A write up of my experience at Surtex and Blue Print 2018
BEFORE THE SHOW: PROMOTION
Showing at Surtex for the first time means no one really knows who you are for the most part, so self promotion becomes even more important! For the show I planned on having a first go at promotional mailers as well as some social media presence. Trying to keep things as low cost as possible while still looking nice I only had 100 flyers and 100 postcards printed out along with 400 business cards. Knowing I would be creating mailers I also had stickers printed with some of my designs as well as a few with return address and "hello" printed on them. I again used MOO for printing everything. I mailed approximately 45 promotional packet mailers out to prospective clients. This mailer included one postcard, an "about me" flyer, one sticker set and a business card. I hand wrote a personalized message on each postcard and the back of my flyer had a sampler of some of my patterns.
Registration for Surtex gives you access to a list of attendees as well as the ability to save favorites and see if anyone has saved your information. A huge drawback to this database is it's name, title, and company information only. So you have to guess on what the best mailing address is. The list can be pared down to categories so I curated a list of clients starting with ones I was most interested in hopefully working with. I did receive a handful of emails prior to the show with responses from the mailers! There were a few who mentioned at the show that they had received a mailer and the rest are probably off in some netherworld hopefully partying with all the other mailers artists send out over the decades. My spam mailbox also received its fair share of companies claiming to offer lists of attendees, I am a skeptic on a budget and did not respond to any of said offers.
Of my remaining promotional packets 15 were saved for the press section of Surtex. To be completely honest I'm still not 100% on the purpose/usefulness of the press kits? I had one blog email me after the show asking if I'd be interested in doing an interview and I believe I actually met them on the show floor.
The remainder of my promotional materials were reserved for handing out at my booth. I had several emails for offers to be in design catalogues and I declined all of them as I personally feel the concept of paying someone to promote you in a printed database (that then needs to be purchased for anyone to see you) is an antiquated system. I made a sporadic attempt at social media marketing prior to the show. This is the one area that I will be pushing myself to be more consistent with! I had less than a thousand Instagram followers before the show and it honestly felt like all of the followers were at the show, be it fellow artists or clients. Social media is truly a zenith of marketing in my opinion.
Overall my numbers for promotional materials was way off for sure and I ran out towards the last day of the show. I did send my booth assistant to bring back the remainder of my press kits so I'd have something to hand out. What amazed me most was going through 400 business cards over the run of the show. Some of my promotional material did go to fellow exhibitors and students, mostly as trades. It can be difficult to identify these attendees sometimes without them addressing the reason they're at the show, so if you're worried about potentially wasting your materials, just try to be positive about it and remember it can be fun to connect with other artists too!
Overall I was really happy with what I had printed and will remember to bring more of everything next year!
Before the Show
I received a lot of inquiries on how I came to the decision to show at Surtex representing myself without the aid of a studio so I'd like to start my recap by answering that. I will also be touching on what went into preparing for the show.
In 2013 I made the leap to full time freelance artist. In that first year I signed a 6 month trial with Cinnamon Joe Studio. Through them I brought my work to Surtex for the first time. I did not attend the show but it was still nice to have art there. If I remember correctly one pattern sold.
I chose to not continue with a studio as I wanted to focus on creating more work and develop my portfolio/brand. I also personally like having (some) control over where my art goes.
Two years later I felt like my career was at a plateau that could only move forward through developing more contacts and I felt Surtex would be a perfect place to do just that. I would like to say there was a lot of fanfare but it was more just me procrastinating on dredging up the courage to file my submission. After being accepted I read anything and everything I could on the internet (spoiler alert there was still a lot I realized I didn't know when I got to the show, more on that later).
Being a freelancer gave me the opportunity to layout my schedule so that I would be able to work furiously up until the time I would switch over to full Surtex mode. Ideally I would've worked towards Surtex for a year and casually added to my portfolio. Instead I started a week into February 2017. I focused on only creating art up through the end of April. In a prime example of learn something from every experience, I knew from Cinnamon Joe and my research I needed to focus on holiday art. I decided to have a minimum of 50 pages of patterns. In the end I believe I ended up with 54. My goal was to have half of that be holiday with the bulk being Christmas. I honestly don't think I met that goal exactly but I was correct in thinking holiday art would be popular. Despite creating for a commercial market I tried to keep my art voice true by creating art that I liked. The one piece of holiday art that I forced with a more "tradition" feel to it had very little reception. After holiday I worked on birthday and then character heavy art, as that's what I like to specialize in.
In the first week of May I created all of my printed promotional material. I would like to make a major (unsponsored!) shoutout to MOO for printing all of my business cards and promotional flyers. This had to be done twice as my booth number changed at the last minute and everyone at MOO was incredibly understanding and helpful. Thank you MOO! Second shout out goes to Smartpress without them I would not have my beautiful booth banners! I had a very tight deadline for printing my banners and Smartpress met that date with room to spare. The print quality and color matching was perfect. When those banners came in and I unrolled them on the kitchen floor it was the moment that felt most like "well I guess I'm really doing this then". I honestly didn't want to unroll them until the show as I knew they'd be a beast to roll back up and pack (which was true!) nevertheless, it was still exciting to physically see them.
This concludes my first blog post of my Surtex recap. I hope you found it helpful! The next one will be on my promotional processes. If you would like to received email updates feel free to sign up below.
Had a super lovely surprise when I woke up Wednesday, I'd been featured on Print & Pattern! I've been following this blog ever since I found out about it around 7 years ago. It's a been a constant source of inspiration for trends and even some jobs for me and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.
(Click image to be taken to site)
Here's peek at the mailers I sent out earlier for Surtex! Everyone got a postcard, sticker set, business cards, and an "about me" flyer. I sent out about 40 (I lost count as I was pacing myself and doing a few a day). Each post card had a handwritten note on the back.
Well, guess I can finally recycle this note that's been sitting on my desk for far too long. Less than a month to go until Surtex 2017 hooray!