Insider Tips: Showing at Printsource

Hello Blog Readers,

Thanks for stopping by! We recently exhibited at Printsource NYC in January with my art collective, Finch & Foxglove, and I wanted to share with you my experience in case you're trying to figure out what tradeshow is best for your work.

- Why Printsource? -
Printsource NYC is known for having apparel industry buyers attend the show to purchase prints for upcoming collections. We have several artists in Finch & Foxglove who have great patterns for apparel, accessories, and home decor and we thought their work would be better served by exhibiting at Printsource (as an alternative to Surtex for example).

- What was it like to exhibit at Printsource? -
The show is 2 days. The venue is cozy and the atmosphere was relaxed, professional and friendly. I found it to be more comfortable than Surtex which can be visually/energetically overwhelming at times. The booths are smaller in general than at Surtex and the prices are more reasonable for the emerging artist.

- What to bring? And, how to sell your work on the show floor. -
Buyers that came to our booth ranged from small one-person shops to mega corporations. This meant we had to be ready for anything! Our exhibit consisted of hanging indoor vinyl banners, covered tables, and lots of prints both printed on paper and on fabric! We had promotional materials to give to potential clients and we had a way of collecting their information to follow up with them.

Selling on the show floor is thrilling! Be ready to take orders with a receipt book so clients have something to take with them as proof of the purchase. Many take the physical paper print with them along with their receipt of purchase. If you're selling digital prints, as most of us are, be ready to send files within 24 to 48 hours. This takes a leap of faith in many cases. We're taught not to give raw files until we're paid, but very few clients paid in cash on the show floor. The rest paid through invoices. Almost all clients wanted to buy the work outright (rather than do category licensing or category buyouts). Be ready with prices that you'll be happy with and don't show work you don't want to sell!

- Closing Thoughts -
Overall, I really enjoyed Printsource and will definitely exhibit there again. I found the level of clientele matched our work really well and we came away with lots of sales. Compared with Surtex,  which is more of a licensing tradeshow, income from licensing can be slow to trickle in and the initial expense is prohibitive for many emerging artists. Sales from Printsource were either immediately paid or paid within a month of the exhibit (we had just 1 exception to this due to the negotiation process).

Thoughts Post Surtex 2016

Finch & Foxglove 2016: V. Lommatzsch, N. Kaiser, L. Kirkbride, M. Penny, A. Bentley,
T. Paget, C.B. Keller, and me at the front
It's just a few days post-Surtex, and I've got a lot of follow-up emails to write (yay!). Before things get too crazy, though, I wanted to post my initial thoughts on investing and exhibiting at a tradeshow like Surtex.

If you've followed my blog for a long time, you know that I have been in the creative industries for many years, but was on maternity leave and focused on textiles and sewing in 2014-2015. I knew that if I was going to get back into illustration in a serious way, that I had to be strategic. Having a toddler and an artistic career is a balancing act to say the least! So, I knew I had to really plan out how I was going to do that! First, I had to make sure my work was top-notch before I exhibited. So, late 2014 through 2015 was all about brushing up my skills and updating my portfolio. In the summer of 2015, I started my art collective Finch & Foxglove and created a safe space for sharing work and getting feedback. And in order to freshen up my contacts, I also started sending my work to dream clients (essentially cold-calling). In doing research about which clients attend what shows, this led me to figure out that...

Surtex is not for everyone.
What kind of art do you make? Is your work best suited for fabric or apparel? Then this isn't your best show. Check out Quilt Market, Printsource, or Premier Vision. Is your work appealing to a broad audience or is it super-niche? If your work is super-cool-edgy-badass, know that the majority of  Surtex attendees' end customers are your average American. There are some attendees looking for this, but you should be in contact with your dream clients long before the show and ask them what shows they attend. Is this the show your dream clients attend? No? You might be better served by exhibiting at NSS or selling directly at Renegade Crafts. Check your expectations. I think Happy Happy's 2015 Surtex Recap has a great Q&A session with their artists that covers expectations and the industries that attended in 2015. It was slightly different this year.  And finally, where are you in your career? Are you on a fixed income or deep in debt because...

