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Surtex 2014 - Year 3

It's my first real studio day since returning from Surtex (shocking I know) and even though I have follow ups to do I wanted to be sure I got something down about the show, something I didn't do last year.  This was actually my third consecutive show.  I've had the fantastic floating on air first experience, the seeing almost no one, competing with a white sheet and loosing experience and now this.  One thing I have learned is the show that seemed fantastic and the show that seemed like it couldn't have been worse can sometimes be the exact same show on paper when all things are said and done.  So with year three in the books I can honestly say I'm not sure how the show went.  Traffic was definitely  up over all and I met with more people this year than my previous two combined and I had the sense all the exhibitors felt the increase as well.  There were also industries who I had never thought I'd be a fit for stopping.  This is something that I love about Surtex, just when you think you might know yourself, your work or what an industry is looking for, it gets flipped on its head.  As individuals we are very good at pigeon holing ourselves and Surtex seems to always open me up to new markets to look at.  I am always learning new things in licensing but Surtex is always an accelerated learning environment for me, here are a few take a ways when everything isn't as new.

Set Up Jitters

These seemingly do NOT go away, at least for me anyway!  Its sort of like showing up at a new school for the first time and arriving in a class of the most beautiful people on earth!  You literally want to make a u-turn with your rolling luggage and slink off home.  I've decided this is just going to be part of the process, you need to march yourself down to your booth anyway and starting getting set up, or if you're me go find a friend or five to nervously talk at until your stomach settles down.  Just as with pretty people, you seem to acclimate once you are around it for a while and it begins to appear normal.  I did change my booth location and although I didn't arrive to reconfigured booth panels or a short desk rather than a counter, I was surprised to see I was just a few booths from the back of the show, it wasn't the worst thing but you start to question if people will make it back to you or just head over to the next aisle.  Having been in the first row next to the atelier last year I wanted to see if separating myself from the outright sale section would also separate the type of art requests I received.  This actually was the case having only had one company ask if I did outright sale compared to half of my introductions the year before.  The previous year left me questioning if the market was simply changing and if I wanted to stay in it would I have to be open to working this way more than I had originally thought so I did set up a meeting with one company who did outright sale and after the experience am pretty sure that is not the route I will go, at least not until I have specific work created for such.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

This year was great because not only did I know tons of artists who were at the show either with their rep, walking or exhibiting, but I was also next to a dear friend of mine Megan Hain!  I always wonder a few booths in any given direction but being able to stand at our shared wall was great!  Instant company!  The show is such an emotional roller coaster so having someone you know without your "game face" on was so helpful!  Sometimes you just need that "this is how I really feel" pep talk even if its only for a moment.  Her and her husband Phillipe are one of my favorite couples and they were the best neighbors!  Even though  I do the show on my own I never really feel like I am, I've talked about the tremendous community at Surtex before and I only feel stronger about that now.  I had set up help from (best friend and college roommate)  Alisse Courter's crew, lunch, coffee, drink and bathroom break offers from Laura Lobdell and Stratton from Printed Hues (one of my other FAVORITE couples by the way!) and loads of support from my wonderful FAN group who were walking, taking classes and exhibiting at NSS and the supply side.  Its amazing how I've only been in this world for 2 years and already I feel like I have this gigantic family.  It is the one place where everyone understands the unique stresses that I go through on a daily basis.  

I had a terrific and talented group around me this year and even though its by the luck of layout I'm so happy that I had the privilege to hang out with Stacy Peterson, Lisa Blade, Paula Lukey, Brittany from Two if by Sea, Lilian Cohen, Elizabeth Munro, and someone who turned out was in my actual backyard Emily Redmond from The Paper Crown Co.  It was wonderful getting to reunite with Diane Kappa who always amazes me with her professionalism and business savvy, Ani Alonso of Magia Pura who brought me one of her beautiful ceramic pieces from Buenos Aires and my Licensing Mentor (well, Angel really) Sharyn Sowell.  

Getting the Lingo Down Finally!

Even though I am shy, the basic interactions were not something I really struggled with previously,  but I did feel much more comfortable asking questions about how people worked this year.  I was much more direct in finding out terms up front and it wasn't weird or awkward at all.  I'm not sure if it was confidence or lack of importance or knowledge that had prevented this from happening before but it was very helpful in organizing my leads.  You do have a choice both in how you work and who you work with, sometimes the initial gratitude you feel to someone for liking your work temporarily outweighs the practical reason of why you are having the exchange in the first place.  You are there to make money and you know what?  They are there to make money with your art.  Do not confuse this with talent or value or even taste, it is a business exchange.  That is not to say you won't have people you simply adore who genuinely love what you do, it just makes those questions a completely natural part of the conversation.  So, if you aren't already, start asking, how do you typically work, do you have a set fee or is there a range, how long is your term, where do you sell and even ask for a copy of their standard agreement.  It can feel pushy and awkward at first but I promise that manufacturers are very used to answering these types of questions. 

