Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Surtex 2014 {Walking}

Hello!

Well, it has been a week since I've been home from Surtex 2014. And I'm STILL processing it all! Wow, what an experience.

I decided to check it out after I learned all about it in Make Art That Sells - Surtex is a tradeshow where artists sell or license their work to companies who will, in turn, use it on their products. The art consists mostly of surface pattern designs, but there are some stand-alone images featured as well. Since one of my goals is to some day have my own fabric line, I thought it would probably be worth my time to see what it was all about. I didn't necessarily want to have a booth YET, since it is quite the investment, so scoping it out was Step 1 of the process.

Since I was walking the show as an artist, there was some etiquette to keep in mind - most importantly, don't linger too much in the booths. The artists who were showing spent a LOT of time and money on being there, and they were there to generate business and make connections with potential customers. Having long conversations with walkers could potentially detract customers from their booths, so out of respect, we needed to make our chats short and sweet. And if someone walks up who looks like they're there for business, excuse yourself and come back another time.

Though I knew there would be some dream clients there, my goal wasn't to get business - since they were there for the Surtex artists. I didn't carry a formal portfolio, though I did make a few "mini" portfolios which consisted of twenty of my Moo business cards clipped together - to hand out JUST IN CASE I happened to meet a potential client. There were a few moments I could have taken advantage of, but I was too much of a wimp to sell myself. NOTE TO SELF: Work on pitching my art; have confidence in myself!


My "mini" portfolios and shoulder bag, created just for Surtex
I also made a quick shoulder bag consisting of my Science Fair fabric from Spoonflower. I figured that might generate some attention, so why not? Plus it was fun to sew again. It has been too long!

Lauren and Tammie, two of my fellow Happy Happy Art Collective artists were there showing their work for the first time (woo hoo!) so it would also be a good opportunity to support them (not to mention MEET them)! I ended up rooming with Muffin (another Happy Happy artist) in an Air BnB apartment just a ten minute walk from the Javits Center where Surtex was located. It was a great location, not only close to Surtex, but within walking distance of Times Square where we hung out in the evenings. It sounds like many of the Surtex participants found hotels close by Javits - which is ideal, since they were most likely hauling stuff to and from every day.


Muffin and I in front of the Javits Center on Day 1
Once we got into Surtex, we made a beeline to Tammie and Lauren's booths to say hi. We had never officially met, after all! Both ladies had wonderful booths. It was obvious that they took a lot of care and consideration in selecting what art hung on the walls and how they showcased their portfolios. Again, being conscious of blocking potential customers, Muffin and I set off through the aisles of Surtex. 

It didn't take us long to bump in to some of our classmates from Make Art That Sells! We anticipated a sort of MATS "reunion" (can you call it a reunion if you've never actually met?), but I was still blown away by how many people I recognized from class. It was so fun meeting our fellow "Matties" in real life. There was a lot of business card exchanging and hugs, and I loved every bit of it. I also got to meet several of my illustrator crushes: Helen Dardik, Elizabeth Olwen, Zoe Ingram, Dinara Mirtalipova and Allison Cole, to name a few! And I got a hug from the one and only Lilla Rogers. Wow. I was surrounded by greatness!


Elizabeth Olwen, Muffin, Jill and I
On Day 2, Jill joined us from Massachusetts! After doing our round of hellos, we decided to buckle down and walk the show with intention. Aisle after aisle, we took notes about the decisions artists made when designing their booth. Some of the things we noted:

  • Portfolio : Loose prints vs. bound book
  • Booth sign :Standard Surtex sign vs. design your own
  • Products with your art in the booth
  • Flat wall vs. bracketed wall
  • Corner booth vs. middle aisle booth
  • Tall table vs. short table
  • Code or number all your art for future referencing
  • Brand every print
  • Walls : Banners vs. framed art
  • Show personal work or original art 
  • The buzz : License or buy outright

Some of us also had an opportunity to participate in Lilla's MATS meet-up. A few things I learned from that session:

  • If buying outright - What is the life of the product? In other words, when can I get it back again?
  • As you make money, invest it back into your business
  • When you have a large body of work, display some on your website, but save some to only show potential clients. 
  • Have a worksheet for your customers which lists all the categories/sub-categories so they can check off their interests.
  • Always ask for a little more.

