So I'm guessing that I'm the LAST artist to write up a recap of 2014 Surtex! When I returned to Kansas City I had to jump right into a freelance job that was due right away so I had no time to think about a blog post. Now that my assignment is finished, I thought I would post a few photos and just report that Surtex was AWESOME this year!
The first thing I should mention is the sweet little boutique hotel where my friend, Tammy, and I stayed. TRYP is on 35th Street between 8th & 9th Avenues. A perfect location and a short walk to the Javits. The digs were clean and comfortable (awesome shower head too!) and we got a nice surprise that first night when we noticed the turquoise blue ceiling…I so wish I was brave enough to paint my ceilings such a bright color.
We arrived in NY early Friday and after checking into the hotel walked over the Javits with our stuff. Tammy was exhibiting at the Stationery Show for the first time & she does a nice recap here. I dropped my banners at my booth and vowed to get an early start on set up the next morning. Saturday was so gorgeous out that I didn't even mind pulling my overweight show suitcase across Lincoln Tunnel traffic to get to the Javits.
I did a few things differently this third year. First, I changed the substrate of my banners. Previously I've ordered vinyl banners with pole pockets and while they go up quickly with yardsticks and metal hooks, I felt the color was always dull and uninspired. My art tends to be bright so I was almost always disappointed, not to mention frustrated, when I had to have banners reprinted because the color was just so bad. This year, on the recommendation of Josephine Kimberling, I used UPrinting.com and ordered paper posters. They did such an excellent job! The colors were spot on and the posters had a richness that the vinyl never had. I'm also very happy with how attention getting the images were this year. I went with fewer and larger images. At shows like this, bigger almost always tends to be better. You want to be seen from an aisle or more away.
Second, to get a better view of my beautiful banners I went with a short desk instead of the tall one. While there are some benefits to having a tall desk (like being eye level with customers and still getting to sit), I just didn't want to cover up my work and the booth seemed more open with the shorter desk. I found that when people would stop, it wasn't that big a deal to stand and then invite them to sit and chat. And standing and handshakes all around to end a conversation felt good to me. I don't think I'll go back to a tall desk again.
And third, I ordered shelving for the first time this year and displayed some 3D items. I think it really added a sense of legitimacy and experience and dimensionality to my booth. I included product I've designed already and I went a step further and mocked up some gift bag ideas because I haven't been able to secure a deal like that yet and was hoping to meet some companies that might make that happen.
One nice surprise this year was in the form of my young booth helper Kristina Kraemer. She's lovely and pretty brilliant in that she emailed me out of the blue asking if I needed any help this year. What a find! I was planning on going it alone, but it's always better to have a helper. She's new at art licensing and interested in learning more about the business so I thought it was pretty smart of her to reach out and ask if she could help. I'm not sure she realized that I'm pretty new myself, but I imagine just getting to sit in and listen to the conversations was helpful. If you are new too, I think it would be good to think about doing the same thing. I wasn't the only artist there planning to do it solo and someone to watch your booth during bathroom and lunch breaks was so helpful. I hate to think of the contacts I might have missed otherwise.
It was a good show over all this year. Though smaller, I think the quality of the art was consistently high. I didn't see any booths showing work that wasn't appropriate for product. I also felt that the quality of the manufacturers walking the show was high as well. I was able to meet potential clients that I hadn't met before and some of them were from my "dream" companies so I have my fingers crossed, but I'm not letting myself get excited. There also seemed to be more print on demand companies at the show this year. I'm not sure how I feel about working with that type of operation, but I guess the proof will be in the contract.
Another thing I noticed is that I didn't get any questions this year asking me to explain what licensing is. That was refreshing! I also didn't get a lot of artists walking the show asking me how to get into art licensing. I attribute that to all of the online courses being offered these days. The info is out there and readily available and that is such a positive thing for all of us artists.
Lastly, my most favorite thing about Surtex is getting to meet my booth neighbors as well as reconnecting with old friends and meeting my design heroes. Everyone is so nice and willing to chat. This year I was next to some lovely artists and now friends.
Elizabeth Munro from Canada was in the booth next to me. She started her career as a potter and has branched out into surface design. She does lovely florals as well as some fun fruit and veggie designs.
Also across from me was Kelly Jackson Brownlee AKA Kellyportfolio. I got tickled watching her putter around her booth arranging, rearranging and hanging her really fun illustrated and die cut characters. She loves funny plays on words and her animated foods cracked me up. She's a lovely person too and I had a great time chatting with her.
I was also lucky enough to be across the aisle from Alex Colombo. She is such a champion of all of us artists and is so generous in promoting and blogging about the rest of us. She's a wonderful artist in her own right and I was happy to see that she had a steady stream of potential clients stopping by her booth. She also got roped into being in a Surtex video this year. She's shy, but I'm sure she did an awesome job!
So Tammy will tell you that on the plane on the way to NY and Surtex that I was tired and cranky and swearing that this was my LAST SHOW! because it's just too much work and too expensive. I've never had a baby, but I've heard that you forget the pain of it all afterward. Surtex is like that! The endless preparation and little sleep are soon forgotten after the high of the show. I think good things will come of Surtex 2014!