Surtex is SUPER expensive.
Got $10k? Well, that's what our 10'x20' booth cost. Honestly, it was actually more expensive than that, but that gives you a rough idea of what you're gonna be spending for a double booth. This size is a necessity when showing with 6 or more people. Ronnie Walter's blog post "To Surtex or Not to Surtex" did a really great job on explaining just how expensive the show real-estate is, and how this may or may not be the right avenue for you. This, my friends, is why I chose to start my own collective!

Finch & Foxglove's 2016 Surtex Booth
Surtex is really big.
It's not as big as it used to be, but still. You'll be among 150+ exhibitors at Surtex showing illustrations and designs, neighboring 200+ exhibitors at NSS, and I have no idea how many ateliers for ICFF. All 3 shows run concurrently at the Javits Center. Are you good with people? Do you have work that will stand out?

Exhibiting at Surtex is complicated.
Booth specs. Contracts. Logistics. Shipping. Air travel. Lodging. Booth insurance anyone? And the Surtex exhibitor's website is deep. I'm talking nested within nested within nested menu items that would take several months just to uncover. Do instruction manuals scare you? Get ready for an ancient PDF made up of 20 years of random applications packaged together also known as "The Exhibitor's Manual". If project management isn't your thing, hire out.

Surtex is in NYC.
What Surtex does have is a great location that is easily accessible via the 7 train, and access to a ton of contacts in the stationery, paper goods, home decor, gift manufacturing, toys, and textiles industries. So if your work fits those markets it might be worth it for you!  Also, this mix of attendees changes every year since you cannot predict who will (or won't) attend.

Lingering Questions
How should I best show my work? Ready to go solo? What about group exhibiting? What's the best way to form a collective? So how do you get these attendees to come to see your work? That, my friends I'll leave for another post... or maybe a book? As far as blog posts go, this one's gettin' way too long!

Chicken Picnic

This is my final piece from the Make Art That Sells Course (Part B).  It was a revelation for me to just do what I do in response to a brief, and use my icons that were created on a whim earlier this year and then put it all together.  It's a revelation to just be in a flow and making work.

I asked my teammates from Finch & Foxglove for feedback and adjusted accordingly.  It's been really nice to be able to get into a groove and feel like you had a place to turn for a dialogue about your work.

As for process, at the end of the summer I painted these chickens in watercolor and gouache.  This past week I drew most of the rest in marker, brush-pen, watercolor pencil, and gouache.  The textures I've been collecting all year, and I made some more.  I shared some of my textures recently on a live Periscope broadcast too!

I thoroughly enjoyed MATS B as it seems the topics suited me better.  In addition, though, it looks like I've grown some confidence between MATS A in March and MATS B in October.  Cheers to vast improvements and self-confidence!

Also, I'd like to invite you all to follow along with our Finch & Foxglove Advent Calendar starting December 1st.  Watch the advent calendar page here!

Ravelry Indie Designers Gift-Along 2015

I can't believe it's November! And, this means it's time for Ravelry's most amazing time of the year for independently published knitting patterns.  This year is no different, and I'm participating as a designer with 14 patterns on sale for 25% off their usual price...

AND, I'm offering a physical prize, too!  I'm offering a giclee (fancy term for high-quality inkjet) print of my knitterly illustration "6 Fabulous English Sheep Breeds".  So, if you're interested in winning it and/or hundreds of other prizes, check out the Ravelry Indie Design Gift-Along page full of information on the super-fun events to come.

  • Prizes
  • Games
  • Contests
  • Knit-alongs
  • Crochet-alongs
  • Machine-Knitalongs

All the details are on the Ravelry Gift-Along page and the magical gift code in order to make your 25% off of my knitting pattern dreams come true is there too!  Have a great time, and I'll see you there!

Friends at Camp

As a member of 2015's MATS Bootcamp, I've met lots of lovely people.  Some of them wanted to do a blog-share type thing as many of them are just starting blogs, re-booting their careers, and/or starting new careers.  I'm re-booting my illustration work, and thought it would be a nice thing to do.  I was nominated by Melissa Iwai for a Liebster Award which functions as a kind of internet chain letter, but with the intention of spreading the word on small blogs and the people behind them.  The Liebster Award asks that the recipient share 11 random facts about themselves, answer 11 questions, and nominate 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers.

11 Random Facts About Me

1.  I'm really short, but people who haven't met me in person often think I'm tall.

2.  My favorite dessert is Tiramisu.  This happened as a result of a neighbor telling me he tries it at every restaurant that offers it on the menu... and then I was hooked, too.