Life Will Start Again After Surtex

I'm not sure if you heard yourself saying, "Just wait till after Surtex"?  To clients, family, friends, yourself?  Its all consuming for the weeks (well months) leading up to the show and it doesn't end when you come home.  Surtex is really a starting point for new requests and work.  Its difficult because in the attempt to finish everything needed for one big deadline, I push other projects off and June becomes one massive deadline, either with previously promised work or Holiday deadlines or the addition of  new work.  I don't feel I have a great perspective on how to avoid this but would love to know how others handle it!  Personally this is also hard because you are asking loved ones if they can just hang on a bit longer when they have already given you up for so long on top of the fact you have been on a mini vacation, yes, I know this is not really true but you can see how they might feel that way!

Surtex Burnout

Unfortunately this is a very real one for me.  Even though I'm sure this is something everyone feels after the show,  I am coming off what has been a marathon attempt at changing my fate and launching into a brand new industry.  It is something I had done from a standstill with no previous industry knowledge or experience.  It is something I worked at full time in addition to being a wife and mom, and working a full time job.  It is something I have been putting 110% of my energy into and its been going on 40 months.  This means 40 months of very little sleep and absolutely zero down time.  Is this healthy?  Absolutely not but I had the sincerest hope that in making the sacrifice and putting in my  best effort it would transition me from earning income from my left brain skills to making a living from my right brain talents.  I've been struggling with keeping all the balls in the air for some time so I have some really tough decisions ahead.  Its hard because I do see things working and moving forward but my current pieces are not able to stay in play.  In truth I don't really know what this means but to say I'm in search of some balance is a gross understatement!  So that thing you hear about 50% of leads not being followed up on that makes you think "how is that possible???", well, that's me and its not for the lack of want.  A similar thing happened after last year's show as well, the intent is there to follow up on every lead but once you find yourself wrapped up in a new project or request from existing clients or the follow up that is actually a large pitch with new work you quickly realize its impossible to do it all even with the best intension.  


So in some ways I feel like this is the Surtex post you don't write, its not the I had the best show ever post although I thoroughly enjoy every minute I am there, its not the best clients ever post, although I do feel incredibly grateful for the amazing relationships I have built and excited for a few new ones I'm hoping are starting, its the here is where I am after three shows and 24 months in art licensing post, the only one I could write.  So here's to an amazing year of challenges, surprises and maybe even some luck which hopefully will find me writing the here's where I am after year 4 post.




Uphill People

Surtex is coming up and coming up fast.  I'm pulling together new collections, designing ads, sending out press releases and making all sorts of plans.  I am SUCH a planner, no matter what I do; I will never be good at winging it or playing things by ear.  I am also someone who puts extreme pressure on myself to consistanly move forward and when I don't feel like things are progressing or happening fast enough, I start questioning if I even have the ability to do so.

Its had me thinking, perhaps I'm just an uphill person.  A person who tends to work really hard for things, someone who could never cut corners, someone who doesn't have things neccissarily fall into place.  I feel like I could perform the same task as someonelse but I would create 20 steps to their one.  It doesn't always mean we will come out with the same result technically but to most people does that even matter?  I find myself questioning my art and style and approach as I watch many I admire in the industry and in my life have things happen much quicker than I see in my own career.  I know it is just a death wish to even compare myself (even just a little) to others, but it happens.  

I know, and love, a few downhill people.  Those who just go with the flow, don't stress out about progress and goals and yet they achieve them, sometimes even getting the things I've worked for, or am STILL working for, as the opportunities present themselves.  I struggle with this so much but when I separate my self comparison out, I truly am happy and excited for all their successes, it just tends to make me feel as if my best just isn't good enough.  I start to wonder if I will ever get my chance.  I want to believe that hard work is rewarded the way it was in school, but that isn't always the way things work.  Sometimes people are successful and sometimes they are not, life is not a fair grader.   

I'm not sure it's necessarily a bad thing, this uphill person I am, because when opportunities do occur I really feel as if I've earned them.  I can literally tell you all the little bits and pieces which helped it fall into place.   The truth is, if I am somehow able to meet all these crazy goals I have for myself, it won't matter to me if it was an uphill battle or not.  I'm good at those after all!  It will not matter if it took me 20 hours to someone else's one, the point is to get there.  I hope I will get to experience those downhill moments but for now, I just need to keep plugging away, keep climbing, keep working, and keep moving ahead.




