This Surtex 2015 recap post is way overdue, and I apologize for that. Not only did I not have a lot of time to get to it but I also didn’t know where to start. Surtex was an overwhelming experience, but in a good way. Here’s my afterthoughts:
This was my first year exhibiting. I walked the show last year and met tons of amazing artist as well as some of my classmates. Irene Chan and Arpi joined me as we strolled through the aisles. Seeing my classmates exhibit for their first time gave me the confidence to jump in and join them. So I decided to exhibit at SURTEX in 2015 on May 17-19.
I started preparing for Surtex about 10 months ahead, but very slowly. Mostly I was just building my art portfolio, establishing presence online, and building my site. I set mini goals for myself like creating a collection or 4/5 pieces of art each month.
The most stressful months were the 3 months before the event. There is a ton of logistics that many people don’t account for: shipping, booth insurance, printing, PR kits, editorials, booth size and display, etc. All of that took much more time than I estimated.
Deciding on my booth display was tough, I wanted everything to be cohesive and compliment each other, that meant lots of editing and tweaking. I spent lots of money ordering product mock ups of my art for the booth. Although the products looked great, I probably could have done without a few things. Then I had this ‘brilliant’ idea to do foam board cutouts of my snail characters. Boy was that a pain, although good company and wine did help.
My portfolio book is another thing that stressed me out. I wanted to include product mock ups to show how my art could be applied, that took hours and sleepless nights. Once I finally completed the layout of my portfolio and sent it to printing, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I also uploaded my portfolio to my iPad just an extra bonus if people preferred that over the book.
I’m lucky enough to live locally, so I saved on travel expenses. And I’m lucky to have amazing friends who helped me set up, break down, and keep me company during the whole show.
I didn’t have many expectations, mainly I had dreams and hopes. I hoped that people would like my art and I would have some client connections. I dreamed that I would get contacts from a few dream clients. And hoped that nothing would go wrong, like my booth being the wrong size or things falling apart.
Being relatively new to this industry, my main fears were that no one will know me and therefore no one will stop by. I was pleasantly surprised that people did know me and recognized me. A huge ego boost was on my first day when a designer I admire and follow stopped by and said she loves my art and was looking forward to meet me in person. A few fellow classmates and even agents stopped by to say hello and recognized me from online.
I sent our promo cards, and was afraid no one got them or didn’t care for it. Well they did get them and they cared enough to stop by and talk to me. I got a good number of contacts and feel my efforts were successful.
Another fear of mine was that my booth will look amateur and wouldn’t grab attention . Again I was wrong, I got tons of compliments on the booth. In fact, many people were surprised it was my first time. Of course I couldn’t have done it without my trusty helpers Jane and Lawrence, and also my neighboring artists who lent me tape when I ran out of my own.
My final fear was my art. I felt that I did not have an established style like other artists do that can be easily recognized. I’m still constantly experimenting with techniques and wondered if that sacrificed my brand. Well, as it turns out, I do have a style. People who looked at my book said they like my style and described it as quirky and whimsical. Yay, that made me happy
I would say that for my first time, it was a successful show. I got tons of amazing feedback that really validated my art and gave me confidence to keep pursuing it further. I established relationships with a few new companies and got 2 deals – so far. Next year, I think I would exhibit with a group like Cultivate Collective for a different experience. They had an awesome booth this year.