Benjamin Levisay, CEO XRX Books, Stitches Events and Yarn Thing SPONSOR joined Marly on the Yarn Thing Podcast to share what’s new for 2015 from Knitting Magazine, XRX, STITCHES West (in February, just four weeks away), STITCHES South in April, Stitches Midwest in August and the ALL-NEW STITCHES Texas. Benjamin sent this bio in advance of this episode:
Benjamin Levisay is a second-generation partner in this 29-year-old company originally started by his uncle, Alexis Xenakis, his father, David Xenakis, and their partner Elaine Rowley. Benjamin has been a part of the fiber industry since his family opened a yarn shop in Sioux Falls, SD when he was a small boy, an enterprise that later evolved into XRX. After a career in the software industry, Benjamin rejoined the company nine years ago as CEO and Director of Marketing & Sales. He is more commonly known as one of the hosts of STITCHES and board member of Halos of Hope. It is his intention to carry on the legacy of passion and commitment that characterized his family’s contributions to the fiber world.
The really interesting thing about having Benjamin as a guest (and others that have been in the fiber industry for some time) is to hear how things have changed in just a few short years, with the advent of digital publishing and internet. Listening to him explain how books are put together by a company that is not focused on books but purely for encouraging the love of fiber makes for the appreciation that everyone has who happens to hear it.
During the show, he shared the books that have recently been published by XRX. Laura Bryant’s Artful Color Mindful Knits, Myra Woods Knit in New Directions, Judith Shangold’s Weave Knit Wear, and gave a teaser of a book by Anna Zillbourg that will be presented at Stitches West, happening in Santa Clara, California, February 19-22.
Speaking of the STITCHES Events, Benjamin always credit the hard work of the team, beginning with Mavis Smith, who is the beloved whirling dervish that really ensures that things get done: not only that they are planned to flow smoothly, but in a way that puts the best that can be offered together in a way that’s a gift to the attendees, vendors and teachers. The upcoming STITCHES West is the biggest of all the shows, this year featuring 320 vendor booths in the market floor. Last year the expected attendance was 12,000 and this year promises to be HUGE as well! Special events include options like the Fashion Show, the Student Fashion Show, Opening Day presentation with a Meet-the-Teachers Luncheon. And Don’t Forget the Pajama Party hosted by our lovely Marly Bird!
Brand-new this year is STITCHES Texas! happening in September. Benjamin shared the considerations taken into account to add a whole-new event to the system that’s been established: the event space, adequate lodging, the audience and vendor participation. He’s told me in the past, one of the biggest things to look at is having a usable loading dock area for the XRX crew and the vendors, which for many locations that we might imagine would be awesome could be completely undoable.
One event that was mentioned but not explained is Camp STITCHES which is a retreat atmosphere opportunity to learn with many of the teachers that are found in the STITCHES Events roster. Camp STITCHES used to happen regularly and were put off for a few years so the last one in November felt like the first one and next fall will be at the same location in New Mexico.
Benjamin hosted is own podcast for a couple of years that has recently come to an end, Fiber Hooligans. This was a wonderful opportunity to share with folks ‘the core of who the guests were’ he says, in a quality way. The time he spent with each show, when he really has his hands full with family, the work he does with XRX, Halos of Hope and Hopscotch Web (a company of his own founding, creating great websites with simplified drag-and-drop ease) he felt affected his ability to continue to present each guest in the way they deserve. He mentioned in the last episode of Fiber Hooligan as well as during this visit, that Sponsoring the Yarn Thing podcast with Marly Bird has been a great way to present positive vibes in the fiber industry, so he will continue to support that and come back to share what’s new with XRX and Stitches!
The best of this episode for me was hearing the story of how they first met, in the way-back seat of the airport shuttle bus. Clearly it was the perfect foundation for a great foundation, and for those of us included as onlookers, it was a meaningful and beautiful beginning.
Follow the website for Knitting Universe, each of the events has it’s own Ravelry Group, so look for STITCHES West (there’s been a lot of chatter about who we are excited to see, meet and learn in that group so if you’re going check it out!) also all over social media so Facebook, Twitter, and if you can’t make an event, I would highly recommend the Rebel Mouse Feed, as it’s where you can literally watch the fun from home. (I know, it’s my favorite thing to do when I don’t get to be there.)
If you missed hearing the show live, you can catch it where it originally aired: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/yarnthing/2015/01/29/benjamin-levisay-ceo-xrx-books-stitches-events-and-yarn-thing-sponsor or at iTunes