Hi everyone! I love reading all of your Surtex recaps, so I thought I'd share my own experience.
This was my 3rd time exhibiting. SO DIFFERENT from my first time! I remember being extremely nervous back in 2013, not knowing if anyone (much less buyers and manufacturers) would like my work for their products. I remember the first person who came to my booth in 2013 was the art director for Hallmark, my hand was shaking as I took her card.
Anyways, the show has been great for me, good enough that I can afford to keep coming back to NY from Mexico City and exhibit solo each year! I fell in love the licensing world and plan to keep my career going in this direction.
As for 2015, here are a few bullets, notes and observations I made:
- You don't need patterns or vector designs to sell your work. In the beginning I was scared, I saw so many booths with so many amazing patterns!.. and I had zero. The first show I did I got a lot of questions regarding vector designs and how my watercolors would translate to that. In time I learned there are products for every kind of artist. It would be difficult to license my work to fabric or wallpaper, but single textured watercolor designs are great for notebooks, journals and greeting cards. JUST BE YOU and the right client will come.
- My sister Maggie helps me each year. Maggie is in the fashion business and is always impressed by how NICE everyone is at the art licensing shows. So I guess you could say we're lucky to be able to work with so many cool and mostly friendly people. I think loving what you do has so much to do with the tone of business meetings and follow-up emails.
- Which brings me to follow up: yes, it's true, the following weeks of the show are the most important! I am always polite and interested in every client that passes by my booth. When you arrive back to your studio (or home), you start looking through the famous notebook with business cards and notes and start to realize some of the companies you spoke with might not be right for you at all! On the other hand, the notebook will have a hand-full of dream clients, and visits from regular or on going clients reaffirming your business relationship.
- By my 3rd show I've gained lots of confidence, and have noticed the importance of branding. This is what I mean by "not all clients are right for you". Maybe I want to keep my brand fun, a bit more exclusive and targeted towards a younger crowd. Maybe a huge super market chain isn't right for me. It's frightening to start selecting clients, you might be losing out on a big chunk of cash by filtering opportunities, but if you take care of your brand, I feel it will be worth it in the long run. (Also, you might not be right for them either, and will no longer have that one available image when the right clients comes along)
- New concepts will come up at the show! I love brainstorming with clients. We exchange ideas and I always have so much to work with when I get home! They might come up with a phrase for one of my paintings that I never thought of, or a twist on a specific design that works on my etsy shop, but would be better with a certain change for licensing. These people are intelligent and know what sells! It's such a fantastic opportunity to pick their brains and exchange thoughts!
- The National Stationery Show next door is incredible and very handy to take a look at your new products. The most amazing feeling is seeing your work from last year on a product this year for the very first time! The NSS is usually where companies showcase their new products to the industry, if you find your clients booth, go take a look and see what you can find! This year I went over to Studio Oh! to check out their new line and saw my brand new jornal there. I haven't even received samples yet so it's new new new! It's also great when a client you hadn't heard of stops by your booth and you get a chance to visit theirs later on to see the quality of their products in the flesh.
- Seeing old friends. I've met so many great people doing the show during these 3 years. We only see each other in person once a year in May, but follow eachother on social media and consult one and other for business advice. Special shout out to Elizabeth Olwen and Dinara Mirtalipova. Also to my very friendly neighbor for the second time, Ana Davis.
- Taking old work to the show is useful. I usually prefer licensing, but this year I got a lot of clients asking me to sell outright, and to send them any older work I was willing to part with. I actually do have a lot of these kind of pieces! Illustrations that I though were great when I painted them and ended up never selling on my etsy or as licenses for some reason. Some companies will figure out a good place for them and you just made some cash off of a piece you never though would work!
In conclusion, every show is great in it's own way and is always a big learning opportunity.
What do I wonder about?
Do I keep returning to the show every year? Does anyone take breaks?
I'd love to hear insight from fellow exhibitors!
It was lovely seeing all of you :)