MJSA Expo, the longest-running show dedicated to professional jewelry making and design, made two big changes for 2016: It moved from its longtime home at the Hilton New York to the Javits Center in New York City, and it ran simultaneously with the JA New York and Lueur spring shows, March 13-15. The result: an attendance increase of nearly 25 percent over the 2015 show, and a show floor that at times was so packed the exhibitors could barely keep up with the buyers.
"The first day, none of us [working the booth] had lunch, and it’s not very often that happens," said Shawn Albert, tools product manager at Stuller Inc. in Lafayette, Louisiana. "This year we wrote 60 percent more business."
"The turnout was big," echoed David Aizenman of Pepetools in Oklahoma City, a new exhibitor to the show. The buyers were also diverse, he said: "We had a big range of everyone, from the hobbyists in the garage to Tiffany, coming by and checking out our products.”
Sponsored by MJSA, the U.S. trade association for professional jewelry makers, designers, and related suppliers, this year’s Expo once again featured the industry’s leading vendors of everything from bench tools, components, and contract services to the latest design and manufacturing technologies. "The exhibitors are tops in their game," said one buyer, Steven Loewenthal of Bliss Manufacturing in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. "Not only are they knowledgeable, but they offer the highest quality products."
Expo also offered a broad range of seminars, covering everything from traditional skills to the future of design and manufacturing. The sessions kicked off on the first day with "Shop of Tomorrow," a two-part exploration into the future of jewelry design and manufacturing. Based on an MJSA Journal article of the same name, it covered everything from how the "cloud" will become part of the jewelry design process to advancements in 3-D printing, and it featured four experts renowned for their digital expertise: Andrea Hill of Chicago-based StrategyWerx; Kevin Abernathy of BISventures in Burnsville, Minnesota; Steven Adler of Portland, Oregon–based A3DM Technologies, and Michael Raphael of Direct Dimensions Inc. in Owings Mill, Maryland.
Other sessions included:
• "Quick Draw: Techniques for Freehand Sketching" by Rémy Rotenier of Remy Design in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Remy’s seminar was my favorite," noted one attendee, Sharon Curtiss-Gal of The Gem Vault in Flemington, New Jersey. “The class was exactly what was proposed...I think I’ll search him out and take a class of his outside of the city because I want to learn more. I think it was very inspiring.”
• "At the Bench Live: Setting Side Stones in an Engagement Ring" by Lee Krombholz of Cincinnati-based Krombholz Jewelers. "As a CAD guy without bench experience, I’m always trying to learn as much as I can about setting and jewelry work," said attendee Jaimie Karmer of Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry in Burlington, Vermont. "This is the one time of the year [at Expo] when I get to actually sit down and watch...so this was great." He added that he especially appreciated Lee’s expertise as both a bench jeweler and a CAD designer: "It was nice to hear from Lee and how he designs his CAD around his benchwork... There are very few CAD/bench people who are happy to share their thoughts."
• "Tracking your Digital Advertising" by Matthew Perosi, founder of the Jewelry Website Advisory Group (jwag.biz) and author of the popular Golden Nugget blog on digital strategies. (At one point, Perosi demonstrated how to track social media by asking attendees to post a picture of him to any social media venue; within seconds, his phone chimed to notify him of the posts.)
• "Getting Personal: Defining, Explaining, and Promoting Custom Design" with Joel McFadden of Joel McFadden Designs in Red Bank, New Jersey, Krombholz, and Jim Tuttle of Green Lake Jewelry Works in Seattle. Drawing the audience into a wide-ranging discussion, the panelists explored what "custom design" meant and how to educate customers about its possibilities.
Opinions were also positive about the new venue. Many exhibitors expressed appreciation for the show’s one-level, T-shaped floor plan (it took place in the convention center’s River Pavilion), which contributed to a steady traffic flow through all of the aisles. Attendees also appreciated the show’s layout.
"I loved the setup," Curtiss-Gal said. "I liked that the technology was in one area and the stones were in another, which is great for people like me who like to get things done without running back and forth from one end to the other." Kyle Price of Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metarie, Louisiana, also enjoyed how the show’s size and layout made it "more maneuverable and gave me the chance to talk to more people."
And those talks—between exhibitors and buyers, seminar presenters and participants, and just between colleagues meeting in the aisles—are what made the show so memorable for so many who exhibited or attended. “It’s where you need to be to see the right people," said Hannah Downs, marketing coordinator for B9Creations in Rapid City, South Dakota, another first-time exhibitor. "We’ve had a great experience—we’ve had a ton of very, very well qualified customers."
MJSA Expo will return to the Javits Center’s River Pavilion in 2017, when it will run March 12-14. For more information on the Expo click here or call 1-800-444-MJSA (6572).