"Would you like a bookmark?"
This is how I was getting the attention of manufacturers, retailers, and artists who were passing by my booth at the Surtex Show. And it worked! People stopped to take their bookmarks, and so it was easier for me to talk to them, and introduce them to Pokidots! studio.
I was very excited about the show. I heard about it three years ago for the first time and now I was finally ready to be part of it.
It took me the whole set-up day to stick every piece of art that I had with foam double tape, while other more experienced artists, unrolled and hung their banners full of art in five minutes and left... I also created a dress out of paper with my patterns printed on it, and some tissue paper, and displayed it on a mannequin. It was a creative way to show a part of my pattern collection, and that dress was definitely the star of my booth, which was nice and simple, just like I had planned.
What I liked most about the show was that every artist had a distinct drawing style (and target buyers) and there was a lot of variety. Because of that, there was no sense of competition, and most artists were gladly willing to share advice and tips with each other.
Inspiring: There is so much talent out there and the art that was in the show was overwhelming. It was very inspiring.
Motivating: Speaking with potential customers who appreciate your art, and getting feedback and ideas from them is also extremely motivating. This feedback gives you, the artist, a better understanding of what the market needs, it allows you to evaluate your art more objectively, and plan your next collection better. I think this kind of feedback is necessary for independent atists who work alone.
Helpful: I was surrounded with experienced artists, who were exhibiting at Surtex for the 5th, 12th and 18th year! They gave me valuable feedback and advice. Here are the two pieces of advice I wrote at the top of my white board in my studio:
1* Expect business to be slow the first year but don't give up; make sure you exhibit at Surtex again and again.
I know that success will not come overnight. But as a newcomer to the industry, you’re all excited and eager to see your art on different products. You’re also hoping to get a quick return on investment: participating in Surtex is not very cheap... It’s thus quite discouraging to hear veteran artists tell you that very little will happen in your first year in the industry, and advise you not to lose your motivation, but come back the next year to Surtex. They’re more experienced than me, so it must be true... I do want to be part of the “community”, so I am already planning for next year’s show. But before that, the second piece of advice:
2* The post-show follow-up is as important as the show itself.
Buyers don't typically reach out to the artists they meet at the show. The week after the show is then very important, to establish a relationship with those buyers. To that end, make sure that not only do you hand out your own business cards, but you also collect the business cards from the people stopping at your booth.
I had fun participating in Surtex this year, but I haven’t seen the fruits of my investment yet. I will know in a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, after talking to my contacts.
In the meantime, I will be elaborating my portfolio and creating new art with a better plan in mind.☮