MATS meet-up with Lilla Rogers
On Day 3, Muffin, Jill and I walked a bit of the National Stationery Show, which was right next to Surtex. Talk about overwhelming! We were there for a couple hours and I don't think we got through 1/3 of it. I would have actually liked to have spend more time there, but my flight back to Wisconsin was beckoning me. I did see enough, however, to realize there are a lot of independent stationery companies - and many of them are wonderfully creative. Oh - and gold foil is trending. We saw it everywhere! 

Now that I have had time to process my Surtex experience, I know that it is something I can definitely handle. I will be able to produce a body of work to have a successful show. My hesitation at this point, aside from the expense, is whether or not I want to put all my eggs in this particular basket. There are many markets of which to focus my illustration, but dedicating a better part of my year in preparing for the surface pattern and licensing segment kinda makes me nervous. I have been hearing from various Surtex artists, that there is the potential for work outside of licensing, such as publishing, so that is good to know. My other option is sharing a booth with the other artists in the Happy Happy Art Collective, which I know would be amazing. Ah! So many decisions! 

To wrap up, I am very happy I got to experience Surtex. It was complete eye-candy, and it was delightful meeting so many of the artists I've admired over the last few years. I loved hanging out with my Happy Happy sisters (we missed you, Denise!) and I'm glad I was able to share the experience with them. On the other hand, it has given me a lot to ponder, and I think it's going to take me a while to figure out my game plan. 

Until then, thanks for sticking through my super-long Surtex re-cap! If you're interested in learning more, be sure to check out Lauren's, Tammie's, Jill's and Muffin's blog posts about their Surtex experience.



12 comments:

  1. Lovely to read your experience Emily! Makes me excited to hear your thoughts - your work is definitely a great fit for this industry. It's going to be another busy year!!

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    1. You're so right - it WILL be busy! But if this is something I decide to do, I think it will be easier to make work with intention. Right now, I just make random patterns. If Surtex is in my future, though - I will focus on building collections. Sounds fun!

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  2. Great to hear first hand from someone visiting. Great post, cheers for sharing x

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jo! I hope you were able to glean a few tips from my post! xo

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  3. Very thoughtful post Emily :)

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    1. Thanks, Tracy! I hope it didn't come across as too sporadic! There was just SO much I wanted to convey!

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  4. Living vicariously through the amazing Emily B!! How exciting for you. Loved every detail. ... And a hug from Lilla R. herself? Whoa! Don't shower ever. GO EMILY B! I love your focus and tenacity.

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    1. Thanks, Carol, for always being such an amazing support! xo

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  5. Great post Emily, thanks for sharing. Sounds like being there is a huge eye-opener and a lots of fun. A hug from Lilla, boy you are super lucky! I'm sure its what every MATSee wants. I could have done with one after every review :-D Super interested in your thoughts on your list, which you thought worked best. Cheers, Alisa

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    1. Hi Alisa! Ha, I totally agree - a hug from Lilla after every review would have DEFINITELY been nice! :-)
      I love your idea on sharing my thoughts on the booth setup. Perhaps I'll have to do a follow-up post! Thanks for your comment!

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  6. Hi Emily - such a great post. it was so nice meeting you as you were the first fellow MATSian i met there. :) also - walking around with you and muffin was super fun. I also had little self promotional mini portfolios tucked away in my bag but was also hesitant to hand them out (well, except to lilla and margo). Your work is great and I know you will shine in publishing, editorial and surface pattern. :) barb chotiner

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    1. Hi Barb! It was so nice hanging out with you when we first checked in! I hope you had an enjoyable time for the rest of your visit. I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't get too crazy with the self-promotion. I know we weren't really supposed to, but making a few connections would have been nice, right? ;-)
      Thanks for your super sweet comments and best of luck to you! xo

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