Monday, January 7, 2013

A Trade Show Face-Off: Surtex vs Printsource - The Sisters Gulassa

Trade show season has started! This January there are several interesting shows coming up: the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market® (Jan 9-16) and the Atlanta International Area Rug Market® featuring the National Oriental Rug Show (Jan 10-13); the Craft and Hobby Association 2013 Winter Trade Show (Jan 12-15) in LA; and Printsource (Jan 15-16) in NYC.

So the "buzz" is on and this year The Moon from My Attic will be present at the Atlanta show and will report from it live via Facebook and Twitter whenever is possible, but for sure via this blog afterwards. So join us in this exciting new adventure!

Artists Cyrille and Lise Gulassa
Meantime we invited the Sisters Gulassa to share with us their fabulous journey in the field of licensing and surface design; their upcoming show is Printsource in NYC in a couple of weeks, where they have exhibited in the past. They also exhibited at Surtex last year. Lise Gulassa will tell us about their experience with both shows and tell us what the difference is between them.

Lise says: "My sister Cyrille and I grew up in an uber-talented family of 6 kids and have had a life of traveling and living abroad. We both came from careers in creative industries before we embarked on our Sisters Gulassa venture ~ Sisters Gulassa is a Design House connecting our love of patterns, design, travel and culture, and building a patterned community of visual travelers. We call it Vivid Living!"

Lise's back ground is in fashion design and her sister Cyrille's background is in graphic design. At one point they were both recruited to work for a start up company in Bucharest, Romania. "I think without knowing it, working together on various projects there became the foundation for Sisters Gulassa!" says Lise.

They started Sisters Gulassa showing their beautiful designs at Premier Vision in Paris. Lise tells us: "I had been to the show previously in my career as a designer - while my sister attended the show to see specifically about selling our artwork. She was living in Vienna at the time and called me after the show telling me that she thought we should exhibit at the next show. That was how it all began - just like that!"

I asked them to give us a description of their art and style and the immediate answer was: "Vivid! Exuberant! We also have an esthetic of putting together unique combinations with mixes of patterns and color. We provide exciting design solutions! We both come from a background of painting and fine art before we began surface design so we bring a different approach to our work."

They have many (the list is long!) favorite artists and designers who have influenced them before they began surface design from Matisse, to Sonia Delunay, and more recently Beatriz Milhazes to name a few. Lise also says: "We are also influenced by our surroundings; Cyrille lives in Vienna in the heart of what was the Vienna Secession Art Movement, with influences from Gustav Klimt and the Wiener WerkStatte and I live in Santa Cruz with the sun and the surf. These influences have a way of showing up in our work."

© Sister Gulassa - Asian Fusion
So what kind of main/overall art theme do you use? "We select a series of themes and color concepts each season to develop our collections and portfolio around, which for us become our way of telling a visual story of what we are inspired by for that particular season. This helps to give a framework for designing and it is exciting to see how we both interpret it into our work. The theme may also dictate the style or techniques that we want to include to communicate our telling of the story." She also adds: "These themes are often about current cultural influences, travel experiences, art and design influences, they may be about what we are reading; this all goes into the mix which always get reinterpreted in new ways."

What's exciting about their creative work is an immediacy to their work. Lise comments, "the hand is evident, we do the preliminary work by hand and then translate that to the computer and sometimes develop it further from there. We explore different processes and because we are both painters, we approach design from a slightly different perspective."

As for inspiration, it comes from many different things for Lise ~ it is all encompassing: traveling and art, her garden and the outdoors, colors, textiles, especially from other countries, different cultures, music, pottery from all of the world, literature, music! "I can find inspiration anywhere! Living near the beach is tremendously inspiring. I also have many inspirational books!"

I asked her to tell us about a particular project they are currently working on that is exciting. "We are getting ready for the next Printsource show and getting all of the new artwork together and printed is always very exciting! We both have a shared love of silkscreening; we grew up with our mother working on various silkscreen projects and getting ready for a show is a lot like that; it is always a thrill to see all of the newly printed designs hot off the press!"

