"It's not about how long you live, but how you contribute. It's about doing your best and doing the right thing. It's about recovering from your mistakes and not giving up. It's about the baton pass to a new generation. It's about the realization that you can not go it alone. It takes a team." -My friend Geoff Hollister (1946 - 2012)
Wowza. I'm unexpectedly exhausted after THE SURTEX SHOW in NYC! Anyone else out there feeling this way? Someone in one of my Facebook groups said she had a Surtex hangover! I probably should have expected this given the months of intense preparation, both physically and emotionally demanding. So for all of us who just came out on the other side of Surtex 2016, let's take a moment to celebrate our tremendous accomplishments, pat yourself on the back for having the COURAGE to put yourself out there and be gentle on yourselves for a few days. We did it! For those of you that are dreaming of going someday, know that it is entirely within your reach. Assemble your team, knowing that you can not go it alone. This blog post is going to be a lot longer than usual, so grab a coffee, tea or glass of wine. But I wanted to share my experience and hope to hear back from others on what they have learned as well. So many generous people along the way have shared their insights and tips with me and I am truly grateful for that!
First, a little about my journey. I was a product designer at Nike for the past 11 years and left in September of 2015. Before Nike, I was a designer at Old Navy for 3 years and before that I designed candy and packaging for Galerie Au Chocolat for 6 years. I want to see if I can make this thing work. Pattern Design, Ilustration, painting, etc. I decided in October to do the show and officially got my booth in November. From then on out it was a mad dash to figure this out! It was challenging and fun to go from working at a corporation everyday to being on my own. Setting my own schedule, making my own art, being my own boss. I'll probably write about that in another post sometime, but I figured it out and made it to Surtex. I joined a few amazing Facebook groups including Jennifer Nelson's Advice for Artists, Surtex Before and After the Show, Khristian Howell's Trade Show and Tell, Anne Blankman Bollman's Heart 2 Art and a few others. Surrounding yourself with a supportive "tribe" is so important on this journey. We're all in it together and there is plenty to go around.
Andy J. Miller has a great podcast that I just love. I've listened to it a couple of times in it's entirety. It's Episode 70 of his Creative Pep Talk Podcast series called "SEASONS". He takes about the rhythm of our career by using the analogy of a farmer and his fields. Our career revolves around different seasons from planting to growing to harvesting. Our motivation is destroyed by misunderstanding which season we are in. What are you supposed to be focusing on? Planting? Growing? Harvesting? Ding Ding Ding!! Go Listen to it NOW.
So, I've been in the planting season for the past 8 months. I've been working on new artwork for the Surtex Show this past week as well as new work for potential gallery shows, contacting galleries, creative directors/ buyers, creating online workshops, and lots of other things to create diversity in my income. For me it's about creating different streams of income, not just licensing my art.
Here are my thoughts looking back over the past few months and looking forward to the next year. This is just my experience exhibiting at this particular show as a first timer. You may find it helpful, or not, and I look forward to others sharing their experiences too!
I'll start out with a fun story. It was day 2 of Surtex and a young woman practically came running up to my booth saying " I found you!!" She was an exhibitor at the National Stationary Show which was adjacent to the Surtex Show. As it turns out, she found my postcard mailer in the recycling bin at her office. She rescued it and tracked me down at my booth! (Jennifer Nelson you were right, they do end up in the trash!) Hopefully we'll work out a deal to get my patterns on her products, but how cool is that? Well, not cool that my postcards ended up in the recycling, but that she found me! Below is the mailer I sent out. It went to all registered attendees of the show. Many of them came up to me saying they received it.
So this brings me to a very important part of exhibiting at a trade show. Marketing. These are the things I did to market myself before and during the show.
1-MARKETING: SOCIAL MEDIA ( Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook)
I used the hashtag #ROADTOSURTEX consistently to show progress I was making on my work. It was a hashtag not many people used so it felt like mine. I feel that it gets people invested in the work and process you're doing up until the show. They want to see what you're working on! Other hashtags that were used were #surfacedesign, #patterndesign,#surtex, #surtex2016. Anything you want to tag that will bring attention to your pages. I can certainly do a better job of curating my content going forward. I use the same Twitter and Instagram account for my business and personal. It's just easier for me that way. Except for Facebook, I do have 2 separate accounts there. I've seen other artists do this more seamlessly, offering a glimpse of personal life/ inspiration stuff sprinkled in between art. Some artists have separate accounts for Instagram and I may do that someday for but now, you can fine me at the following sites:
INSTAGRAM AND PINTEREST: @THE_FRAZE
FACEBOOK: AMYLFRAZERDESIGNANDILLUSTRATION OR AMY L. FRAZER
2-MARKETING: BLOGS/NEWSLETTERS/ FREE EXPOSURE
There are quite a few amazing bloggers out there that are willing and wanting to share your work with the world. I was honored to have my work featured on the following blogs and newsletters. FREE. OF. CHARGE. It did certainly take an extra bit of work on my part, but when people came up to me at the show and said " I saw your work at such and such site" or "Oh, I recognize your work from somewhere..." it was totally worth the extra work to write up the blurbs and bios and reformat images for them. You can also set up a free Lookbook on Issuu.com. Included in your Surtex online package, you can post one press release on the site. I paid for an additional press release too.
