Slicers, Dicers and Decklers
by Tina Manzer and Anya Harris
Creating with paper remains the queen of crossover with applications in the hobby, craft, art, office products and industrial markets.
Paper is so, well, open ended. By now you know all about its versatility. It’s one of those products (for lack of a better word) that does not have one specific application – like painting on, for instance, or folding. The different ways users “handle” paper are infinite, making it appealing to a wide breadth of creative folks, from paper crafters to fine artists.
So what’s going on with paper lately? And how can you adjust your product mix to appeal to the ever-growing universe of paper artists and crafters? To find out, we talked to the manufacturers who make the tools people use to change paper into something spectacular.
Our Art Deckle line – about 12 SKUs total – lends itself closely to paper arts applications,” said Brian Buell, global director of sales at Logan Graphic Products, a company best known for its high-quality mat cutting equipment. “It consists of a series of deckling straight edges made from an ultra-thin stainless steel. Each one has a laser-cut random deckle edge along one side, and is ruled along the other side. They come in different lengths, ranging from 6 to 36 inches, and they range from a fine edge to medium and to bold. As they get bigger, the deckling becomes more dramatic.”
The 36-inch size, designed with watercolor artists in mind, is the strongest seller in the line. He suggests merchandising the tool in the midst of your watercolor paper section. Artists use it when they buy full sheets that are not deckled or come mechanically deckled, which to some is not a good look. That artist would rather create his own deckled edge.
“A point-of-sale storyboard that features pre-deckled watercolor paper corners would help to demonstrate what this tool does,” Buell said.
A deckle edge is also used on photographs, he said. “A lot of people will do what’s called a ‘float mount.’ Instead of the photo being framed by the mat, the mat is actually cut so it’s back and away from the edge of the photograph, which is deckled.”
Logan’s Art Deckle tools can be used for making envelopes, invitations and greeting cards. “Sometimes users put the paper on top of one of our deckling rules and emboss the pattern into the paper using one of our embossing tools,” said Buell. “Depending on which side of the paper – front or back – is up, it either embosses or de-bosses. We also offer die-cut Mylar templates with shapes cut into them that can be used the same way to create embossed stars, circles, curved lines and more.”
I even saw the Cake Boss on TV using an Excel knife in one episode,” said Mike Hamman, owner of Excel Hobby Blades. “Our products have applications in so many markets, artistic to industrial.”
The company’s best-selling knife for artists and craftspeople is the K1 round aluminum handle model paired with No. 11 blades and a safety cap. “Our K4 aluminum swivel knife with swivel blade is also popular, and most artists use one or both of those. We produce about 40 different blades for our knives overall,” said Hamman.
Eighty percent of the knives Excel sells are manufactured at their plant in New Jersey, unlike other knife producers who use factories in China. “We are the only one still making our knives in the U.S.,” Hamman told us. “We’re competitive around the globe, even against Chinese and Japanese companies, because we maintain high quality, on-time delivery and competitive pricing.”
Uchida, a company known for its paper punches, expanded into the paper trimming market just a few years ago when it introduced The Trimming Buddy. “We were nervous about launching a product in the mature paper trimmer market, but we’ve been hugely successful there,” said Steve Harmon, national sales manager. The Trimming Buddy is a rotary trimmer with eight removable decorative cutting blade cassettes.
Slice, a young company best know for its kitchen dicing and peeling equipment, introduced a Precision Cutter designed by industrial designer Karim Rashid, making it particularly appealing to the artists and other cutting-edge (no pun intended) designers who may shop in your store. It features a high-tech ceramic blade that’s 10 times sharper and lasts longer then regular metal blades, says the company.
“We feel consumers in all markets are looking for unique, functional items that perform above and beyond expectations at a fair price,” said TJ Scimone, company founder and CEO. “People from all walks of life appreciate good design.”
Tonic Studios produces functional, traditional paper tools. “We’ve always stuck with the basics, so we have a good, better, best series of scissors; guillotine paper trimmers and rotary cutters. Our mini rotary cutters are especially popular – they fold up,” said Steve Ramsey owner and president of Tonic USA.
The products were specifically designed for precision cutting. “For example, our guillotine paper trimmers are not like the ones you’ll typically find in office supply stores that cut 10 to 20 sheets of paper at a time. Ours will cut a few sheets at a time, but very precisely. On vellum or card stock, they’ll cut off 1/32-inch.”
Ramsey told us that the biggest trend to hit paper crafting lately is the use of electronic cutting machines, which allow users to make a range of computer-generated die cuts.
Creating with paper – art or craft? Does it matter?
To Dorrie Boyd, marketing and sales coordinator at Alvin, the paper products universe is a way traditional art materials stores can expand their scope of clientele.
“It’s important to remember that the line between art and craft is not as clearly defined as people like to think,” she noted. “By offering a small section of rubber stamps, a traditional AM retailer can get the occasional crafter or card maker into his store, where that customer may find the paint, canvas, block printing, brayers, and more ‘fine art’ items appealing. Low-priced items that art materials stores avoid, like rubber stamps or stickers, actually make great impulse purchases. They’re easy to refresh, and doing so often will keep customers coming back to look for what’s new.”
AM retailers would be wise to take their cues from Alvin, a company that’s evolved over time to keep pace with changes in its core demographic. “We used to sell only drafting supplies, but to keep up with the market we’ve continually added to our assortment,” said Boyd. “Today, we offer just about anything any kind of artist would need, from paint and paintbrushes to canvas, scissors and trimmers.”
Boyd recommends AM stores offer classes on paper art projects to attract both traditional artists and paper crafters to the same place at the same time to share ideas. “Retailers may be surprised how much crafters and artists have in common, and how they inspire each other by introducing one another to new techniques, media, formats and surfaces,” she concluded. “Users are the best salespeople, so why not encourage them to get together and share ideas freely?”
To purists in the art materials retail world, the idea of carrying tools for something like paper crafting may be off-putting, but consider this statistic: Despite the U.S. being in the worst economic downturn in nearly 70 years, spending in art stores by crafters was up 9 percent (and down 12 percent in fabric/craft stores) during 2009, according to the “Attitude and Usage Study Presentation” of the year ending June 30, prepared by the Craft and Hobby Association.