Blue Print + Surtex
I always meant to sit down and do a write up of 2018 but as so many things go I never got around to it. As I’ve signed up for Surtex 2020 (my 4th time there) I’m taking the time to share my experiences throughout the years.
For me the biggest issue with Surtex has, and probably will always be the cost. To be blunt it averages 10k every year. The booth alone is about half that, add on banners, promo cards, then there’s food/travel/hotel etc. costs add up quickly. I also have an assistant that I pay every year (thanks Lillian!). Blue Print is drastically lower in cost. That’s what initially drew me to the show. I also enjoyed the “community” aspect that was promoted by them. Timing wise they had the show set up as 1 and 2, 2 overlapped Surtex dates and 1 allowed me to show at both so I went for both to see which was a better fit for me.
Blue Print 2018
Setting up for Blue Print was super simple. I had 4 pop up banners, a small set up of promo stuff, and I pinned a bunting banner I made last minute to my tables.
The show has a very casual atmosphere which I think can appeal to certain people. For me I found it distracting and enabling to buyers looking for a “deal”. Overall I found the show was very slow, especially in terms of new client contacts made.
I would like to take a moment to address the community aspect from Blue Print. Prior to the opening of the show I addressed some (racially) problematic social media trend they were promoting. My concerns were shot down, not addressed and subsequently deleted with the excuse of “it’s a trend$$$ so who cares”. In full transparency I will say that interaction weighed heavily in my overall opinion of the show. That said, I did make some lovely friends who were fellow exhibitors.
Doing two shows back to back meant I had a very narrow window between breaking down one and setting up the other. My champion of an assistant, Lillian brought my Surtex banners to Javits while I was showing at Blue Print so everything was there for set up. Luckily everything went smoothly and I was ready to show the next next day.
I bemoan the cost of the Surtex booth but in the end I am grateful for this contained display in a sea of things to look at. Once a buyer has entered your booth, the walls give you a chance of focused privacy. Any (natural) eye wandering will always be on your art. I am also super happy to help pay the wages of the many awesome employees that build the show, keep it running, and break it down. Shout out to the people that don’t get talked about usually: all the union employees, janitors, etc.!
The primary reason I go to trade shows is to make connections with companies that I would not be able to on my own. As this was my second year showing at Surtex I was nervous how many new contacts I would make. I was pleasantly surprised that my fears were unfounded. Things I did differently between Surtex ‘17 and ‘18 included not having press kits and having more business cards/promo handouts than the previous year. Sales at the actual show were not as high as the previous year. I attribute this to potentially two things: 1. I made more art that I wanted to draw and less that I made specifically that I knew fit in a neat trend box 2. I was tired and possibly distracted more than the previous year and took more breaks to connect with friends I’m ok with all that though! (friends like Vicky Zamora who I met walking the show in ‘17 and came back with artists Paulina Acuña, and Romina Sandrock to show in ‘18).
Overall with the connections made at both shows (primarily Surtex) I was able to turn a profit by the end of the year. Which, lets face it, living under late stage capitalism is the main goal! Stay tuned for my recap of Surtex 2019