Here is the free exposure I was able to get before the show:
Feature in Pattern Observer Blog
Surtex Newsletter: Testing the Waters: First Time Exhibitors Plunge Right In.
Feature in UPPERCASE Magazine's "All About You" Weekend Newsletter
Surtex 2016 Brochure (ok maybe not free, but included in your package)
My Surtex 2016 Lookbook on Issuu.com
MATS Home Decor Alumni Showcase (Scroll Down)
Art and Design Licensing Sourcebook PAGE 33
3- MARKETING: PAID ADVERTISING
Of course there are a lot of other ways you can market yourself besides free exposure. I paid to send out my postcard mailer to the attendees of Surtex. (photo above in story about the recycling ) Quite a few people at the show came up and said they received it. And remember that woman who found it in the recycling bin? This isn't for everyone and is on the expensive side, but it's a decision I made and just bit the bullet. There is also a list of attendees that is posted on the Surtex.com site. You can look at the company names and then do some digging to find art directors, buyers, etc that you want to connect with. Again, extra work, but may be worth it in the end.
I received quite a few e-mails from outside companies offering to sell me their e-mail lists. I wonder if anyone at Surtex has bought those lists and was it helpful? It's hard to track your ROI on these things.
4-MARKETING: PRESS KIT
I decided to put a press kit together to hand out. There was a press room on the 4th Floor (not really easily accessible or easy to find). But you could put your press kits on shelves for the press to take. The first day I put mine up there on the top shelf. There were only 2 other kits, there at the time. The next day I found that other exhibitors had rearranged things and pushed mine to the bottom shelves in order to perhaps give themselves better exposure. You know, we're all in this together. I believe in playing fair, so if that's what people want to do, have at it. Not my game. If someone wants to find your work, they will.
I also had press kits at my booth and gave out quite a few each day to people that seemed genuinely interested in working together. It had a Lookbook, mini notebook, 4 postcards, stickers and 2 business cards. People love free stuff and hopefully this will be a reminder of my work when they get back to their office. Or perhaps it will end up in the recycling bin.
These are the resources I used for my printing needs:
East Side Printing: (Local Portland printer) Lookbook, postcards, mini notebook
Moo.com: Lux business cards and square business cards, stickers
ULine and Clearbags: Envelopes
Sooo, I had to ship some things to my hotel and used Fedex. They have a Pack and Ship option, and promised me they would take good care of my press kits and pack them with care. They promised me several times. I had them in a box already, they just needed to be put into a larger box with my postcards, which were also already in a box. I also shipped my banners. Below are photos of how they were packed. I got them on Friday before the show and almost cried when I saw how they were packed. I was able to salvage plenty to use at the show, but some of the kits were crushed or ripped. The banners were just put into the box I gave them, no extra packing material around them except for a tiny bit of paper at the top. Note to self, PACK IT MYSELF NEXT TIME!! I am writing a letter to the manager of my Fedex shop about the need to train their employees on proper packing techniques. Here are some photos:
2-DO YOUR RESEARCH
In addition to making as much quality art as I could before the show, I did a LOT of research and consulting with people. Here are a few of the things I did to educate and prepare myself.
2- RESEARCH: CONSULTATIONS
Consultations with Ronnie Walter and Jennifer Nelson. These 2 ladies are amazing. Amazing. And they know their shit. Ronnie and her husband hosted a webinar called Monetizing Your Art Through Licensing. Ronnie is first of all a sweetheart, a crack up, and a very, very smart woman. I also did a phone consultation with her about my art/ website, etc. Highly recommend her. Ronnie it was so so nice of you to stop by my booth to say hello!! Loved meeting you in person and chatting.
Jennifer Nelson, an absolute sweetheart and another very, very smart woman, offers 1:1 consultations as well. (Skype call was amazing!) I also took her webinar "How to get an Agent and Do I Really Need One?" through Modern Thrive I believe it was.