© Sister Gulassa - Brazil 
They also have a new collection of art work being launched in Brazil which they are very excited about. Lise shares: "We just saw the new catalog and it looks beautiful; there are a few more projects in the works which we will share the minute we can!"

Then she says: "We currently have a number of licensing agreements with a variety of companies. We license our fine art and some photography in Brazil,as well as a selection of accessories including e-covers in the USA. We license tables in Vienna, a fabric collection in Canada, and e-stationery in the USA. Most of our licensing agreements have come from exhibiting at trade shows. Some happen quickly while some may take longer. It is always interesting who you meet at trade shows and oftentimes surprising to find out what product they are looking to find a design for."

What's the difference between Printsource and Surtex? Many of our readers have asked this question at different times and we want to share your experience since you have exhibited at both shows.

Lise says: "Printsource is one of the premier international markets in the USA for Surface and Textile Design catering to a wide variety of industries looking to purchase designs outright and/or license designs from artists and design studios for any product that has a design or pattern on it. This means it could be anything from fashion-related industries: clothing for women, children and men, which might include all aspects of clothing and accessories, i.e. dresses, lingerie, swimwear, backpacks, skiwear, e-covers etc. as well as any other industry looking for textile or surface designs. This means textile mills, paper companies, and interior design companies to name a few. This show is held three times a year."

"Surtex is also an international trade fair which caters to the sale and license of design and artwork for textile fabrics, apparel and contract textiles, wall and floor coverings and paper products as well as many other product categories not listed here. Surtex is held once a year. The primary difference between Surtex and Printsource is that Surtex has more of a focus towards licensing where as Prinsource has more of a focus towards outright sales."

© Sister Gulassa
Lise continues saying: "Some companies want the look or voice of a designer's hand or esthetic to help sell their product, whereas other companies want a new seasonal design for their product and don't need the designer's endorsement to help sell their product but need fresh seasonal designs that are right for the market."

In summary, some companies are set up for licensing programs and other companies are not, which is one of the many reasons they may prefer to buy a design rather than license a design which may also determine which show they will attend as a buyer.

"From my personal experience," Lise says, "more fashion designers attend Printsource to buy for two reasons: Printsouce caters more to the fashion design industry and does not cost the buyer anything to attend the show. She then adds, "while fashion designers do attend Surtex, I'd say there is more of a focus on gift type products and paper goods at Surtex than at Printsource."

"The challenge for designers showing their work at Printsource is that the focus is more on selling designs than licensing, meaning that as a designer you have to produce a lot of new work every season to replenish your portfolio where as if your focus is about licensing you have fewer sales but potentially more licensing opportunities. All that being said you have to develop a look or style of art that is desirable for licensing. You may have a look or design esthetic that is better suited to one show or the other."

Thank you Lise, I think that clarifies for many what the difference is between the two markets. And now, based on your experience from having done many shows in different parts of the world, what tips can you share with our readers?

Lise suggests, "walking any show you are thinking about exhibiting in is critical. Every show has a very different personality and client base. I also think it is great to start out with a vision of what types of products you can imagine your designs on and develop your collections with that in mind. This helps to give you focus. I also think one of the biggest challenges we face as artists and designers who have our own companies is finding the time to make art and design! As silly as that may sound, when you are running your own show it is easy to get caught up in the myriad of everyday tasks! Good art and design takes time to make. Even when it may look effortless there may be more to it than meets the eye!"

To conclude Lise says, "we have had some ideas that we haven't had the time to focus on and develop fully which we are excited to move forward with this year. We also have a couple of exciting collaborations we are working on and we can't wait to share them with you but we will have to wait a little longer before we can ... and we would also would love to go to Brazil! We never stand still for too long; there is always something new and exciting on the horizon!"

