Tuesday, May 27, 2014

studio•Alex and Surtex 2014 - A Quality Trade Show

Set-up day at Surtex 2014
We have finally caught up with some of our sleep deficit now that we're back from the show - we had a good one again this year. Actually, I think it was better than last year in that we received really good feedback on my newest art direction (watercolors and florals) from high-quality companies, although the show started off a bit slow.

The traffic at the show seemed to pick up toward the end of the three days, the opposite of last year. So you never know what's going to happen until you do it! We suspect the absolutely glorious weather in New York on Sunday had something to do with it ;)

It was most interesting to me how well our booth design worked out - as you know from earlier posts, artist Ming Platt exhibited with studio•Alex this year. She did wonderful and her collections were well received; it was an excellent debut! Our banners had to be well coordinated to show an overall integrated look - and it appears that we succeeded based on the many positive comments we received. While our styles are different, they are also very well coordinated - I guess great minds think alike!

Alex and Ming - Surtex 2014

Ming and I also collaborated on the booth decor and giveaways - the "Seed from Our Garden" packets were so fun to create and worked out perfectly to go along with our Natural Wonders and Garden theme, a colorful parade of possibilities. In a world of synthetic everything, I am trying to grow an eco-friendly business and encourage a more natural and healthy life for all!

Growing an Eco-Friendly Business Seed Packets - © 2014 Alessandra Colombo
"Seeds from Our Garden" Seed Packets - © 2014 Alessandra Colombo
Sunflower Seed Packets - 2014 Alessandra Colombo

This year I will keep my post short. The article I wrote last year pretty much still stands as written. This is our second show and we tried to improve our marketing and interaction with companies before and after the show, mostly to find out more about what they do and how they license.

2014 studio•Alex Surtex Booth

We also decided on a different type of desk this year, a low one rather than the bistro-height one we used last year. I liked it better. It gave more visibility and provided more visual space around it, plus it seemed more friendly to visitors in my opinion. We also used tablets in addition to our paper tear sheets. They both worked well.

Next year we are planning to just do tablets as the available software has improved and we can track the design preferences of a client as they look over the images. I will still print tear sheets for the newest collections only - I so love the feel of paper!

A Few Brief Insights about the 2014 Show

Although Surtex happens every year towards the end of May, many manufacturers and art directors who attend the show are especially looking for seasonal work, like Christmas. They look for the traditional Santas, snowmen and Christmas colors. Thus, it's good to have a strong presence with winter collections if you are interested in that category of products. It will increase your booth traffic, too.

Hand painted art, specifically watercolors, seems to be growing in demand judging from the comments I got from interested licensees and the art I saw on the floor. The NSS and the ICCF featured hand made and hand painted work as well.

Hedgehogs seem to be trendy - I have been painting them for years and they are finally taking on. They are very European and incredibly adorable, and many years ago I happened to personally save a couple of them from a silly dog during a visit to my family in Italy, so I am more connected to them than owls (I personally don't have any in my collections...there are just too many already flying around out there in the licensing world, so to speak ;)

I also have a popular hedgehog fabric on Spoonflower called Friendly Hedgehog and more to come soon! We actually met with one of the Spoonflower co-founders at the show, it was a great chat and I will post more about this topic later on.

Booth Detail with Welcome Sign and Hedgehog

There seemed to be an increased number of start-up businesses walking the show, mostly POD, who are entering the licensing arena...which also meant a fair amount of helping them understand how licensing works.

My final tip post-show is: don't forget to listen to the upcoming Ask Paul Brent recap of the show, he does a great job each year and has many more insights to share!

~ Summary ~

The follow-ups are going to be fun this time around. I enjoyed talking to manufacturers who are looking for specific hand painted art so it will be a pleasure to continue create new collections in that direction!

To celebrate our successful show adventure I created a special pillow for studio•Alex using a toile pattern from my new Alpine Woodland collection which drew a lot of interest at the show:

© 2014 Alessandra Colombo - studio•Alex Pillow

I will post Part II of the after-Surtex review soon which will feature our awesome, fun and talented booth neighbors and friends, plus the Artist Doodle Board which we had at the show that was graced by many talented artists who stopped by to reconnect. Meantime, a big hello from myself, Ming and Paul - viva studio•Alex!

On our way to set up for the show
On our way to the Javits Center...
Our "Selfie" - Paul, Ming and Alex taking a stroll along the High Line after getting set up!

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