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!

Pre-Surtex Sneak Peek

May Flowers bring Spring... 
& Surtex!
I cannot believe it's May and time for Surtex!!
It's heeere!!
I've been prepping all year long for this surface design and textiles industry trade show, and it feels a little unreal that it's only a few days away. 
May flowers are an appropriate metaphor I think. I've been planting seeds since last year, and now is when they are starting to bloom...

My seeds (preparations) included creating over 180 images, making booth banners, promo bookmarks, promo books, fabric swatches, greeting cards, brochures, and sewing some hand-printed zip pouches! My fellow members of Finch & Foxglove, my art collective, have also been prepping their hearts out in order to make our collective's Surtex debut a success!




Prep Talk: Little Cards,
Big Thanks!

One of the things I love doing is making things with special touches -- a handmade embellishment, a touch of real texture, a tiny print, or very intricate background. In preparation for Surtex, I created teensy tiny cards that I printed, scored, and cut myself in order to give thanks to visitors, art directors, or art buyers who stop by our Finch & Foxglove booth. I also sewed some zipper pouches that are fully lined inside! The outside fabric is my own work, and it's so nice to see it on an actual product!
This is a general overview of the items I'll be bringing with me to exhibit at my debut Surtex, and I will be doing a post-Surtex review once all is said and done. I'm excited to figure out what works (as well as what doesn't)!

Wish me luck!!

And, if you're going to be at Surtex in NYC this Sunday to Tuesday, you can find me and my work at Finch & Foxglove's booth #543.  Can't wait to meet you! 

Wishing you a wonderful week!

P.S. Let me know ahead of time if you'd like to meet up with me so I can be sure to be at the booth - we're taking shifts since we're 8 artists in a 10x20' booth.