Surtex & National Stationery Show

So while I've spent most of my time since January working on my children's illustration, I also had planned on attending Surtex and National Sationery Show for the licensing part of my current 2 part career path. Here's a summary of each along with my experiences:

Surtex is the largest exhibition of artists, agents, and representatives for the art licensing world. There are also many booths dedicated to art purchasing. There are many studios of artists that create sheets of work that sell all rights and also flat-fee licensing. (Comment if you want a more detailed explanation) It happens once a year so there is a lot of traffic and energy, with a lot of an artist's business year depending on the contacts made from this show. Booths are very expensive (about $4K) so I'm not sure when I can manage to have one if I indeed want one. It's a very overwhelming experience for an artist walking this show because there are so many talented people in one space. You start to wonder how you yourself could possibly compete. I wasn't too shocked because this is my 3rd year attending. As an art director walking the show, it's great fun to see all the lovely work and possibility of new relationships. It's one of the few times you can actually meet the artists you might spend a lot of time working with via phone and email. Some rules of thumb to keep in mind if you attend as a guest (this is easy to do and costs just $40). You are NOT allowed to show a book (read: portfolio) on the floor. Huge no-no. Artists pay a ton to be here and you need to respect that it's THEIR show, not yours. Use this as a way to see what's out there so what you do can be different. Also use this to collect contacts from agents/reps if that's the direction you want to head in. Be discreet and patient when you do this b/c they are trying to do business and likely won't want to talk at length. They might share their submission guidelines and you have a chance to observe: Is their booth busy? Is it professional? Are they professional and courteous? And certainly, do not take free samples from artists unless they are a friend. Last year artists were being quite pushy and taking all the cool freebies meant for buyers, I was shocked to hear that!

National Stationery Show: Your 'industry guest' pass will give you access to this show also. This is a show for retailers to see the latest lines from gift and stationary companies. Many of the booths are medium-large manufacturers. Many of the booths are small or individual companies, often artist run. Usually they are the 'new' exhibitors and marked as such. Because I have a lot of industry knowledge I didn't bother with the artist/small booths, the repackagers/distributors, the overseas/asian companies, and companies whose design approach is very different to my own. This allowed me to 'conquer' the show in short order. I approached companies that I was interested in working with, asking them if they worked with outside artists (if it wasn't obvious), if they had submission guidelines, and if I could leave a sample. Often you will be talking to salespeople. Sometimes, with luck, you can talk with an art director or someone in product development. I managed to hand over about 30 samples. I got a lot of submission guidelines. You probably could get catalogs from most places but I chose to just take a few so I wasn't too weighted down. I like to look at the catalogs online for the most part. I also got some great feedback from the 'right' people and had a few meetings. I set up just 2 meetings ahead of time because I know my book needs a lot of holes filled and the timing just wasn't perfect. I did have a meeting of sorts based on a booth visit which was a pleasant surprise. Overall, as long as you are patient, professional, observant, and do not interrupt a busy booth you should have a positive experience. Also, you should walk this show to observe trends. What is popular now? What is getting more popular? And when you're going year after year, what is LESS popular or downtrending? I can't recommend the seminars because I have never taken one but may do so next year.

I spent two days at these shows. For me, this was just right. If you have never been or take things in a bit more slowly (I can scan VERY quickly) you may want to take more time. If a booth is too busy, come back very early or very late on the second or third day. Take lots of breaks to absorb and take notes. Be sure to grab the directories so you can research from home. Hopefully you make time for some fun in the city. I'm on a tight budget so I managed one nice dinner out and then back on the train to go home.

Now that I'm back I have a very long list of things to do. Lots of follow up, research, filing of receipts, filing of company information and databasing, etc.

Did I mention that I had a really good time? I was at these shows for ME and it felt great. I could hand off a postcard and get an instant reaction from a lot of people, something that you just can't do when you drop them in the mail. Even the simple fact that I formerly wasn't allowed to actually go INTO the booths when I worked for a manufacturer, but could do so freely now was GREAT! I got to see lots of artists and agents I used to work with and that was very nice. The artist side of the industry is very positive. It's a smaller group than it first seems and a helpful and fun group at that.

This will be my last long post for now. I'll go back to posting illos, sketches, etc!