I met with my friend Clay Walsh (marketing guru turned real estate agent) and her wife Lisa Congdon who live in Portland now. They offered me practical advice and support before the show, such as expect to get connections not necessarily jobs, follow up and play up your experiences. Thank you Lisa and Clay!!
I have a monthly meet-up group here in Portland (MATS after MATS Portland) with artists where we share experiences and ideas about the business of art. I met these incredible women in Lilla Rogers MATS classes.
Before I left Nike, I hired a life/ business/ career coach, SHEROLD BARR. She literally helped me change my life and the direction I wanted to take it in. She picked me up off the ground and taught me that I could soar. I'm forever grateful to her for her wisdom, kindness and advice.
2- RESEARCH: ONLINE CLASSES
I enrolled myself in classes at Atly.com, Skillshare.com, ModernThrive.com, Textile Design Lab, MATS and others. I worked hard to educate myself about the tools of making art as well as the business of art. Podcasts are also a great way to learn about the business of art and the journey other artists have taken. A few of my favorite Podcasts are: ANDY J. MILLER'S Creative Pep Talk, Design Matters with Debbie Millman and The Jealous Curator: Art for Your Ear with Danielle Krysa.
OK, let's talk about the nitty gritty of the show itself. Before the show, I wasn't actually sure if I could or would have enough work to fill an entire booth. So I went with a booth in the Design District. There is a lot of conversation and controversy going on around the Design District right now. This was sold to us as an area where first time exhibitors could get a smaller, discounted price booth and have the same great experience as other exhibitors. Smaller. Check. Discounted price. Check? The booth was definitely smaller and cheaper than the next size up for the price per square foot was even beyond NY standards. I have no regrets about the show, but if I could go back and do it again, I would get he larger size booth for sure (8x10 I think it is). I can't change the fact that I went with a much smaller booth, which was a lot smaller in person than I had imagined. Despite this, I feel as though I did make a lot of contacts. For those of you at the show you saw the booths and where they were located. Very back of the venue. I've heard a few comments about the spaces including, "they looked like half of a telephone booth" "people thought they were students" " it looked horrible." Ouch.
I think the success of my first show lies, not not in the fact that I was "showcased" in the Design District" but in the fact that I did a LOT of marketing and hard work before the show. I don't feel that Surtex did everything they could to promote us as new talent. So this is a lesson learned. However, other than the location and size of the space I had a great time in the DD. I met some amazing artists, who worked just as hard to get to Surtex as people who had a full booth, or had been there for years. The support from Surtex certainly could have been more substantial, but the support amongst the exhibitors couldn't have been greater. I'll write a note to John Erich, the Surtex Salesman, to give him my feedback and ideas to improve this concept for next year. I think it was something they tried out this year to attract new artists to the show. In the end, they had to juggle the space around, perhaps due to lack of participants, and some of us found out very late, if not at the show, that our booth locations had actually changed to the end of the row, or that their booth number had changed! WTF? I looked at the show floor map 2 weeks before the show started and found out I was now on the end. I was able to quickly have another banner printed, but no one communicated this change to me. Communication to exhibitors regarding booth specs and other things could have been a lot better. If you have constructive feedback on the Design District, I'd love to hear about it. Here are a few photos of my Booth 565! Click to scroll though...
3- THE SHOW: BOOTH SETUP
Again here, do your research. Most of the measurements were in the exhibitor manual, but some of them for the Design District (counters especially ) were off or missing. I e-mailed John Erich and another guy Travis, who were both very helpful in finding the missing information. But that should have been included in the manual. At times it felt like a goose chase and frustrating to have to keep emailing people about measurements and details. My banners were pretty much the correct size except for part of the counter was slightly off due to wrong measurements. The counter was also supposed to have 3 sides and when we got there it had a 4th panel on the backside which we all had to have removed in order to be able to store things under the counter. GES tried to charge a few people $200 to have it removed too!
I also did a lot of research on line looking at people's booths from past shows, what worked, what wasn't so successful, etc. There was a series of Webinars hosted by Surtex which were actually helpful! I believe Nicole Tamarin Leone presented in one of them ( Set Yourself Up for Success) that I found to be very helpful in putting up banners using the hooks and sticky strips.
Below are photos of a toolkit I put together and had in my booth ( stapler, Post it notes, pens, markers, extra sticky tabs, etc...)
3-THE SHOW: ARTWORK PRESENTATION
Again, through a lot of research in asking other artists how they presented their work, I found that for me a Blurb book worked best. The quality of the books are amazing. I had some extra artwork that didn't make it into the book due to time constraints, so I printed those on 8.5"x11" thicker paper and put them into a presentation folder with clear sleeves and that worked well. Since I know my counter space was limited, I put them into the binder instead of having them loose. Next year in a bigger booth, I can have them loose and print out 11"x17", my Blurb book(s) and my iPad with my art loaded onto it. This seems to be the magic combination. Be sure to number each piece of artwork you show for easy reference later. I built my Blurb book using the InDesign Plug In they offered and it was really easy to use.
