Surtex the second time around was fun and challenging. Fun because I got to see the friends I’d made last year and because I was more confident in what I was doing. Challenging because last year my goal was simple: introduce myself to the art licensing community. This year seemed harder — like a second date when you’re unsure how to make conversation since the basics were covered on the first date. So I dragged my feet on booth design until the last minute when I finally got inspired (thank God!) and hurriedly got banners and promo materials ordered just in time.
In the end I was pleased with how the booth turned out. Last year I had a corner booth so I only had 2 walls to fill and tried to show as much art as I possibly could. This year I had 3 walls to fill but opted for showing slightly less art in favor of creating a more cohesive look. Since my artwork is meant to go on products, I filled much of the space with large 3-d volumes: colorful cylinders and boxes suggestive of gift bags, boxes, rolls of fabric or wrapping paper. It was challenging and time-consuming putting it all together so I was thankful my sister Sue came along again this year to help. She worked tirelessly without complaint to get everything looking just right. Thanks Sue.
I think the show had fewer booths again this year compared to last year. But I think the quality of the work was better with more originality and distinct artist styles than I’ve seen in the past when my eyes would glaze over after seeing whimsical woodland animals in booth after booth. The show introduced a new section of exhibitors this year called the Design District which was available to first-time exhibitors only. While I applaud the show for trying to make Surtex more accessible to newcomers, I’m not sure this was the right idea. The exhibitors sat at tiny kiosks that were practically on top of each other (forget about having a private conversation with a manufacturer with your neighbor inches away). It’ll be interesting to see if these kiosks will be offered again next year or if they can come up with a different way to introduce new exhibitors to the show.
The show is officially saying there was a slight increase in the attendance this year. I think that was true. And while the aisles sometimes felt pretty empty, I was pleased with the quality of the leads I got. People who stopped by my booth seemed to be qualified buyers and represented quality companies. I would much prefer that over quantity.
I had a really good show this year. I made some great contacts that I’m confident will result in new licensing contracts in the coming months. In fact I’m finalizing one contract already, just weeks after the show. Last year I (and other artists) was concerned that Surtex was on the decline. It’s maybe too early to tell but based on my personal experience I’d have to say Surtex isn’t dead yet! This year saw more fracturing of the art licensing community with the 2nd year of The Blue show and the introduction of a new group called Field Trip. It will be interesting to see how these side groups affect Surtex. It’s possible they could be the demise of the big show but might actually give it a boost instead. If manufacturers have more venues to visit in New York, it may draw more of them. Maybe it will grow into Licensing week in NY much like Fashion week or Design week. Wouldn’t that be great!