Come "like" the Sisters Gulassa on Facebook and see what they are up to on their website and blog, and don't forget to follow them on Pinterest!


Natalie Timmons said...

Great story and I found the explanation on the differences between Printsource and Surtex enlightening. I am curious as to what portion of their income comes from those who buy their art vs those that license their art? I am assuming they are selling all rights to their work when they sell it outright at a venue like Printsource?

sisters gulassa said...

Responding to Natalie's questions- when we sell a design outright we are selling exclusive use for the design purchased. Regarding income from licensing versus selling outright- we have found that both selling and licensing gives us greater flexibility- every show is different and what happens in terms of selling versus licensing changes with each show. Thanks so much for your comments!

Unknown said...

Wonderful read! Any tips for artists who are breaking into the licensing arena for the first time? What was your first experience when you first started? Thank you so much for all the valuable insight, too!

kat mcd. said...

Such great information! I really appreciate how strong the sister's sense of branding is. They deliver their story and product in a way that is memorable and exciting. Thanks!

sisters gulassa said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments and questions! Regarding breaking into licensing, I will add it has become more crowded with new people trying to break into the market, so please know, it's a long haul story. I don't know anyone who had overnight success, and most have put in years of hard work. If you are still interested after that, I would focus on what product markets you think your designs fit well to, and make drawing prototypes of your designs in the product silhouette. Sometimes it is easier to present things fully so people can see right away how your designs would work on a product. Focus on your "industry" and put efforts into that. Our problem we found out was our designs worked on such a variety of products it was hard to juggle all those industries. I think if I started all over again, I would focus, focus focus on one industry and if after X time, that didn't seem to be going anywhere, then I would shift to the next industry. Hope that helps, good luck everyone! Happy to answer any more questions!

nicky ovitt said...

Thank you, Sisters Gulassa and Alex! A great interview and helpful answers to follow up questions. Beautiful, diverse work!

Summer said...

This article was very informative. Thank you to the Sisters Gulassa for sharing with us. Your designs are lovely and inspiring. It is wonderful to find a clear description of the difference between Printsource and Surtex here. And I appreciate your advice on walking the shows. I am considering walking Surtex this year. I've read as much as I can about it on the Surtex site and whatever I can pick up from other designers. Any additional tips for someone walking the show? Also, as a designer, am I right to understand that I have to pay a fee of $175 just to walk it? I thought I read somewhere before that it was free to people in the industry, but I could be getting my wires crossed. Thanks so much for taking the time to give back to the design community with your answers to the questions that have been asked here.

sisters gulassa said...

Hi Summer! Unfortunately we are not up to date on the costs of walking the show, but another tip while doing it is to look at the studios that appeal to you/ feel closest to your look and observe how they are doing. Busy? Slow? It would be worth it to even approach them and ask if they have any advice. We get people like that, and are always happy to share information. Also, Lise had the below information to share regarding some other important differences between the shows:
PrintSource has more of an emphasis on the SEASONAL changes in the fashion industry Spring/ Summer, Back to School, Fall/ Winter & Holiday - where as Surtex has more focus on the HOLIDAYS through out the year in the art and graphics and print designs. They both address the seasons slightly differently- you can find holiday appropriate designs at both shows- but there is more of an emphasis on holidays for gift items/ product at Surtex, e.g. Easter, Valentines days, Halloween, Christmas etc. and more of the seasonal changes reflected in the art and print designs at PrintSource as related to a wide range of fashion clothing and products. Many of the design studios and print houses cater to both- but the shows them selves reflect the seasons a bit differently.
All the best!

Summer said...

Thanks so much for your reply. I really appreciate you mentioning that you don't mind speaking with fellow designers who might be walking the show. I know it's a huge couple of days for exhibitors, and I wasn't sure of the etiquette regarding that. While I'm sure the response varies, it's nice to know there are those who welcome it. I would only consider approaching at a time when they aren't busy with others or tending to other tasks of course. Very helpful tips all around! Thank you.