Part 1: Surtex 2016 My Booth Design
I just did my first solo Surtex show. What a ride it was! I have exhibited in the past with a collective, Art Licensing LA back in 2013 and 2014 and found it was an affordable and collaborative way for me to exhibit. Though being in a collective doesn’t showcase you and your own brand it does enable you to experience the show first hand by sharing tasks and costs. After taking 2015 off, I decided it was time for me to come back and do it on my own. Shorty after I committed to doing the show I began thinking HARD about what my brand and booth would look like. How would I present myself and my artwork to the world? I had to do some self discovery work.
Solving the Problem
I have a brand, I have an identity (so I thought), but it wasn’t extremely clear to me and knew it needed some attention. I took this challenge on and treated it like it was my most important client – the most important project I could ever have. Maybe that’s a lot of pressure (it was) but it was a good design problem for me to have. I have years of experience as a graphic designer and an art director. I designed branding, packaging and style guides for brands such as Barbie and Disney Princess, designed for consumer products, beauty, healthcare and even designed television ads – this should be a breeze, right? Maybe?
When I start with a branding project I begin to examine the tone, manner and style that needs to be conveyed. I started with Pinterest and studied my boards. I realized everything I needed was right there. For years I have been collecting images that appeal to my taste and I just needed to narrow it down. I began to find common ground in the imagery, colors, tone and overall style. I realized that I am strongly attracted to rich and lush colors, more “regal” in a slightly dramatic tone BUT also have a second love of bright, poppy and happy colors and patterns (which I found very interesting – maybe I have two sides to myself hummm…). I also love vintage colors (preferably from the 50’s and 60’s), vintage illustration (from the 50’s and 60’s) and even sophisticated Victorian patterns found on wallpaper, jewelry and clothing. Plants, animals, florals, fruits/veggies and global patterns are common themes I see on my boards. It became clear that this was exactly what I needed to focus on for the booth (and my brand overall). I now have a “style guide” and guidelines moving forward. I began pulling the images from Pinterest and from catalogs I had in my home. I gathered them in a sketchbook and became a mood board-making machine. That sketchbook became my Surtex bible. I made notes in it, it held all my printouts, paperwork, sketches and schedule.
The Design Layout
Now I began on the hard part- what does this darn booth look like? I knew I wanted to make a strong brand statement and having a booth that has a consistent look and theme would be a good way to demonstrate that. I focused on the common, deep colors I had in moodboards. I also zeroed in on the tropical theme that I noticed in some of my inspiration. It is a HUGE trend and marries all the things I want to show like fruit, leaves and plants, animals and florals. I got to work on painting leaves and flowers, scanned them and in a weekend created the tropical mural that was the focal point of my booth. I birthed the booth identity that I carried over to the other pieces and even my marketing collateral. As I finished a panel I put a screenshot of it in a document side by side to see the booth in a 2 dimensional format. It became easier to build it out this way. I made it to scale and could see where to put the table and the artwork.
I knew I wanted my booth to be special and to feel like an environment. I didn’t want it to be just my portfolio on the walls. It had to convey the mood and style I was creating. I originally wanted it to feel like an art studio with a big pin board and lots of fabric draping about but I decided that my mad scientist mind was getting too out of control and I had to scale it down a bit. I continued to edit the design as I found solutions (or didn’t find solutions) to the ideas I wanted to execute.
As I designed I came up with fun ideas that I would need to outsource. I contacted some talented friends to help me with my vision. Because the mural was very flat it needed something jumping off of it. Why not make my logo a real sign! I contacted a dear friend, Jared, of Small Craft Studio. As I knew he would, he whipped me up the most amazing wood sign sign of my logo even better than I could’ve imagined. It broke down into three pieces with acrylic backing to help stabilize it. Genius! I painted it a deep blue to match the mural and the 10 foot wall was done!
