Surtex 2014: Year 4

Josephine Kimberling in her booth at Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling in her booth at Surtex 2014

Surtex 2014 has come to an end and can I just tell you what a whirlwind this year was? Oh my goodness!!

I thought I'd share my 4th year with you as well as sprinkle in some tips for artists who either have exhibited or are planning on exhibiting in the future. One thing I learned - there are a LOT of you that silently read my blog and I want to say thank you!! (And say hello sometimes, k??! Ha ha)

Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014

Usually the busyness goes in this order: Monday, Sunday, with Tuesday being pretty dead. This year? Monday, Tuesday, with Sunday being the slowest day of the show. The floor seemed pretty sparse and there wasn't a lot of hustling and bustling down the isles like Surtex 2011 & 2012. However, the quality of attendees and the interest level and seriousness was definitely up!

There were a lot of new exhibitors this year and I must say, the booths looked really professional. You could tell that artists did their homework and really thought about how to present their work. Even the artists walking the show handled themselves really well. I think all of the online sharing, licensing coaching and classes are really helping educate artists and elevate this industry. Such a plus!

Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014

This was my 4th year exhibiting at Surtex and I think this was seriously my best year yet. For me, 3 years was not a charm, but 4 just might be. We'll see. For all of us in this business, you know that how the show goes, doesn't always determine how successful it will be in the end. I met some great contacts with big potential opportunities, and will just need to be persistent and see what comes through. Either way, it's good relationship building and wonderful to get on their radar!

My fingers are crossed for myself and all of the other exhibitors. May each of us match up with great Licensee's and opportunities to get more art into the world and make products just that much prettier!

This year in addition to having my own booth, my art was also being showcased at my agent's booth, MHS Licensing, just down the isle. Many artists stopped by to ask why I was exhibiting since my agent was exhibiting for me, so I thought I'd share that with you.

First off, I signed up for Surtex way back in August of 2013, and I couldn't get out of exhibiting at the show unless I wanted to lose the entire cost of my booth (it's in the contract). Yikes! And I just couldn't stomach that. Also, I just decided I wanted an agent and signed with one about 2 months ago.

Josephine Kimberling as the Featured Designer at MHS Licensing's booth - Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling as the Featured Designer at MHS Licensing's booth - Surtex 2014

But I must say that having my own booth there as well as my work being shown at my agent's booth was pretty much magic. I really enjoyed showcasing my artistic style and vision completely in my booth and I think it really helped Licensee's to see it all put together. Also, having worked in product development, I really enjoy the interaction with Licensee's and learning about their business directly. I enjoy hearing what works and what doesn't. What colors sell well and what their printing limitations are, as these things help make me a better designer.

Another question I was asked was if I would exhibit again next year. To be honest, I just don't know at this point. I mostly think I'll take a year off, but I'm not making any promises. We'll see!

Josephine Kimberling's licensed products on showcase at Surtex 2014 in the MHS Licensing booth
Josephine Kimberling's licensed products on showcase at Surtex 2014 in the MHS Licensing booth

So, last year I did the show by myself, and I thought I'd just do it myself again this year, but 1 week before Surtex, I decided to reach out to a dear friend of mine to see if she would, by chance, be up for helping me out in my booth. Strangely enough, her schedule was completely clear for those days and everything worked out great for her to come along. I seriously couldn't have made it through this year without her!

TIP #1: Bring a friend to help you in your booth! Seriously. Sure, you'll need to run to the bathroom, and your neighbors can watch your booth. Sure, you can bring snacks to eat at your booth. But, it's great to have that extra hand there to take notes for you when you're engaged in a conversation with a Licensee. It's helpful to have someone there to reach out to companies hovering behind Licensee's who are currently sitting at your booth. And, sometimes I think it's just a bit easier for people to approach you, in general, when there's someone there with you that you're casually chatting with. It's like the ice is already kind of broken at that point.

Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014

Regarding booth display, in previous years I've added some sort of 3D element - year 1 was paper pinwheels made out of my patterns. Year 2 was a collage of my art and photos of my licensed products on foam core for a dimensional display. Year 3 I shipped small tables and brought lots of my licensed products to display as well as hung large ornate frames on my walls and put in white flooring. And although it was lovely, I vowed to never ship that much to the show ever again. Never ever.

This year, year 4, I decided to skip all the madness and just focus on good, solid art printed on banners with a "World of Josephine Kimberling" focus, showcasing my artistic breadth.

TIP #2: Find a great company who can reproduce your art and colors really well for your booth walls. I use UPrinting and have for the past 2 years. They're awesome and I HIGHLY recommend them!

Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014

TIP #3: It's about your art AND how you present it. Don't just think about you - think about them. Think about what types of products you think your art would work best for, then showcase those designs. Regarding your display, figure out the right match for you and what works with your artistic and graphic design style. Just be careful to not have an amazing display with not so strong art or really strong art that's laid out in a way that makes it hard to see and that isn't captivating. Be original and unique, and display your work in a way that allows your strongest assets to stand out.

Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014
Josephine Kimberling's booth at Surtex 2014

Having my friend Karin there to help allowed me to take time to say hello and visit with the artists who stopped by. And I must say that I am truly humbled by each and every one of you who stopped by and had such kind things to say. I seriously didn't even realize that I was inspiring anyone. I'm human just like you and have most likely gone through the same things you are going through now. I can't thank each of you enough for your kind words. The one that takes the cake is a girl who told me that I was one of the people who inspired her to quit her job and go out on her own. Yeah girl!!

We're all on this journey on different paths, together. Working to make the world a more beautiful place with our art.

So, that wraps up Surtex 2104! I'll be exhibiting next month at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas for my first time in booth #E-18 (again, signed up for it before I signed with an agent!), and will keep you posted on that show as well. If you're a Licensee, please stop by and say hello!