Tips from a First Time Surtex Exhibitor

Artist Khristian Howell exhibited for the first time at Surtex this year. I asked her to tell me what it was like, along with tips she might have for newcomers thinking of exhibiting. Here is what she had to say:

2010 had been long marked as my year to make my big debut in the surface design world. I wanted to have a successful show at SURTEX.

This experience was like nothing I have ever had before. All the fear and anxiety that went into preparing for the show was instantly transformed into excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

What were some of your favorite things about exhibiting?
Experiencing the great sense of community. All the exhibitors surrounding me were vets. The were all so very kind, eager to share information, and excited about the future!

Also, all artists struggle with confidence at some point. It was so nice to hear wonderful comments like 'oh everything is so fresh'. One group sat to review my work and said this is all too modern for my customer, but wow such an inspiration. That was such a great complement to me. It really has given me another boost to just continue creating from my heart.

It's so funny putting your work in front of others for their comment and interpretation. One thing I got tons was 'how many artists do you have?' This always made me giggle, and my response was it's just little ole me. I knew my hand and ideas were diverse, but it all just feels like different elements of me.

Was it worth it?
Absolutely. I can't wait to do it again next year. I know there are many different opinions out there about the dwindling value of trade shows, the rising costs of doing them, and the stiff competition out there. I am offering my opinion from the perspective of a first time exhibitor. These are only my opinions, however, I hope they will provide a bit of insight for those considering doing a show for the first time or giving it a go again.


Enthusiasm goes a long long way.
I am not here to be the positive mental attitude police. Ok. Maybe just a little. Nobody wants to hang out with a grumpy artist! It is so important to really project the kind of response you want to receive.

If you are attending a show you are likely self-employed at this point. However it is important to not forget some key job skills. If you were interviewing for a full-time position, I highly doubt that you would complain about the state of the economy. You would also be unlikely to complain about the state of the industry. In fact, you would probably not even think about complaining at all - about anything!

Represent Yourself as a good "Partner."
You have to remember you are not only their representing your art, but you are also representing yourself. Buyers want to know that you are going to be someone they can work with. Remember you are there to build relationships, not just to SELL. Licensing is essentially a partnership. Ask yourself who would I choose for a business partner? Someone positive, energetic and forward thinking or the alternative?

Make the investment in you.
Everyone talks about the costs. The costs of doing the show, the cost of walking the show, blah, blah, blah. Is it a secret that you must invest in your business? I don't think it is a new concept that you have to spend a little to make much more. Spending can come in the form of money, sweat equity or time. Whatever it is, it is all an investment. If you are not willing to invest in you, why would anyone else?

Surtex is one best places to learn about licensing.
Let's put it in perspective. for a $150, and artist can walk the show. Is it really that much money in the grand scheme of things? The return of the $150 to walk the show, or a few thousand to do the show will far out weigh the cost.

Face to face interaction is important.
We can send jpgs all day long, but in the end it is actual people who will be making the decisions on whether or not to proceed with your artwork. Forming a positive relationship at a trade show just could make all the difference.

I can only speak for myself, but I am thrilled with the results of going to SURTEX. I worked with some wonderful well known clients, and established a few licensing deals prior to exhibiting, but nothing compares to the exposure of the show.

Khristian A. Howell
Surface Design and Photography

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