Phew! Between vacation, new commissions and 3 kids on summer break, it's been a little hectic around here. But, I finally have a few minutes to put some thoughts together about my Surtex experience from this past May.
In order to make Surtex more affordable, less daunting and more fun, I thought the best approach for me would be to share a booth with another artist. Thankfully, I had Sue Dennen, who felt the same way. With the help of our lovely Surtex Sales Rep, we selected a 100 SF booth in the first row, very close to the front of the show. Go big or go home, as they say I guess. Once we were financially committed, there was no turning back.
We created a calendar with all our important deadlines and began weekly phone calls to cover the logistics. We split up tasks like insurance coverage, researching hotels and investigating banner vendors. I think, hands-down, our biggest challenge was designing a booth that looked cohesive, yet showcased our unique styles. We decided to play to our strengths and focus on cute characters—united through color palette and a playful outdoor theme. The result was a very soft and sweet, child-friendly environment. We had many compliments and tons of smiles.
We met so many lovely people—artists and clients alike. We aimed to be friendly and engaging and come away with as many quality contacts as possible. My personal goal was to bring in 3-4 new client relationships. Three months after the show, I can say I achieved that goal. I also have about 20 solid contacts to continue pursuing. And it was so fun to meet two of my existing clients in person—Great Arrow Graphics and Design House Greetings.
Here are the types of clientele who came to our booth:
- Toy companies
- Craft companies
- Baby book/baby product companies
- Fabric companies
- Gift bags
- Backpack manufacturers
- Pet bedding
- Wall art
Of course there are things I wish had gone differently. 2017 was the first year that the National Stationery Show was downstairs and not next to Surtex. We were surprised to only receive a few visitors from the NSS. I would have loved to have met more greeting card and wrapping paper companies. The furniture show, ICFF, was next door and we had many people wander over and take business cards and promotional materials who were not in a position to purchase or license art. Some were even taking photos of artists' booths without their permission or knowledge. A big no-no.
If I exhibit again, here are a few things I would revisit:
More business cards, less promotional postcards
I brought lots of promotional postcards, 3 different ones, double-sided about 100 of each, 300 total. I also brought 50 "press kits" which were like mini-portfolios, to give to really interested prospects as well as leave in the Press Room. I had magnets and removable tattoos, too. Wouldn't you know it, most people just wanted a business card. I almost ran out. But I came home with lots and lots of extra postcards. And magnets. And tattoos.
I'm still not sure of the best way to hang the vinyl banners. We had grommets but we ended up using Command Strips because the S-hooks weren't allowing the banners to lay correctly. I thought the Command Strips made the banners' appearance a little lumpy and we were worried they might fall down overnight, so we threaded fishing wire through the grommets as an extra assurance. Other artists had lighter banners that just hung more like a shower curtain. Theirs went up in about 5 minutes (as opposed to Sue and I trying to smooth out the bumps for hours), but seemed a bit wrinkled and thin overall. Either way, the buyers stopped and weren't examining anyone's banners too closely.
I put all my work in a Blurb book. It was manageable, easy to transport and a breeze to create with an InDesign plug-in. Although it was thrilling to see all my work together in a professional looking book, I was disappointed with the color on the interior pages. It looked washed out. Perhaps I didn't order the best paper? I'll have to investigate to see if there was an upgrade that I missed. Some visitors were also confused by the book and thought it was a sample of one of my products. If I were to exhibit again I would consider printing my work on sheets. I think that would give more of an appearance of "this is for sale", and they could be arranged by category.
Although I loved they way our booth looked, the focus was clearly on children. That may have limited the number of visitors to only baby-centric companies. We had several publishers, baby book and toy manufacturers stop by. If I were to exhibit again, I would try to broaden the appeal to a reach wider audience.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about my Surtex experience. So many artists have helped me along the way by sharing their knowledge and experience, and I am happy to do the same. A special thank you to Ruby at Zaaberry, who sewed the most adorable baby outfits with my fabric!