Part 2: Surtex 2016 Recap
Here I am at Surtex this May! Surtex is a marketplace for artists to sell and license their work to manufacturers and was held on May 15th-17th. Back in 2013 and 2014 I exhibited with the collective, Art Licensing LA, but this year I went out on my own with my own booth. The culture, caliber of clientele, the artists and even the show hours were different than I had experienced before. I felt a whole lot of warmth, excitement and camaraderie during the show which felt like one big family reunion.
Months before the show I worked on my booth design and marketing. I started designing artwork throughout the first part of the year but due to client work I got a bit backlogged and had to focus on my clients over artwork. I found myself playing catch-up during the last 6 weeks and made a ton of art, designed my cards, finished my booth design and figured out all the last of the logistics. I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way. Plan ahead for any surprises or unexpected delays. There will be delays. Start work as early as you can. Work on your portfolio year round if possible or at least start during the holidays. Plan on finishing your artwork and make a Blurb book by early to mid April. It is important to have work that you are proud of. Your love for what you do will show through when you present your work at your booth. Make sure your work and booth design demonstrate your passion for your art.
Set up went smoothly on Saturday. You can read about my booth design and set up in Part 1. Here you can see the before and after was quite the transformation. I was really happy with the design and branding and excited to see all the moving parts come together as I hoped. Thank you, Rachele, for helping me with the booth!
Heart 2 Art Gathering
On the first night of the show Anne of Anne was Here and I hosted a gathering at the Press Lounge for our Heart 2 Art group (here we are below with Nicole Tamarin). The Press Lounge was the perfect, quintessential NY venue for our event. Perched above the city with killer views the lounge offered plenty of room for our large group. Anne and I host Periscope shows for artists called Heart 2 Art. We have done 7 shows to date on topics such as Running an Art Business, Working with an Agent and Tradeshow Success. Our shows birthed a fantastic Facebook group of 500 members and lucky for us several of them were attending Surtex. We had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing women that we have spoken to only online. Everyone was so warm and friendly like we have known one another forever. Here is a photo we took earlier in the evening and many others joined us throughout the night. I really enjoyed hanging out with everyone! Thanks to all who came!!! xo
Not only did I get to meet new friends but was able to spend time with my Los Angeles artist friends who made the trip as well. Here is Anne, Dariana, Corinne and Amanda. Amanda was a member of my previous collective and we exhibited together in 2014. It seriously felt like one big Surtex family!
More of the killer view. How incredible is this? You seriously feel like you are on top of the world when you are on the patio.
Another highlight is getting to interview several artists and agent booths (and showcase our own). For our Heart 2 Art show we gave several booth tours to show those not present the point of view of different exhibitors with varied experience at the show. I’d personally would like to give a BIG thank you to everyone who participated. It was very educational and informative. Anne and I edited the videos and for those who missed them you can watch them here.
Exhibiting by myself was a fantastic experience. From committing to the booth, designing the branding and booth, marketing, figuring out the logistics to set up it was one of the most arduous and most rewarding things I have done. There was a great sense of community among the exhibitors and the artists walking the show gave a helping hand. I always felt supported by everyone and loved how they were sharing information and assisting one another.
One downside to the show is when I purchased my booth I was the second to the end aisle but found out I became the end of the aisle only a few weeks before the show. Just walking the aisles you can see the energy in the front and middle of the show. I didn’t see that type of attention towards the back of the show, especially where I was located. I also was near the design district and we didn’t get as much love as the rest of the show overall. I think it hurt me slightly as I wasn’t as visible as I would’ve preferred and wasn’t as busy as other people I spoke to.
Of the 3 days I felt that Tuesday was my best day. Surtex offered something new to us exhibitors and asked us to come in an hour early on the last day. The NSS show would be coming by early before the start of their show to walk the aisles. It turned out to be great for us Surtex’ers and I met with some exciting stationery companies that morning. The aisles were buzzing!
What I learned
- Start designing early. Start as early as possible on your art, marketing and booth design. Delays will happen and getting ahead will help you in the end with your sanity.
- Good booth placement makes a difference. I learned to not have a booth on the very end and recommend an interior booth or corner one toward the front or middle.
- Make as many appointments as you can. I also learned that it helps to make as many appointments beforehand as you can (inquire 6-8 weeks before) and really get the word out through marketing (ads, editorial on blogs, newsletters, emails, snail mail, videos, social media posts etc.). I had a few appointments but having more spaced throughout the days would help with the flow of the show and make the slow times less slow. It also gives you meetings to prepare for and more potential deals.
- Be engaging and welcoming in your booth. When you exhibit make sure you are very inviting and interact with those walking by. Stand outside your booth and pass out postcards, say “hi” and watch the floor all around you. You never know who is walking by. Because I was standing there I was able to spot a couple of people I reached out to for appointments and struck up a conversation.
- Stay as healthy as you can. You will be tired. Very tired. Your feet will hurt too (bring a change of shoes). Get as much sleep before and during the show as you can. Stay away from too much caffeine, sugar and other things that will make you tired and dehydrated. It’s no fun feeling like crap when you have to be “on” and engaging. I didn’t get to eat lunch one day – PLEASE EAT! Keep snacks with you and make sure you have lots of water. I found myself prying my eyes open trying to hold a meeting with a potential client as I slumped in my chair hearing my brain and my stomach saying “Feed Me!”.
- Selling your art at the show is the new black. There was a lot of talk about buying outright and it was the show to cash out at. Be prepared when people ask if they can buy something. Decide beforehand what you would be OK with selling. Who doesn’t want to recoop some of their show expenses? Watch agent Jennifer Nelson speak about it in her booth tour in our Heart 2 Art interview.
I had an amazing time and looking forward to seeing what transpires after the show!