Penny Black: Exceptional Designs For Every Style

This is sponsored content by Penny Black.

PB Blog Post Graphic

With their NEWEST collection of stamps and dies, Penny Black will surely inspire you with exceptional designs for every style.

Penny Black’s brushstroke stamps are always a fan favorite. This unique style of stamp will give your cards the look of hand painted artwork! Additionally, this new collection will have you stamping breathtaking winter scenes, combining the charming line art with your favorite coloring media, and smiling big as you stamp critters and snowman friends. This new collection also includes a wide array of brand new die cuts perfect for all of your projects.

Not only is Penny Black a leader in developing unique stamp and die cut designs, but their BLOG, FACEBOOK PAGE, INSTAGRAM, and YOUTUBE CHANNEL are full of ideas and tutorials. Sign up to be a PENNY BLACK CLUB MEMBER (it’s free!) for inspiration and news delivered directly to your inbox. And be sure to head over to Penny Black’s WEBSITE and ONLINE STORE to see all of these new designs.

A Year of Creativity & Community Giveaway

AS A CREATIVE BUSINESS OWNER, it is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the steps required to be successful. How do you obtain wholesale partnerships? Where can you buy your supplies in bulk? How can you better your craft? How can you run this one-person show all by yourself? What systems can you put in place to be more efficient and productive? Is there a way to outsource the parts of your work that make your head explode?

At the Association For Creative Industries, we strive to deliver innovative high value services as we support our Members who provide products and services to educate, entertain, and inspire creative consumers.

We have partnered with our friends at Dear Handmade Life to offer you an epic giveaway! This giveaway is meant to inspire and motivate you as well as give you the tools to help you take your creative business to the next level.




I hope you’re sitting down – this is a GOOD ONE. One winner – and their friend – will win a FREE TICKET to Dear Handmade Life’s Craftcation Conference AND a 12 month membership to AFCI!


Listen, you’re slammed. We get it. So we’ve made this as easy as possible. Just click over to **THIS** post on our Instagram and tag your friend in the comments. That’s it! You’re done!


You’re welcome to tag multiple friends, but please – ONE TAG PER COMMENT. You must be a creative industry business to enter. Enter anytime between Tuesday, September 18, 2018 and Midnight PT on September 25, 2018. Winners will be announced by October 2, 2018 via Instagram direct message. You will have 48 hours to claim your prize and provide your email address or we will select a new set of winners.


The Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) is the premier trade association for the global creative arts products industries. AFCI strives to deliver innovative high value services as we support our Members who provide products and services to educate, entertain, and inspire creative consumers. Our Members include the manufacturers, retailers, distributors, designers, educators, digital content providers, professional makers and DIYers, and other creative professionals that comprise the $36 billion+ creative arts industries in the United States alone. For more information about AFCI, membership, or its annual Creativation trade event, visit


Craftcation: Business & Makers Conference, is an annual four-day conference held in the artsy seaside town of Ventura in Southern California. The nationally-known conference features industry experts leading attendees in small business smarts and creative craft workshops as well as social gatherings to connect and foster community through activities and inspiration. You’ll find that you not only will make new friends, but you’ll reconnect with yourself too.

Let’s Hang, The Ultimate Pitch Winner: Where Are They Now?

Who remembers Let’s Hang? Armando and Alfredo Ulloa, the brother duo from Texas, pitched their innovative wall hanging tool during the first-ever The Ultimate Pitch contest at Creativation in 2017. Thanks to the program, Let’s Hang is now available at all Michaels stores in the United States, on, and on We recently spoke to the inventors to learn more about their journey, including what’s next for Let’s Hang! Read on for their story and to find out how you could be the next The Ultimate Pitch $10,000 winner!

“Since winning The Ultimate Pitch contest in 2017, my brother, Alfredo and I, have been on quite the ride to making our dreams a reality with Let’s Hang. We can say without a doubt, had it not been for us entering the Innovations Center at Creativation, we would not be where we are today. Where is that you ask? Currently, Let’s Hang is now being sold at all United States located Michaels stores,,, and we are in contract negotiations with QVC to appear on their network programming.

The Let's Hang Pitch

Armando and Alfredo Ulloa pitching Let’s Hang at The Ultimate Pitch at Creativation 2017

This all came to fruition as a result of submitting our invention and being selected as one of the finalists to go to the trade show and pitch our invention for a chance to win $10,000. What was more valuable than winning that big chunk of change, was the ability to show industry experts from across the world, what the customer value proposition was for Let’s Hang. We were fortunate enough to meet the Senior Vice President of Global Sourcing for Michaels, who loved the idea and just knew it had to be in Michaels stores.


Let’s Hang, the all-in-one hanging tool, allows you to hang your artwork and frames perfectly in just 60 seconds.

