In August 2016 I debuted my trade show experience at Printsource New York through my print studio E’FLOMAE. Since then I have gotten several similar questions regarding my experience from the perspective of how to approach and make lasting contacts. In this post, I will share my thoughts and tips in attempts to quell some of that nervous energy of potential first time exhibitors.
What is Printsource? Is the staff responsive? How do you get your displays to and from the show?
Printsource is a premier textile design trade show with two major shows in January and August. The show is a two day event held in an open floor space environment at the metropolitan pavilion in New York.
Logistics wise, the staff was really responsive from leadership to admin staff down to the official shipping and suppliers. For a reasonable fee, you can ship supplies to a designated warehouse prior to the show and your items will be delivered at your booth waiting for you upon setup arrival. (I personally brought some backups with me just in case–which I definitely recommend–Murphy’s law!) I shipped items from several manufacturers and was pleasantly surprised. I had all my booth supplies shipped directly after the show as well. I was pretty amazed by the efficiency of shipping organization and breakdown process. I did have one box that was slightly damaged, but all the contents inside were good.
What’s the difference between Printsource and Surtex?
From my research of Surtex and experience at Printsource, the biggest difference between Printsource and Surtex is that Printsource buyers are mainly looking to purchase prints out right versus Surtex has a large component or division dedicated to art licensing. This factor could be either a positive or negative fact depending on your design brand. If you are looking to license the same or similar design motifs over multiple products in various categories, a show such as Surtex with a heavier licensing component may be a better fit; however, if you design heavily for direct purchase, are looking for alternate streams of income from licensing, Printsource may be a good fit. Also, from my Printsource experience, a lot of the buyer categories appear to be heavy in textiles and home decor versus paper and gift goods.
Trade Show Takeaways…Tips for Making Lasting Contacts
Get to know your professional peers!
The response from the professional art and design community at Printsource was astronomical! I truly felt welcomed and a part of the group as if I had been exhibiting for years. Everywhere I turned, I was greeted with a spirit of camaraderie, encouragement, and community.
Printsource has a robust educational component. A series of informational and trend ready topics are discussed during these forums. These can be down times during theshow. Use that time to network, meet your peers, walk the show and observe bigger established studios. There is so much to take in and learn from. Dynamic portfolio design representation is key!
Think about your buyer and end user. How will the end product be used? Is it a garment for fashion? Will it be used on large scale items such as wallpaper? Make sure your design portfolio shows a variety of scale and color ways examples. I had multiple potential buyers ask for various scale examples to better conceptually visualize my designs on various products. Don’t be afraid to say hello!
From talking to a lot of the established studios my impression was that many of their buyers during the show were current or previous customers. It may be daunting for a first time exhibitor to make new contacts during the show, but never fear it is definitely possible!
You’ve got to remember to smile, and make eye contact, and say hello. I made several new contacts doing the show by simply following this plan: Smile-Make eye contact-Say hello-Make your pitch! What’s your WOW factor? As artists and creatives, we all have one. Find the thing that makes your designs unique and share it with others. It could be your design process, inspiration, or a particular unique technique.
For me, I combine macro elements of nature inspired photography with hand drawn motifs and watercolors to result in bold colors that yield an organic twist.
Once you have initiated contact, you have a very small window of opportunity to captivate and engage your audience. This is where preparation is key.
Practice your pitch and maximize your time!
Practice your pitch! Yes, out loud! Recite to as many people as you can beforehand. It really does get easier the more you say it.
Make sure you have enough space to:
Display your art work
Easily get to contact/invoice sheets/giveaways
Have business cards and promo material readily displayed
Organize your art work
Have some systematic way of referencing your work (a number or name on the back of a design works nicely)
Know which designs are available in repeat and size of repeat.
Research, research, research, and…..Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Seek out advice and tips on blogs, Facebook groups, workshops.
For me personally, being an active member of Pattern Observer’s Textile Design Lab was a great way to expand my skills and stretch my creativity, all in a supportive community environment with a great group of fellow creatives. I also joined the Heart to Art Facebook group and purchased Khristian Howell’s tradeSHOW + TELL course, tradeshowandtell.com. I also regularly participated in Make it in Design challenges as they also have a great series of courses and activities for portfolio and trade show preparation. Art Licensing Show also has a great community component full of information and inside viewpoints from various art directors.
Being a first time exhibitor at Printsource was definitely a positive overall experience for me. Printsource gave me the opportunity to build both my professional network and resources for a more global audience on a personal face to face basis.
Exhibiting at Printsource also increased my confidence and provided a segue into more robust positioning for licensing my designs. Having built a foundation for direct sales of prints, I now feel ready to explore more licensing aspects and larger shows such as exhibiting in Surtex in 2017.
My overall advice for first time exhibitors …
Is to do your research. Walk a show if you can. There is nothing like seeing a trade show in action if you have never been to one. Once you commit to a show, give yourself enough time to prepare (6-9 months, depending on how much work you have) and have an abundance of your best representation of your work. Trade shows are an expensive investment. You want to make the best of your time and resources. Be prepared to ask questions and practice talking about your designs out loud! And finally, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed. Trade shows can be intense. Fun, exhilarating, but intense all the same. Be honest with yourself regarding your goals for attending. Build new contacts? Strengthen existing ones? Sell “X” number of prints? It’s a competitive environment and buyers tend to go to bigger established studios that they know first.
Don’t get discouraged, you have something unique to offer! Trust yourself, and remember, it’s a process, building a clientele takes time.
A bit about Esther Shavon….
Photographer, Creative Director, Designer, Founder of E’FLOMAE: Contemporary Designs for Modern Living, a creative studio and lifestyle brand. Esther’s distinct style combines bold colors and abstract patterns with a modern twist. Designs are available for Direct Purchase, Licensing, and Commissions.
Connect with Esther on Social Media through the links below.