BLURB.COM I used a Photo Book
A lot of people were of course interested in Holiday, but I think what helped me was that I brought so many different types of my work I've done. I had my collections, but also brought some sketches of things I'm working on, watercolors, children's book illustrations, embroideries, etc. I feel as though I have a lot of different techniques that I do, so thought why not bring them. Every exhibitor has a different take on this and some artists have a very specific style that works for them. I like to do watercolors and use photoshop and illustrator and do embroideries. So that is what I brought to show and people responded to all of it. Lilla Rogers says, "People buy your joy!" and I really think that is true. Over the next few months and year, I'm going to continue to hone in on my style, but I think it will still be multiple styles and techniques I am showing.
3-THE SHOW: BOOTH ETIQUETTE
One observation I had is of artists in their booths. I observed quite a few on their cell phones, or 2 people in the booth on the phone texting or surfing. This was my BIG pet peeve ( besides eating) for people working in my booth. How can you make eye contact or say hello to someone who glances at your booth for 2 seconds when your head is buried in your phone? Stay alert and be ready to greet anyone who walks by. My team was amazing and very welcoming and I trusted that they were making great contacts while I was away eating or bathrooming. They did think I was a bit strict with my rules and in the end wanted to unionize and overthrow me. Ha! I would sneak up behind them to see if they were texting. Lol. But in all seriousness, if you have a booth, you paid a lot of money for that space, so be warm and welcoming when people walk by and get as many contacts as you can.
So who did you meet at the show? How did it go? These are questions I'm getting from friends and the answer is it was awesome! On the advice of some trade show veterans my expectation was that I was going to come away with connections, not necessarily jobs. This really helped me to set my expectations at a realistic level. I met people looking for art for the following: Bakery items, children's book illustrations, ribbons, greeting cards/ stationary, food items/packaging, table top, coloring books, scrapbooking, fabric ( quilting) and more! The range of things that people were interested in was amazing. I had the following tools in my booth to gather contacts:
INTAKE FORM: Each contact gets their own sheet. Staple or tape the business card to it. Have areas where you can record any follow up info. Super easy for me and for my booth helpers to have consistency in what we were asking.
SCANNER: I rented a scanner from the show to be able to scan in people's badges. It was an experiment to see what worked best. I am able to take my scans and download them into an excel spreadsheet that is populated with all their info. I'm not sure if I'll spend the money next year, but I did like have this option of gathering people's info.
PHONE: Some people said they were on their last business card, so I just took a photo of it if that was the case.
Now the fun part begins! The follow up ! I'm so excited to be writing back to all of the people I made connections with. An exhibitor at the show, who shall remain nameless, told me she didn't follow up with anyone. I nearly fell over. She said that people contacted her after the show. Which is great! But for me just starting out, I don't have that confidence that they will call me. I'm going to do everything I can to reach back out to my connections. Has anyone else had that experience?
NEWSLETTER: Among the amazing pieces of advice that Jennifer Nelson gave me, one of them was to get my newsletter set up before the show! I did it! It's not perfect and certainly needs to be tweaked, but at the show I asked everyone if I could put them on my newsletter. I think this is a great way to reach out to people as a whole , but during one of the manufacture roundtables I attended, the advice was also to send personalized e-mails to them. For example, if they make rugs, send them some art saying I saw your rugs in Home Depot and thought this new art I made might work for a new concept. They like to see mockups, but don't necessarily want you to deck out an entire room.
Click here if you'd like to sign up for my newsletter.
I've got a lot more notes from seminars to dig back into, but for now this is what's in the front of my mind. A few last thoughts:
SELF CARE: It's so important to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually. There were weeks when I just kept working and working and then ended up with a migraine or just exhausted. Take time daily to get some exercise and down time from the computer. Get outside, meditate or do what works for you to take care of yourself. We're in this for the long run so let's not burn out in the first round!
ABUNDANCE: I love the Facebook and art groups in Portland that I belong to. There is such a sense of camaraderie ( and yes this is spelled correctly! I checked!)I There is enough for everyone. I love that we can share ideas with each other with the knowledge that we will be respected and honored. I have found my tribes!
FOCUS: It's so hard to focus sometimes and remember that the most important thing is to make art. The more we make the better we get.
Thanks to everyone for reading this to the end! I'll have more shortly, but I gotta go make some art!
Lots of love, Amy