After signing a license and royalty contract with a subsidiary of Michaels, we began working with design engineers to create a reproducible Let’s Hang tool that was both cost effective and did not compromise customer usability. What was created is a beautiful, sleek, modern design that is like no tool currently out in the market. The fact that a first-time user can hang a frame in less than 60 seconds is a testament to the updated design quality in keeping with the integrity of the purpose for Let’s Hang.

Armando and Alfredo Ulloa

Armando and Alfredo Ulloa right after they won The Ultimate Pitch at Creativation 2017

Bottom line, what we have tried to say in a sort of long drawn way is, if you have the opportunity to submit your invention for The Ultimate Pitch…DO IT! The amount of exposure and opportunity to meet with industry experts will be well worth the time and money spent traveling to the event in Phoenix. Even if you do not win the competition, we have kept in touch with other contestants, and some of them were able to turn their product into real world sales by networking with retailers interested in their products. So, moral of the story? You won’t know what you have unless you put it out there! So hurry up and submit your invention and make your dreams come true, with a little help from Creativiation, because after all, it takes a village!”

Apply to the Innovations Center – Deadline October 31, 2018

You could be the next $10,000 The Ultimate Pitch winner!  If you have a brand new product or idea perfect for the creative industry, submit your idea to the Innovations Center. You could be selected to exhibit at the Innovations Center at Creativation 2019 and pitch your product at The Ultimate Pitch competition on Sunday, January 20, 2019.  The deadline is October 31, 2018. Click here to submit your innovation now!

Attendee Spotlight: Anita Takemoto

AFCI Member, Anita Takemoto owns an e-commerce business and has been a member of AFCI attending the various trade shows for over 15 years.

Earlier this year, Anita completed the post-Creativation survey that was sent to all attendees. She shared that she did not like Phoenix and wished the show would move back to Anaheim – and she wasn’t the only person who felt this way. So, in conjunction with the City of Phoenix, AFCI invited Anita and four other attendees who had a similar opinion to revisit Phoenix and explore the culture and things to do.

AFCI Members group picture

AFCI Members (left to right): Anita Takemoto, Cheryl Stapleton, Alison Bevis, Brooke Snyder, Cindy deRosier

We spoke with Anita after the trip to learn what she discovered and if her opinion of the location changed.

What are some of the places and things you discovered that Creativation attendees should know about?

“I love the mural artwork on the walls of buildings throughout the city. They are very colorful and creative. In Los Angeles, the artwork would be called graffiti and illegal. But, in Phoenix, the city embraces it and people get to express themselves through art and creativity.


Phoenix art mural


Phoenix art mural

The Downtown Phoenix Ambassador Program is such a wonderful program. They are located all around the Phoenix Convention Center ready to answer any questions you might have like where to eat or how to get to a location. And if they do not know the answer, they will find it for you. I have a personal story about the program from earlier this year. I felt uncomfortable walking to my car alone late at night to the parking garage, so a Phoenix Ambassador walked me to my car. I felt very safe having the Ambassador escort me to my vehicle. They also helped my friend. She had a flat tire and a Phoenix Ambassador stayed with her for a couple of hours and helped arrange for her get a new tire.

There are many great places to eat within two to four blocks, an easy walking distance from the Convention Center. I hope the city will provide a map and highlight the locations and their specials and/or happy hours for the Creativation attendees.

The Heard Museum is an amazing place to learn about the history of this area. The history of American Indians from this area and the artifacts are abundant here; I learned about the different tribes who lived in this area with examples of jewelry, textiles and dolls! They have an interactive room that children can explore how life was for the Indians before computers and cell phones.


Heard Museum exhibit

The Desert Botanical Gardens is a MUST see. I didn’t know so many different succulents and cacti existed! The plants and blooms are truly beautiful. We had a great time wandering through the gardens and reading the informative displays. The Gardens are outside, so be prepared with lots of water and sunscreen. We were lucky to see a ballet performance at the Gardens. The dancers were so graceful and beautiful. What a treat!”

What is the favorite Phoenix business you visited?

Hazel and Violet is a custom letterpress printing shop. They have several ‘old school’ printing presses to make stationery, coasters, potters and more. Hopefully, you can take a workshop from them while you are in Phoenix. It was so interesting to see the process. And the trees around Hazel and Violet are covered with hand-knitted/crocheted/felted decorations. Someone was very creative and talented!!

Anita Takemoto and

Anita Takemoto (left) and Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica (right)

And Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica, has her Mucho Más Art Studio featuring handcrafted Latino/Mexican art. Her shop is filled with beautiful one-of-a-kind jewelry, artwork, mixed media, etc. Stop by and say hi to Kathy! She is so much fun and always has a smile. Mucho Mas is part of a unique co-op of shops that includes handcrafted candles and soaps, a juice bar with organic foods and a bookstore.