3.  Although coffee ice-cream is my favorite flavor of ice-cream, I don't drink coffee.

4. People are often confused about my accent when they hear me speak English, Spanish, or German.  It seems like people hear an accent in each language, but no one seems to correctly guess my origins. That's most places except my hometown of Miami, where others have a similar Cuban-American accent.

5.  I really love dancing.  I did Irish Dance for 3 years before the baby came, and have done all kinds of different dances - tap, jazz, swing, cheerleading, and even Mexican Folkloric ballet (see photo above).

6.  I'm kind of a silly person.  Okay, I'm just silly and I love bright, saturated colors.

me wearing everyone's hats, purses, and accessories at Oktoberfest
7.  I can type really fast (65-70 wpm).

8. My hair has been just about every length from pixie-cut-short to waist-length.

9.  I love making dumplings of all kinds (gyoza, bao, shumai, etc.).

10. I was filmed for a deodorant commercial, but it wasn't picked up and it never saw the light of day.

11. I love using ellipses... and ellipses ().

Melissa's 11 Questions:

1.  What are your art goals for 2015?
I would like to make more marketable art.  This includes trying to master pattern repeats, source packing materials for shipping my work, and opening an online shop of some kind.  I'd love to see my work on fabric especially.  It would be a real thrill to see my work in someone's quilt or on their clothing.

2.  What medium do you use?
I use pen, ink, color pencils, watercolors, acrylic, pretty much any mark-making tool within grabbing distance... and Illustrator.

3.  What is your process of late for creating a piece of art from concept to finish?
I research> sketch > refine > sketch > select > refine > finalize > publish on blog and intermittently share images of my process on various social media outlets.

4.  How did you come to be an artist? Did you do other things before this?  How did you know you wanted to become one?
I have been so many things while still illustrating.  I've been a classroom teacher, scenic artist, prop painter, knitting pattern designer, in-house illustrator, and so many little random jobs in between.  I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I've always loved working with my hands.

5.  Have you traveled much?  What is your favorite city, town, or place and why?
I have traveled a lot and have lived in a lot of different places across the U.S. and in the EU.  Fave places - Santa Fe, Innsbruck, and Park Güell (Barcelona).  All 3 places are surreal. They're real places that feel like a story book or fantasy become reality.

6.  What do you do when you get frustrated with your work?
Back in my theatre days, I used to angry-cry.  It's a term a friend of mine came up with to describe me when I was in set design during technical rehearsals and things went badly wrong.  These days, though, I don't angry-cry very often.  Usually, when I sense that something is stymieing my progress, I switch gears and work on something different and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  Often, I will switch from digital to hand illustration or vice-versa to keep things fresh.  My time is better spent taking a break than bulldozing a project into submission.

7.  How do you manage your time -- that is, how do you carve out time in your life to do your art?
I use Google calendar a lot.  It's on my phone and I also use the project management software Asana to help me manage my time.  I'm a full-time illustrator & designer, so I divide my time between designing for knits or graphics, and illustrating.  My baby is at home with me, so I try and work in chunks of time working around his daily routine (and non-routine).

8.  What is something you are grateful for?
I'm grateful for my relatively good health and that of my family.

9.  What is an inspiring quote that you'd like the share?
"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." --Mark Twain

10.  What is the best art tip/advice you've been given?
One of my friends told me to "Stop waiting for the perfect time.  There is no perfect time." And, they were/are right!  There's something to be said about timing, but waiting for the perfect moment to start following your dreams is a trap.

11.   What would you tell a child who says they want to become an artist when they grow up?
Do it.  Draw, draw, draw.  Paint, paint, paint.  Make, make, make.

11 Artists from the MATS Bootcamp:

Nadine G. Messier

11 Questions for the next takers:

1.  What are your art goals for 2015?
2.  What medium do you use?
3.  How do you keep your projects and paper-flow organized?
4.  When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
5.  If you could see your work anywhere in this world, where would that be?
6.  Where do you like to work?
7.  What are your favorite resources for learning new skills?
8.  Do you follow any other art or illustration sites?
9.  Are there any quotes or words of inspiration that you keep close when you work?  What are they?
10.  What do you do when you can't figure out the solution to a problem in your work?
11.  What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an artist?