President of Redwood Classics, Kathy Cheng (below) came over and introduced herself…and then told us the story of her family business that makes high-quality apparel here in Canada. Kathy showed us one of the unique items that are made from re-purposed overstock like this 3M umbrella – its materials have been made into this cute cushion (below), creating a stylish functional and fashion-fwd promo gift for the company. This saves unused products going into landfill and allows companies to “re-gift”. Brilliant!We were so engaged and inspired by her family’s story that I promised Kathy I would do a special feature blog on Redwood Classics later and interview her once she has recovered from the long hours of the tradeshow so stay tuned.
Lots more groovy products like these watches, custom labelled bottles of wine…wow!For fans of “Caddyshack” the movie, you can even find sassy gopher golfclub covers….LOLAnd here’s one of my favourite booths showcasing sparkly, glowing lights on all their products.
Thanks again to Universal Links Inc and the folks at PromoCan/PPPC who hosted the show. Bravo all of you!
What a fabulous morning I had, schlepping around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, strolling down the most fashionable interior designer aisles of this year’s INTERIOR DESIGN SHOW. Thanks to artist and artist’s representative MARK J. GLEBERZON of MJG Gallery, now an online gallery showcasing the works of exciting local artists, my photographer Gabriella and I were given carte blanche to play among the chi-chi furniture and decorating & design booths on the main floor of the Metro Toronto Convention Ctr. (I’ll be posting a full show blog later) and I videotaped this quick interview with Mark from his booth at IDS …..
I recently asked Mark to share his thoughts about being a working artist in Toronto and the move from a storefront gallery location in Leslieville to a virtual environment (his proposed rent increase was just too outrageous). Here’s what he said…..
Mark, after moving your bricks’n’mortar MJG Gallery in Toronto to an online gallery, have you found you’re reaching a wider audience for your art and the artists you represent?
I haven’t yet found an increase per-se in inquiries or sales since I closed my gallery (see below) but I’ve always tried to make my presence known online, one way or another. Many people thought when I closed my gallery that was that. I always tried to explain I will always continue offering my own work – which I’d been doing for nearly twenty-five years – as well as promoting other artists I’ve worked with over the past four years and do so using the internet more and more. I would like to think doing shows like IDS as well as continued participation in other gallery and trade shows, including possibly doing the Affordable Art Fair in New York City in a few months, will continue getting me and the MJG identity noticed by a broader audience. Also, making sure to continually update my Facebook page, release periodic newsletters, Twitter feeds and Instagram posts are important to let people know what I’m up to, what’s new and reach out to new contacts.What was the best (or most interesting) experience you encountered as a gallery owner?
I can’t think of a specific event but I suppose being told mine or another artist’s painting was a client’s first art purchase ever is always a nice thing to hear….popping their art cherry, if you will !
What was the downside to running a storefront gallery in Toronto?
First and foremost, the actual costs of maintaining a gallery are always the bane of any retailer. On top of rent (or mortgage if you own the space), there’s electricity, heat, internet, phone and many other expenses. In my case, there were also my art supplies which were rather costly. There’s certainly the ebb and flow of sales that occur in the gallery but any ‘free’ money is almost always rolled back into the business. Plus, being in the physical space, somewhat isolated (as was my case, where I didn’t have an assistant) one can be feel locked away from what’s happening outside the gallery. I found trying to visit other gallery openings and art-related events and sometimes just plain socializing was extremely difficult when you’re beholden to your business and trying to be there as much as possible. Retail in general is not for the faint of heart. You really have to be dedicated to what you do and feel confident in for what you’re selling.You’re exhibiting at this year’s Interior Design Show, a very prestigious expo where you’ll meet many interior designers & decorators – do you anticipate making new connections and expanding your art business?
As I often say, it’s making ONE new important contact that’s always key with any of these shows. Yes, I always enjoy working with clients looking for one painting just as much as with those looking for a larger purchase, but it’s always important to continue reaching out to more and more people. IDS (see Mark with a new client in his IDS booth today, below) is a show that can potentially introduce me to those in the interior and design industries as well as architects, film industry folk and others. In a recent home show, I met someone who was the building manager for two downtown condos. Eventually, she and the Condo Board oversaw the purchase of nearly two dozen works from several artists including those represented by my gallery. With the closing of the physical gallery, I hope to be able to direct people to myself, the artists I work with and the services I provide, including art consultancy via shows like IDS. My hope is to match clients and designers with artists and their work as well as coordinating personalized commissions. I always make it a point that when I meet someone at a show like IDS, I follow up with them immediately. They may not need me right away but at least the connection was made. As a working artist, what inspires you and how do you separate your own work from the business side of representing other artists who entrust their work to your online gallery?
