2018 Surtex - A First-Timer's Recap

Doing something for the first time is always challenging - no matter how much research and preparation you do, there are still plenty of surprises, both good and bad. My first time at Surtex was no exception! Plenty of learning all around, but I will admit that everything went pretty smoothly and overall the show was a huge success!

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If you're not familiar with Surtex, it's a global trade show for original art & design, where artists and designers (like me) can meet art directors and art buyers with companies from around the world to create products in every category from fabric to toys and publishing and app design. My goal for the show was to share my work with as many of the right people as possible, aiming to connect with brands that align aesthetically with my style and have customers that would enjoy my designs.

The show itself is MASSIVE! It's at the Javits Center in New York and runs alongside National Stationery Show and ICFF, an international furniture show, so the building is PACKED at all times with exhibitors and buyers.

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The first thing I had to figure out after committing to the show was how my display would look. After about 157 combinations of panel layouts, I landed on the version below for my booth. Each of the "sections" was printed on vinyl sheets and adhered to the hard walls in my booth provided by Surtex. I had a super cool acrylic Senn & Sons sign made, plus a handful of samples that could show my work on actual products.

Once I had figured out the design of my booth, one of my biggest challenges was figuring out the logistics of getting all the things I wanted in it to New York for the show. I shipped a giant crate from Minnesota to New York via UPS freight... which basically just means a giant semi-truck had to come down my small residential street to pick up this mysterious looking 4 foot by 4 foot wooden crate. Everything I would put into my booth fit into this crate and when I sent it away a few weeks before the show, I basically crossed my fingers and hoped it showed up in the right place at the right time. I had done enough research to know it would probably be fine, but this was definitely my greatest worry of the entire process! Thankfully that giant create showed up at my booth on set-up day and we finished setting up with plenty of time to spare.

This is what I had to work with:

The photos are pretty terrible due to the lighting situation and unfortunate orange carpet throughout the entire show! But here's how the booth looked once we had hung everything up.

(While I want to criticize everything from the "saggy" panels to not quite understanding how people would interact with the displays, I won't go into that here - I have SO MUCH more knowledge now about how this show works and what makes the best display! Huge learning curve.)

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The entire place was glowing orange! :)

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I created mini portfolios with my business card as takeaways for folks who stopped by to chat. I wanted to have something a little more substantial that could show a bit more of my work that a business card - this felt like a good solution! (I'll do a separate post about the mailers that I created to send to art directors and buyers before the show.) 

All in all, this was SUCH an interesting experience for me. I wanted to dive into the world of surface and pattern design in a meaningful way this year, and Surtex was such a great way to learn more about the industry, meet experts, begin to hone my style, and meet a lovely group of other artists and designers! I haven't decided if I'll be doing Surtex in 2019, and plan to explore other shows that could be good options, but I am hopeful that some of the relationships I've had the opportunity to develop through this show will be fruitful!