The Antiquities Warehouse has rooms and rooms filled with amazing antiques for purchase; we loved shopping there. They have fabulous tables and chairs, signs, furniture, doors and shutters and so much more!”

Antiquities Warehouse

Antiquities Warehouse

What was your favorite Phoenix restaurant and why?

“We had lunch at The Vig. I had a delish poke bowl with a light ginger lime vinaigrette. The fish was very fresh and was on a nice bed of snow peas, avocado and mixed greens. The restaurant was hip and had a casual vibe. I would definitely go back!


The Vig, Phoenix

Snoh Ice Shavery was a great dessert surprise. The shaved ice was fluffy and was mixed with yummy ice cream. A definite go to for a cool, refreshing dessert.”

Are you looking forward to going back to Phoenix for Creativation?

“Yes, definitely. Now that I know more about the city, I would like to arrive a couple of days early and explore more – the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix and the Orpheum Theatre (I think they have free tours) to name a few. The Valley Metro Light Rail is great for inexpensive transportation – $4 for an all-day ride. There are hidden gems everywhere. The city of Phoenix has a lot of history and there’s so much more to see than a couple blocks walking distance from the hotel and the Convention Center.”

What benefits do you experience by attending Creativation?

“It’s always great to attend Creativation. The New Products area with the displays is an awesome way to see the hottest new products all at the same time. At Creativation, I can see and touch (and sometimes play!) with the new releases and see the product trends for the upcoming season. Having the opportunity to see in person products and demonstrations is always a plus. It’s also an excellent time to see owners and personnel of the companies and their passion for our industry.”

Register for Creativation

Creativation Logo

Join thousands of creative businesses for Creativation, January 17-21, 2019 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Education will start on January 17; the trade show will open January 19-21. Register for your badge today at Conference registration will open on September 12.

Thinking about extending your stay to explore Phoenix? We’ve partnered with the City of Phoenix to provide you with resources to help you plan your trip. Click here to explore trip ideas, see things to do nearby the Phoenix Convention Center, and find free virtual travel guides.

Need a hotel? We’ve made it easy for you to book hotels near the event in Phoenix through our new hotel booking partner, Hotels for Hope. Hotels for Hope’s 600,000+ hotel partners allows us to expand the number of hotels at great rates available for Creativation, which gives your company more choices of where to stay! Plus, for every Creativation hotel room night booked through Hotels for Hope, $2 will be donated to the Kids In Need Foundation, AFCI’s Charity of Choice. Book your hotel now!

Is Your Brand “Under the Influence”?

Creativation 2018 at Fair Isle Booth

Lynn Lilly at Creativation 2018 at the Fair Isle Booth

By Lynn Lilly, Craft Box Girls

Consumers no longer search for products. They search for ideas, projects and inspiration. Therefore, consumers are discovering products through this content rather than through traditional advertising methods like print ads, billboards and mailers.

How do you get in on the content game and how does that help grow your sales and build brand relationships with consumers? In comes the biggest buzzword: influencers!

Influencer relationships come in many different forms and can be one of the best tools to connect with consumers, build a trustworthy brand and grow your business.

Creativation 2018 Live Broadcast at Walnut Hollow Booth

Lynn Lilly at Creativation 2018 doing a live broadcast at the Walnut Hollow Booth

What exactly is an influencer? An influencer is a person who has an above-average influence over a select audience. This influence can be through social media connections, associations, connections to media outlets and teaching roles.

There is often an assumption that an influencer must have thousands of social media followers, but also consider the power of an influencer who reaches thousands of people through television, contributes to multiple digital and print media ads, or one who teaches niche skills to hundreds each month. Finding the right influencers to work with is the key to a successful relationship.

Here are some standard ways to work with influencers:

  • Sponsored Blogs, Videos, Social Media Posts
  • Television or Live Broadcast Endorsements
  • Event Activations/Hosting
  • Social Media Take Overs
  • Product Consulting
  • Ambassador Programs
  • Product Sampling/Testing

Here are some tips for maintaining successful relationships with influencers:

  • An influencer/brand relationship needs to be beneficial and fair for both parties. Recognize that this is a job, and most jobs don’t pay in cupcakes and glue guns.
  • Do your research before reaching out to an influencer to understand his or her quality and level. Start the relationship on the right foot by making sure the compensation proposal is based on his or her experience and the amount of work you are requesting.
  • Give him or her creative freedom. You can still control how the influencer represents your brand/product, but let the expert put his or her creative genius to work for you.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking of influencer relationships as one-off engagements. Research shows that a consumer needs to see or hear something three to five times before making an action.
  • Remember, influencers not only offer the ability for a brand to reach an engaged audience through their trusted source, but they can become true partners to your business.

Isn’t it time you were under the influence?