It’s always a fine balance when you’re both a working artist and representing other artists as well. I always did my best to bring as much attention to my gallery and the roster of artists I represented as to my own work. That’s why I tried to balance my participation in self-representing shows (incl. the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, the Artist Project and RAW to name a few) along with gallery-exclusive or home decor shows (incl. IDS, Love Art) as much as possible. A gallery owner needs to assure a relationship of trust between them and the artists they work with and it’s easy to break that trust if an artist feels you’re compromising them or their work. Luckily, it seems all of the artists I worked with in my gallery space, are just as happy to continue working with me as I shift online. Now as far as my own work is concerned, I’ve developed several series of art – both painting and photography (see below) – and I’ve decided to make 2016 the year I explore others genres. I may find inspiration from what’s going around me or simply (and usually) thru sheer desperation to try to develop my own voice in the visual world. Any advice for emerging Canadian artists?
I think in this day of insta-everything, an artist needs to make their presence known by making the Internet their friend. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and other services are terrific and often free ways to get work noticed. If you’re working with a gallery, make sure that gallery’s hanging and consignment arrangements are as fair with ‘newbies’ as with the more established artists in the same space. NEVER sign an exclusivity clause unless one really feels secure the gallery owner will direct a lot of attention to your work. It’s easy to get trapped thinking – or being convinced – that getting ones work hung ‘anywhere’ will lead to good exposure or sales. Try to be as strategic as possible and feel secure that “Yes, this is somewhere I’m proud my work is being shown”. And don’t always be willing to do things for free. Many people feel they have the upper-hand offering exhibition opportunities to new artists, offering little compensation. That’s not fair…it’s taking advantage of people.
Any other comments you’d like to share? MJG is poised for a fresh, new start in 2016. Although the format of the gallery has changed, I’m looking forward to new opportunities that already seem to be coming my way.Mark can be reached via MJG Gallery’s website http://mjggallery.com/ and you can follow him on Facebook (MJG Gallery); Instragram (#mjggallery), and Twitter (@mjggallery)
I’d like to intro you to exciting Korean-Canadian artist ZOE CHANGEUN SON (below), whose show of mythical beasts portrayed in soft sculptures as well as paintings, is now on exhibition at URBAN GALLERY, 400 Queen St East, Toronto, running until Feb 13/16.HUMANIMAL showcases the wee creatures that are 3D portraits of the beasts in her imagination. Scary, weird, humourous and bizarre, the felt and cloth critters are displayed flying across the gallery wall and some mini beasties are on a central table – I just had to say hello (bottom picture).
Nancy from Snapd Newspaper dropped in to cover the artist’s reception and was busy snapping away (below)Zoe’s paintings show the same imaginative spirit, featuring all manner of whimsical humans with “special” powers and appearances. I was intrigued by the snowy bunny-like androgynous being below, titled “Someone’s Portrait #1″….…as well as “Someone’s Portrait #2”, featuring this moose/boy belowAlso shown are a series of mandalas and imaginary beasts, painted in acrylics on canvas or wood. Aren’t these extraordinary?The fabulous Kaspara Albertsen (below, right) ably assisted with gallery hospitality – a photographic artist herself, she knows how to motivate the staff as well as her fellow artists.The rest of the gallery staff and management were in attendance and joined Zoe for photo opps, below. L-R: Calvin Hambrook (gallery director), Kaspara, Zoe & Allen Sugar (curator)I encourage you all to go see where the wild things are over the next 4 weeks…check out the gallery’s website for hours and directions: www.urbangallery.ca
Dropped in to my fave chocolate shop today, De Meersman Belgian Chocolates, in the Holt Renfrew lower concourse mall at 60 Bloor St West, Toronto and I have to admit, I kinda indulged my sweet-tooth with some fine hand-made Belgian chockies. Yummmmmm!Owners Guido De Meersman and his lovely wife Kay have been fattening me up for years now – in fact, I’m sure all the money I’ve spent in the store must have paid out their home mortgage by now…LOL. Their retail space is bright and welcoming and showcases a number of specialty brands like Neuhaus and Maxim’s de Paris, as well as their own line of fine handcrafted truffles and bonbons. As Guido says…”In Belgium, chocolate is a staple, not a luxury” and I’ve made a point to adopt that philosophy here in Toronto.I ran into Al Matanovic of Jelly Studio who designed all their posters and signage. Here’s Al doing his best Vanna White impression showing me the new Uddenberg Premium Hot Chocolate also available at De Meersman’s.Al introduced me to the exclusive line of Christmas chocolates he helped create for Liona Boyd, Canada’s pre-eminent award-winning classical guitarist (see below). There are still a few gift boxes available so hurry on down and grab a couple – they truly are “party in your mouth” delicious!!Ladies, tell your sweethearts to pick up one of these girlie-girlie gift packages for Valentine’s that are cuter than the usual red heart-shaped boxes (which they also carry for the V-day traditionalists).De Meersman can ship direct to you, too, if you’re outside of the Yonge/Bloor neighbourhood (details on their website). So don’t take my word for it, drop in and see/taste why I consider De Meersman Belgian Chocolates the “Disneyland” for chocolate lovers and sweet gourmands. Located in Holt Renfrew concourse shops at the far western end of the mall. Say hi to Kay who is nearly always behind the counter (see, I caught her thru the window – below).