HELLO NEW YORK!
On Jan. 12, I took a trip to the big city to walk my first surface art show. I decided on PRINTSOURCE for a couple of reasons. First, IT'S FREE. That's a big reason if you're in the process of setting up your business and have yet to make a cent. I had free airfare thanks to my husband, and got a lovely hotel room for $100 (which is free for NYC). I'd heard from a few people that the show was much smaller and "more laid-back," which seemed perfect, and IT WAS FREE TO WALK.
Once I'd checked into my room (which was READY at 10am, thanks LEX boutique hotel), had a nice little breakfast on my walk over, I walked the few blocks to the show. Looking back, I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what to expect. I've been to my share of trade shows, don't get me wrong, I just realized that I knew nothing about the BUSINESS or how the show would work.
I collected myself and dove in. I decided that I'd take a loop around and scope out the situation, and work from there. What I noticed first were the piles and piles of art at each booth and the variety of styles. There were large booths with reps selling for a bunch of artists and small booths for single artists. I found out later that they offered "mini booths" at the last minute to attract first-timers and single artists for around $2000. OUCH!
So, here's the lowdown.
Most artists and many of the reps were selling art outright for between $500-$650. The piles of art were print-outs that they buyers sorted through, based on what they were looking for: layette, greeting cards, stationery, women's fashion, etc. If a buyer found something they liked, they took the print and would get a digital file later from the artist, once they paid for it, and would own the art outright. Most were not licensing. The artists and reps I spoke with said it made things easier, that they didn't have to keep track of what they were selling, to which market, for what duration, etc. You make the art and someone buys it and that's it. Seemed simple, especially for the single artist who didn't have a rep to keep track of all of the details for them.
I was lucky enough to get to hang with the lovely Jennifer Nelson in her JENNIFER NELSON ARTISTS booth, along with the equally lovely Jennifer Orkin Lewis, one of the super-talented artists. I got to see firsthand how they worked the booth, showed the art, discussed how things would work with prospective clients, and what the options are for showing your art in your booth. I also met some of the wonderful artists who were showing there, including Dana Magnuson, creative director and artist for Jelly-Box.com, Marta Blair from Kidsize (she'd created over 75 unique pieces to sell at the show between Sept. and Jan.!), Ben and Rowan from Consortium (who have their studio right up the street from my old apartment in Laguna Beach) and Kate Austin, who'd come all the way from Canada! Marta and Kate were first-timers at PRINTSOURCE, and couldn't have been nicer. They all said the same thing....DO IT! Jennifer Nelson suggested maybe finding a couple of other artists to share in the booth. I like that idea a lot, as it's a long two days sitting there by yourself, not to mention helping with the cost, AND the probability of getting more traffic with a variety of art to show.
PRINTSOURCE happens three times a year which is also a bonus. If you're not ready for one, you don't have to wait a year to show. It's A LOT less daunting than SURTEX, had a lot of traffic, and was really laid back. Everyone I spoke with on the artist/rep end were happy to talk when the booth wasn't busy, very encouraging, and lots of fun. It's small enough that no matter where your booth ends up, you're not off the beaten path (which I heard from the artists who'd shown at SURTEX can be the case there).
Honestly, it was invaluable for a lot of reasons. I now have a picture in my head (which is important for a visual person like me) of my goal. I can see myself there, I know what I need to have to show there, and it's not an unknown anymore. I got to meet my friend Jennifer Nelson IN PERSON for the first time and got to see how a first-rate rep handles their artists' art. DON'T SETTLE for less than the outright LOVE she has for them! PERIOD! Her enthusiasm for the beautiful art they create is the bar to set. And finally, I got to see THE CLIENT firsthand. That was great, as it really wasn't any different my Art Director days. In fact, it was like talking to ME in the past! Not so scary.
Hope that gives you some insight and makes all of YOU feel a little less scared at the prospect of moving forward with YOUR dreams.
NOW, I HAVE SOME ART TO CREATE.