Next I visited a friend, Andrea, who has an Etsy store where she sells the coolest vintage finds (wish you could see how she decorates her home – so creative). She has an incredible eye and loaned me the fabulous picture frames that kicked off the design of the 8 foot wall. When I saw that beautiful, vintage, blue frame it was love at first sight! I had the perfect toucan illustration for it and couldn’t wait to start on the side wall. She also sells vintage posters suspended on wooden moulding. What a great idea for hanging tea towels! I am always a believer that I can’t do it alone. Collaboration is the key and boy was she a goldmine of inspiration. After visiting her and seeing her vintage pieces I decided that having tactile items such as fabric, wood, ceramics and paper would make it feel more collected – like a showroom, a boutique or even someone’s home. I also noticed that I had a lot of those common design elements in my mood boards, so I went to work on the panels, art and product designs and the 8′ wall was created.
Pulling it all together
After I received my orders in the mail, picked up my banners and cards from the printer and collected all the props, product samples and art I needed I had to see it in real life to plan out the layout. Seeing it on screen wasn’t enough. Would this really work as I saw it? Luckily my studio building has a large entry way outside my door. I met with Rachele, my friend and booth assistant, and we placed the banners side by side, layering the art and products on top. It took hours but boy was it worth it! There were more moving parts than I thought and we figured out how to execute a lot of the hanging pieces, delegated projects and even packed a suitcase to see how much would fit in one big one. We realized we needed two. Everything went with us on the plane in two suitcases plus the banners. It was very doable. The only thing I needed to ship was the table I bought from Ikea. That went to Rachele’s Dad’s house who, lucky for me, lives in NY.
I made it to NY with all my stuff and my sanity (after almost missing my flight due to LONG security lines and a near miss with not getting my baggage due to a baggage system malfunction). Now time to get to work. I worked all day Saturday with Rachele and her husband, Mark. They were tremendously helpful and so easy to work with. I had a dream set-up team for sure! Mark did all the “tall person” jobs and even effortlessly put my Ikea table together. Us shorties could barely hang the banners. Haha. I highly recommend having a tall person help you if you are under 5’3″ like we are.
Here’s a shot of some of our supplies such as fabric tape, Command strips (for days!), scissors, Exacto knife, wire cutters, Command hooks, glue gun, metal clips (we didn’t use) and Gorilla tape (our secret weapon). I also used fishing wire, measuring tape and two screw drivers.
We adhered the Command strips to the back of the vinyl banners and hung them from the top down. A few strips added to the sides made them smooth and flat to the wall. I had made them a bit too long so Rachele cut them and tucked them into the bottom metal bracket. They looked perfect!
Because we had done the prelim work and figured out where everything went and how it would hang, setting up was a breeze.
Rachele had to leave a little early and there were a bunch of small decorating things to do. I realized I may not finish in time and as soon as I realized that I saw the ladies of Dot & Flow coming down the aisle. I suddenly had 6 helpers! They were so great and jumped in to help me wrap the faux gifts with my wrapping paper designs. Thanks, Ladies! xo
Here it is – the final booth! After months of creative discovery and execution I feel like it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I feel so close to my brand and art now and was so proud to show off my booth and share it with others!
Here are some detailed shots:
1. If you want a standout booth start months in advance and start researching, planning and designing
2. Understand your brand DNA. Identify what makes you unique. Explore that and showcase it!
3. Reach out to your network. Do you have talented friends who can help you with your vision?
4. Add personal touches to your booth. Bring in furniture, props, some of your artwork or personal items.
5. Get great help (and tall people too!). Grab people you know you can count on, are easy to work with, can execute well and help you decorate on the spot (I had little things to solve that I didn’t realize until I started to set up).
SEE the VIDEOS
I had an amazing opportunity to make a promotional video just before I designed the mural. I worked with a talented videographer and photograher who understood my brand and vision as I was uncovering it. Making the video helped me see my brand visually as I pulled imagery and props for the shoot. In telling my story I felt more connected to my journey and know I am doing what I am meant to do. Please visit my You Tube channel to see the promotional video AND a video booth tour that Anne recorded for our Heart 2 Art Surtex interviews during the show.
Come back next week to see “Part 2: My Show Experience”.
A special thank you to Rachele, Mark and WW for all your hard work and support! xo