Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Surtex Field Trip - part one

I went on a field trip to Surtex, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, in New York City. This trip was possible thanks to one of my alma mater's MassArt (Massachusetts College of Art and Design). The trip was open to graduating painting and illustration majors, and alumni.

On Monday, I woke up at 5am, and left the house at 5:45am to drive into Boston. At 6:30am we drove via bus from Boston to New York City, where we had the day to wonder around Surtex, as well as The National Stationery Show, and The International Contemporary Furniture Fair. (Unfortunately The Supply Side: An Annual Exposition Featuring Suppliers to the Social Stationery, Giftware and Graphic Arts Industries was not open on Monday. I would have LOVED to wonder around that show. Oh well.)

For anyone not familiar with Surtex, here is the description of who exhibits and attends, from their website:

"Markets Represented:

Art and design for sale and license to numerous industries: decorative fabrics, linens and domestics, contract textiles, wall coverings, floor coverings, apparel textiles, stationery, greeting cards, giftwrap and other paper products, tabletop, giftware, housewares, toys, ceramics, packaging and publishing."

"Profile of Attendees:

Art buyers and licensees from the home furnishings, domestics, apparel, contract, gift, housewares, toy, stationery, greeting card, paper product, publishing and automotive manufacturing industries, plus retailers, licensing executives, advertising agencies and stock houses."

As a mixed media/fiber artist, I found Surtex very interesting. From what I understand from what exhibitors told me yesterday, Surtex used to be a huge trade show, with many hundreds of exhibitors. Due to I'm not exactly sure what, it was down to less than 300 exhibitors this year.

There was a wide range of work shown. Many commercial artists showing holiday and themed art. There were also many artists showing flowers, patterns and etc, that were very nice, and a number of artists from Japan with beautiful work. I was very happy to see over a dozen more funky artists, with more interesting patterns, colors, and textures, with samples based on different printmaking and painting techniques.

I stopped by those booths and spoke briefly to the artists. I found just about everyone was nice about sharing a few thoughts and experiences about their show experiences. The repeat exhibitors said they got a better response in the repeat years because the attendees remembered them from previous years and wanted to see how their work grew from one year to the next.

There were some recent art school graduates exhibiting with the most innovative work. Their friendliness, excitement and energy was really nice to see.

I loved visiting the booth of one new exhibitor, a seasoned artist, who I felt was more in line with my interests/esthetics. Her style was very different than the other exhibitors. I really liked her playfulness with color and texture. She exhibited her art, as well as her line of patterns for possible paper or fabric licensing, in her booth. I spent some time talking to her sister, who is her business partner. She was very helpful in discussing their business and offered to answer questions via phone or email, if I have any, if I decide to exhibit. It was a nice connection, and I am very happy for her having a good show and wish her much success.

A few weeks before the show, MassArt had a panel of artists discuss their experiences at these shows, and it was good to have the background before the trip.

I have wanted to visit Surtex for 15-20 years, but have never had the money, time nor access, so this was a great opportunity for me to participate. One strange thing for me was we wore "student" badges, instead of "guest." I haven't been a student since 1980, so when asked where I was a student, I explained I was an alumn who travelled with students to see the show. The conversation changed (in a nice way) as I explained I was there to learn about the show as a practicing artist.

On the way down and back to/from New York, there was good bonding on the bus between artists. I'm always glad to have new art friends. The trip ended when we returned to Boston at 11pm, and I was home by 11:30pm. Long day, but a good day.

Over the next few months, I need to think about whether I want to be an exhibitor in coming years, if I can come up with the $3000-5000 in expenses for the booth, setup, PR, travel and housing in NYC. Money will be my biggest issue.

Sorry this is a long post, but I know many artist friends will find this interesting.

Tomorrow, I will post about The National Stationery Show, and The International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Stay tuned.