Yup, you heard it here first, head over heels for Surtex! So this is where I will be next May 20, 21, 22nd 2012. I decided to walk the show before I exhibited and participated in the conference program they offered. It was a great overview of information and helped to break up my walks around the floor of the show. It can be pretty overwhelming to see all that art and take it all in.
I'm sure it is not entirely necessary to take the trip, I pretty much new it was where I wanted to be, just from the research I had done but it was nice for a few other reasons.
1. I got to flush out some basic logistical issues such as travel, both into and around the city, layout of booths, set up of the center, check in procedures, and shuttle bus availability. For some these are not things to fret over, but for me, they can be an anxiety nightmare! I like to have a mini road map of just about anything that is new to me!
2. I was able to relax and attend classes for industry specific information. I saw some exhibitors in a few of the classes but I'm not sure that is easy to do when you are trying to man a booth at the same time. I personally would feel like I was supposed to be in two places at once.
There was a wealth of information covered from basics of the licensing industry to trends in art, color, and technology. There was also a great amount about business and legal practices.
3. Some artists were extremely welcoming and were happy to talk to you and share information. This was tricky one for me. I knew what the show ediquette was very conscious of the fact the artists were there to make contacts with purchasers, not artists. The aisles are much narrower that I expected and I felt as if it was hard to just walk down the center and not become involved in conversation. The artists in the booths are doing their best to engage the attendees and I didn't want take up their time or take their mailers for fear of making them miss a prospective contact. It's probably just me being shy and overly conscious but I tried to avoid engaging.
There were a few specific artists I was trying to work up the nerve to talk to because I had seen their work online. It took me several passes over the three day period to talk to them but eventually the time did seemed to present itself. Khristian A Howell, Jessica Swift, and Cindy Ann Ganaden were all gracious with their time, and there were several other artists that seemed very happy to chat for a bit. On the flip there were also those who were quite stony faced.
I think that as an artist walking the show you just need to understand there is a bit of a wall between you and the exhibitors no matter how considerate you try to be. The fact that you may both make art is not enough of a connection. They have no idea why you are approaching them, do you want to look at their work, make an introduction, ask too many questions, research them as competition? I saw a strong sense of community between those who were exhibiting. I think it is a bit of a bonding experience and there seemed to only be encouraging vibes not competitive ones.
4. I got to make some amazing new contacts. Surtex is a destination for many people in Licensing, both new to the field as well as those experienced. I was able to meet up with a few people I had made contact with through Linked In. It was nice to hear in person another's thoughts on the show and the field. I do genuinely feel artists love to share information with eachother and do not feel like they are giving an edge to their competition since most people have a style which is uniquely theirs. One of these meetings led me to a group of Licensing Artists in my area. I have been searching online for something like that for months and didn't have that kind of success.
If you do have an opportunity to walk the show I think it is well worth it. I liked being there all three days since it gave me time to explore all the shows, (Surtex, ICFF and The Stationary Show), and also do the classes. If you think you will only go for one day, I think it is enough time to get a sense show, but I would go on the last day. Most of the Artists had already had most of their appointments and the stress of the show was behind them, so by the afternoon of the final day most were happy to say hello. So that's it for now, I am officially on MY ROAD TO SURTEX, look for me next May 2012. Should be an intense year but from what I can see, worth every bit of work.