It all started with a cartwheel

We started my daughter in Gymnastics "late".  Having grown up figure skating I knew how involved certain sports were.  She's always been flexible but it was watching her at a friend's wedding jumping from an outdoor bench to swing on a branch that really cemented it for me.  She looked like she was using it as a gymnast would use bars.  

The start was just terrible, she was in tears almost every week because all the other girls knew how to do handstands, somersaults, and cartwheels while she was just learning.  She wanted to know why I hadn't taken her when she was little, the way everyone else was.  Talk about guilt as a Mom!  So we practiced.  We were very fortunate to have enrolled her in the same class as a friend from school and although she was in a different level than what my daughter should have been, the teacher saw that she needed a friend.  The first weeks she just stood and watched, then she would practice at home on her own.  We spent time doing forward rolls on the couch for extra cushioning and had a friend of ours come over to help her learn cartwheels outside.  Gradually she started participating, and what's more, she was catching up.

It was a stunning transformation, from a girl who wouldn't even try tasks to being the only one to attempt jumping from the low to the high bar at the end of the season, and what's more, make it.  She was asked to try out for the JO team at the end of that year but upon finding out her class time would go from one hour to 14, we knew that wasn't right for our family, so we did another year of "rec" classes, just an hour a week.  This past June, everything changed.  She was asked to join the Xcel program and ten minutes into the first class I knew it was the right fit.
She didn't stand out in this group, she was perfectly at home.  Its been a wonderful experience watching her grow with this group of girls.  Her entire posture is different, she is aware of her feet and hands and she has terrific teammates who, no matter their level, cheer each other on as they work and compete.  None of these girls are on track to be Olympians.  Its funny, when I tell people that she does gymnastics, its the first thing they ask.  There are lots of families who are on that track who probably don't see the value or point to this other program but for us it is absolutely perfect.  She can learn skills, set goals and compete all while having the time to play violin, draw, do after school activities, and above all, be a kid.  
We are selling "April Madness" calendars to offset next season's competition expenses.  If you would like to purchase a calendar for $10, 100% of the sales will go directly to Sienna.  You will be able to enter your address and phone number and I will send you a pdf of the calendar.  There are 30 cash prizes ranging from $40-$350 and will be drawn on April 1st.

Please do not feel obligated, I'm just as happy to have an opportunity to share her progress with you all!


Uppercase Surface Design Guide 

So I have to say I got the most wonderful news today!  I was selected as one of 100 designers to be included in Uppercase Magazine's Surface Design Guide.  This for me is as surprising as it is exciting because I have looked through the pages of this magazine, wonderful, thick, beautifully designed pages, so many times and it always made me question my style.  That probably sounds awful, but the design and pallet and content has this particular style, and personally I LOVE THAT TYPE OF ART and yet, nothing I make works with it.

This makes me think there might be a little room for my type of traditional art in the surface pattern industry and that's an exciting thing.  I loved what Jenine says in her video, she says "do what you do and do it well."  

The funny thing about this, is how hard it is to follow that statement.  I knew what I did well from pretty early on but I spent years questioning if I should be doing something else.  I questioned it in high school, not even sure I should be pursuing art.  I questioned it in college, always wondering why I wasn't making major statements with my pieces, and I questioned it as I pursued art licensing.

Doing research online and in stores and finally at Surtex in person, sometimes made me feel like I just wouldn't fit, but at the end of the day, I did know what I did well and had to trust that I would find my place.  I guess things like this are that little bit of validation, that someone else sees you in the same company as those you admire.  Isn't it funny that we all need that sometimes?

Even though this will be distributed at Surtex in May where I will be exhibiting for year #3,  I can not wait to get my hands on this issue coming out in April!  It looks to be packed full of great industry professionals!  If you love design of all kinds, you will love this magazine!  I am never disappointed.  To get a subscription to Uppercase and to support this wonderful publication click here  you can even use code 'USPDG2014' to receive $15 off.  Than you all so much for sharing in my journey!


UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide from uppercasemag on Vimeo.



Surtex Guest Blog Post - Know Thy Neighbor

I can't tell you how excited I am to be returning for my third consecutive Surtex this May!  This year was made extra special because I was asked to write a blog post for the site.  You can read my "Know Thy Neighbor" post here.  It was a special opportunity to acknowledge all those who have helped me learn and navigate this industry.  

I truly have made so many special connections and friends by attending this show and THIS year my dear dear friend and roommate from college will be exhibiting as well!  Its been lots of fun preparing together as we get ready, tossing around ideas and motivation!  You can see her art below listed under the marketplace section, Alisse Courter - Magnolia and more is on her website.