Thursday, June 2, 2011

Notes from Surtex, the National Stationery Show, and the Archives

I've been back a week or two from my big trip to New York, long enough to collect some thoughts on what turned out to be an amazing visit. I traveled to NYC to attend Surtex (a licensing show) and the National Stationery Show, both held in the same hall in the Javits center. I felt like a very-excited high schooler far away from home for the first time, in large part since this was the first solo airplane ride I'd taken in five years. I had a new, cheesy novel and eight whole hours of sitting time on planes, buses, and in airports. In other words, pure heaven!

Rather than spell out every single moment of the shows, I thought I'd share a few random thoughts of what I learned and what I'd do differently next time:

Where to Stay
The first night I arrived at LaGuardia airport around midnight and hopped on a $15 bus to Manhattan. You can see from the first photo above that it was dark and cold, and I had about 10 blocks to walk to the Chelsea Star hotel from where the bus dropped me off. I tend to travel cheap-backpack style, perhaps left over from overseas trips in college, so I had booked a dorm-style room for the first night. By the time I made it up to the room, it was 2 am and the other three bunkbeds were full. I hopped up to the upper bunk as quietly as possible, tossed a sheet over the unmade bed and called it a night. Now for me, this seemed entirely reasonable for my $45. Even the European-style walking around in underwear the next morning of my bunkmates was par for the course. But when I mentioned my sleeping arrangements to other artists at Surtex, they were absolutely horrified and starting talking about bedbugs and all kinds of icky things. While I made it home bedbug-free, perhaps next time I'll spend the extra bucks for a more "normal" hotel just to assuage any fears (though yes, I know expensive hotels have critters, too). 

I Love My iphone
The night before I left my cell phone died, so I splurged on an iphone. I'm completely, totally in love. I emailed, texted, took photos, tracked my flights, used coupons, booked bus tickets, and used the map constantly to avoid getting lost. Worth every penny.
What to Bring
I didn't have a definitive plan of what to do at the shows before I got there, but it all worked out. I ended up meeting with several folks to whom I sell my images and met a ton of other artists. The photos above and below show some of the brand new cards with piddix images, made by Marian Heath publishing, that I saw for the first time at the show. I also met with some potential customers, often quite randomly (by sitting with them on a bus, for example). Especially for these meetings, next time I would bring three things: a nicer business card that has a sample of my artwork on it, an updated portfolio--either printed or on an ipad, and some type of giveaway item, such as a brochure or postcard. I was often asked "do you have a portfolio I can see?" and while I had grabbed some examples of my work at the last minute, I would do a much better job next time. Similarly, for future trips I'd love to have an emailable portfolio available to send almost immediately for follow-up.

Best New Discovery
Truly bite-sized cupcakes, cookies by the pound, and all-you-can eat veggie falafel.

Worst Idea
Not checking the weather right before coming out. I packed for typical mid-May NYC weather and was instead greeted by constant rain. I didn't bring a coat or enough warm clothes and pretty much froze the whole time.

Best Idea
While wandering around the shows I wore a necklace with piddix images (made by Matahari Jewelry) and carried one of the new piddix Target journals. It was a good conversation starter and a quick/easy way to show what I did.

Grumpiest Booth
As an artist, I'm very careful when looking at other artists' booths not to take up their time or take printed materials that could be used for their real customers. That said, I had some really lovely interactions with fellow artists such as the super-funny boldfacecards and amazing Suzanne Nicholl (plus a really wonderful time with other artists from my agency). I'm also completely in love with Ray Hooper and the great women staffing his booth (check out his amazing cards with images from the New York Botanical Garden). But one company literally told me to "step away from our booth" when they saw my artist name tag. Yes, I realize you may be weary of people copying your ideas. But really, a little polite is going to get you much further than a whole lot of grumpy.

A Visit to the Archives
After two days at Surtex and NSS (which was a perfect amount of time), I headed off to visit three different east-coast archives and gathered up more than 500 new images. By this point I was exhausted, dirty, and cold from the unseasonable weather and too much public transportation. But just look what I found!!! Visiting archives makes me really, truly happy. I guess I'm in the right line of business.
Now I'm back home, already planning the next trip in my head. I'm thinking it might be time to visit CHA again. Disneyland, here we come!


Holle said...

So glad you had a good time and are back safe and sound in your bug free bed. hee. I too love the idea of traveling alone and I love the serendipity that happens. Thanks for the perfect notes from your adventure!
P.S.I was thinking of creating Karma Cards to hand out to grumpy booths, but that, just by the nature of the thing, won't be necessary...I just feel protective of you, the un-grumpiest person ever!

Can't wait to see your new inspirations.

Fantastic Toys said...

Very interesting! I like the idea of following up with a portfolio by email. Did you see a lot of artists using the iPad as a portfolio?

piddix said...

Thanks Holle. I think you're right in that Karma kind of takes care of itself.

And Fantastic Toys, I didn't see a lot of individual artists using ipads, but it did seem that almost all of the studios/larger agencies did....I think that makes sense if you have a dozen artists you rep and each has several portfolios. Way easier to keep it all in one electronic place.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing...I definitely want to go to these shows in the future but feeling so intimidated as an artist. I think that I'll go first to see the layout then maybe display the following year. I'm really hoping for a licensing deal so this is the place to be for that! Thanks again!