Surtex 2013: Recap

May 27, 2013 § 6 Comments


Aaaand I’m back! Back from Surtex 2013 in NYC. I managed to get all my stuff to NYC, whip my booth into shape, meet with lots of promising contacts and make friends with many talented designers. Overall, a total success. No deals have been officially struck yet, but there are some exciting things in the works and now I have a host of new contacts to follow up with. Since I did meet a lot of artists who are researching exhibiting at Surtex or getting into the art licensing game I thought I would take some time to post about the pros, cons and nitty gritty of how I prepared for the show.

So first: What is SURTEX?

Surtex is one of the premier trade shows in the world for licensing and buying art for products. This means repeat patterns for textiles, illustrations for cards and stationery items, art for publishing, and basically any kind of image that can be applied to a mass-produced product. Surtex estimates that 7,000 buyers and licensees attended the show – design and product development teams from major retailers like Target, Pier 1, Staples, etc. as well as teams from major wholesalers and manufacturers. For me, the biggest pro of attending Surtex is getting quality contacts that would be hard to access otherwise.


…and then there’s the biggest con – the cost. The photo above shows the basic booth package: an 8 x 10′ booth with carpet, a counter and 3 chairs. This year the cost was $3,600. Normally, Surtex charges a $400 premium for corner booths, but my booth was relocated at the last second and as a result I got a corner booth for free (but I did get stuck in the very last row, not the best location). In addition to paying for the booth package, you have to factor in the costs of travel, food, and lodging in NYC, displays for the booth, business cards, flyers, and pre-show invitations, and shipping displays to NYC or checking a bag. In the end, the total cost for me to do Surtex and stay in NYC for a week was just under $5,700.


This is the final result of my booth! Overall, I was happy with the way it turned out. I got a lot of positive feedback on the clean layout and cohesive color statement. I got 2 x 4′ banners printed at Office Depot for $20 each, and made the smaller prints on my good friend & fellow illustrator Lindsey’s printer. I chose to invest in quality displays at eye level, rather than covering the entire wall space. After setting up on Saturday, I felt a bit self-conscious about this decision as most of the other exhibitors had 8′ tall banners. However, during the show, I realized that most attendees just look at the eye level displays anyway. An added bonus of the short banners is that I didn’t have to ship anything in advance – everything fit in my 60L backpack and a standard carry on suitcase.

This year, I worked my booth by myself, but I had great support from my neighbors Mittie Cuetara and Shelley Brant of Figgy Pudding. Next year I hope I can talk my boyfriend Scott to come with me! I did leave the booth unattended so I could go to some conference sessions, eat lunch and walk the adjacent National Stationery Show and International Contemporary Furniture Fair. By doing this, I was able to make some additional contacts in those industries who license art. I felt it was time well spent but I would have preferred to not leave the booth empty.

Now I’m focusing on following up with all of my new contacts and taking some time to review all of the feedback and information I received at the show. In a way, exhibiting at Surtex was like taking a university course with a massive final project. Putting Surtex on the calendar back in February was a great motivator over the past few months and helped me move my business forward in a cohesive way. Meeting product designers and retail planners from many different industries gave me a ton of inside information on how I can make art that works for products.

Stay tuned for my travel recap of NYC…after all, for me, no trip is purely a business trip!


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§ 6 Responses to Surtex 2013: Recap

  • mittie says:

    Hi Leah! I miss you! You were an excellent neighbor and friend. Now I am back at my desk and facing a mountain of follow up (not my best skill) not to mention all the stuff I had put off before I left for NY.
    I miss the trade show high!

  • littlearrow says:

    Hi Mittie! Yeah, I think I came down from the high of Surtex. Back to reality! Hope you got a chance to relax over the weekend 🙂

  • tammy smith says:

    Love your way of answering all the most-asked questions, Leah! It was great to finally meet you in person. I look forward to seeing you well before the next Surtex!

    • littlearrow says:

      Thanks for stopping by the blog, Tammy! It will be good to meet with you and the girls and talk over some of this stuff 🙂

  • And it seems I had just ‘stepped away’ from my booth at NSS when you stopped by. Luckily, my husband Edgar got to meet you, and in turn, I’m getting to see your work! Beautiful job…and great info about Surtex. Perhaps we can compare more notes about our two shows in the future.

    Look forward to following you!

    • littlearrow says:

      Hi Suzanne! Your booth at NSS was one of my favorites…I really liked the inspiration wall with all of your sketches and process. Very cool. I always love talkin’ trade shows, so please keep in touch! Best of luck to you and Edgar.

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