Hire an Influencer

The AFCI Creator Connect Program is your resource for the creative industry’s most talented and influential makers. Hire an AFCI Creator for AFCI Events, including In the MKNG™ and Creativation, to promote your products and drive traffic to your booth, and/or year-round to represent your brand through your own channels! To research and hire AFCI Creators, visit

About Lynn Lilly

Lynn Lilly is the founder of the creative lifestyle website and Apple TV app, Craft Box Girls, and author of Screen-Free Crafts Kids Will Love (Ulysses 2016). The DIY television personality and founder of National DIY Day has a passion for making, crafting and DIY easy and fun for the average person.

Michaels Live Broadcast - Lynn is a Michaels Maker

Michaels Live Broadcast – Lynn Lilly is a Michaels Maker

Lynn and her team have built a multiplatform creative lifestyle brand and continue to be on the forefront of content marketing. They work with top brands like Michaels Stores (Lynn is a Michaels Maker), Brother International, Teva, Paper House Productions, Amazon, Marabu, Bernzomatic and FabFitFun. When Lynn is not whipping up her next popular craft or prepping for her weekly television gig, she is laughing with her baby girl and enjoying life with her husband and their three dogs.

This is a portion of an article that first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Gradient. Click here to log into your AFCI Membership account to read the full version.

Adventure Awaits at Scrapbook Customs

This is sponsored content by Scrapbook Customs.

Scrapbook Customs is so excited to share with you our summer release from Mixed Media 2018. Our design team is always looking for new ways to bring you the hard to find items that we specialize in. Since Creativation we have introduced hundreds of new items including Solar Eclipse, Quinceanera and River Cruise! Here’s a look into all of our new collections:

  • New National Park Paper and Stickers in all 60 United States National Parks
  • 117 New Country Adventure papers from Afghanistan-Zimbabwe and everything in between
  • 87 New Sports Pride papers from 4-Wheeling to Zipline
  • New Magical papers from Character Breakfast to Light Parade
  • Brand New Customs products. If you have never tried our customs you are missing out!
  • New Neon Sports collections in Cycling, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, Marathon and Tennis
  • Winter Adventure Sports Line
  • New Birthday Lines
    • Hers
    • His
    • Neon
  • Music Notes line including 21 instruments, Marching Band, Singing and more
  • Canada Adventure Line. New paper, Sticker and Laser for all provinces

Scrapbook Customs new releases

Scrapbook Customs new releases

Scrapbook Customs is a leader in unique papers that are sure to please any and all scrappers – and crafters alike. Perfect for theme-based scrapping, as well as preserving any occasion, event, or time of life, Scrapbook Customs takes on themes that are difficult to come by, such as Cruises, Military, Travel, Customs and much more. Discover why many make Scrapbook Customs their go-to paper, sticker, and stamping destination since 1995! Visit

New Simple Vintage Releases By Simple Stories

This is sponsored content by Simple Stories.

For years Simple Stories has been recognized for its simple, yet classic style and designs. From scrapbooking papers and embellishments, pocket pages, albums and most recently the introduction of the Carpe Diem brand – a line of planners, traveler’s notebooks and accessories – the focus has been creating quality products with designs that appeal to a broad audience.

We’re beyond excited to introduce a new, additional design aesthetic to Simple Stories with Simple Vintage, a beautiful collaboration with talented designer Katie Pertiet.

Designer Katie Pertiet

Designer Katie Pertiet

Katie is an experienced designer who has been involved in the scrapbook industry for over 15 years. A traditionally trained artist with a love for all things vintage, Katie is the perfect choice to bring vintage to Simple Stories. Her designs are seen on fabrics, home décor, wall décor and more and we couldn’t be more thrilled to bring her scrapbook collections to life with Simple Vintage Halloween and Simple Vintage Christmas.

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

EEK! Trick or treat has never been sweeter than with the new Simple Vintage Halloween. Fab-BOO-lously illustrated vintage designs featuring classic, old-fashioned Halloween icons make this one spooktacular collection!

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween Papers

From 12×12 papers and elements to die cuts, stickers, chipboard and washi tape, the Simple Vintage Halloween collection is perfect for capturing those haunting Halloween memories.

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween Combo Sticker

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween 4×6 Stickers

Simple Vintage Halloween by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Halloween Bits

‘Tis the season to be jolly with the new Simple Vintage Christmas collection!

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Beautifully illustrated traditional designs featuring nostalgic, old-fashioned Christmas icons and patterns make this the perfect collection to document all of your festive holiday memories.

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Papers

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Frames

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Stickers

Simple Vintage Christmas by Simple Stories

Simple Vintage Christmas Number Tags

The new Simple Vintage collections are shipping to retailers now!

Visit Simple Stories on Facebook and Instagram to see examples of our products used in wonderfully designed projects from artists and creators from around the world.