The Low Down on SURTEX (and a little Printsource info too)!

I've been asked a few questions about my experience at Surtex so I thought I'd share my answers and thoughts here, as it may come in useful for other people too. I've tried to be as honest and thorough as possible, but if I've missed anything, give me a shout.

This year, I exhibited my portfolio as part of Cultivate Art Collective, 9 super friendly, uniquely talented individuals with a wide range of styles and genres available for licensing and sale to various markets. 

What does the booth price/rental actually include?

  • 8’ high side walls and back wall (or corner booths with two walls and 2 open sides)
  • Company name sign
  • Lighting
  • Carpeting
  • One counter (low or high)
  • Three chairs (low or high depending on counter)
  • Wastebasket
  • Pre-show cleaning
  • Daily rubbish removal
  • Overnight storage of artwork
  • Operations assistance
  • And this year we each had a free seminar included with our ticket

Shelves cost extra, power to the booth (for laptop charger etc.) costs extra, reliable Wi-Fi also costs extra but free Wi-Fi available but only good for the odd personal use as it's a little temperamental and you wouldn’t want to be sitting with a client, trying to load something and have it freeze or cut off on you! You have to log back in each time it kicks you out, again not something you want to deal with when you have a busy client in front of you.

Walls are plain white as standard and you can either decorate them yourself, build certain fixtures or contact the show to use their people to fit it out to your design (but this is very costly).

How does it work when you're a part of a collective? 


It obviously depends on the individual collective, but we acted as individual artists in terms of handling any sales/requests, but worked together in generating interest in the collective and directed visitors at the booth to the artists with the most relevant work for that particular client but also shared all contacts with each other at the end of each day. This meant there was no competitiveness and we each had areas we were particularly interested in and geared towards, so we were a one stop shop covering most areas, having something for everyone.

Some other collectives were more of a Studio and had a more unified collective style that works for a more targeted audience or a specific market. Both work well in different ways, so it depends on the group you are working with and what your goals are.

Do you have any tips?

Decide on who you are as a collective, A one stop shop with something for everyone, or a collective for e.g. Kids Stationery, greetings and gift.

Decide on the look and feel of your collective, making sure it speaks to what you decided above. This will feed into your booth design and marketing materials you produce and you want to get the right people to stop at your booth and take note. Once you have them there, you can wow them with your amazing work!

Decide how you will handle interest and sales. Do you want to work as  group of solo artists under one umbrella or share all sales equally. Is one person the Admin Queen, who handles it all, taking notes, collecting business cards and so on…?

What would you say was the most helpful thing you brought with you to Surtex?

  1. 3M command strips for quick hassle free installation and removal of banners, etc. without causing any damage to the framework or blank booths (you’ll be charged if you damage anything!).
  2. A notepad and clipboard. It’s a whirlwind and though you might think there is no way you will forget speaking to that one amazing client you had your heart set on, you won’t remember everything they said once they walk away and you get talking to more and more people. Make notes on what they were looking for, what their role is, who their target customer is, when they look for certain seasonal themes, which peaces they paid attention to… anything you find out, make a note of it. If you type faster than you write, send yourself a quick text or email on your phone or iPad.

If you could change anything about the way you showed your work, what would it be?

I would opt for a square or portrait portfolio booth rather than landscape so it takes up less space (width wise) when laid flat. Space was limited with so many of us in the booth so it was a little tight. I also had A3 printed artwork sheets which were pretty handy since I could reorder them depending on who approached the booth and what they were looking for but again, I could save a little table space by taking the size of them down and they would still be as effective.

What's the difference between Surtex & Printsource?

From my experience, Printsource is slightly more apparel and textiles orientated and people are shopping to actually buy/license there and then where as Surtex has a lot more window shoppers and scouts, looking to find designers and particular styles. That’s not at all to say they were time wasters! Many seemed to be the assistant to the person with the chequebook and others were looking for work to present in meetings where the decision of what work to move forward with would be made. Surtex had a wide variety of shoppers looking for everything from repeat patterns to card designs, characters and everything in between. I would say, expect to take contact details and contracts at Surtex, and expect credit card payments at Printsourse.

That being said, many companies like to see a booth a few times at shows before they feel confident to immediately buy from them. They want to know that your business knows what they are doing. With Surtex especially, follow up is key!! Showing is just the beginning. The hard work comes after when you have to be brave and reach out to all those fantastic new contacts you’ve just made. And believe me, I know how daunting it can be!

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who said they want designers to keep sending them work and that they want you to keep them up to date with what you are up to!

Of course, everyone's thoughts and experiences of the two shows will vary from person to person and partly depend on your style, whether you show as a collective, through an agent/studio or as a solo artist, but I think it's helpful to her about such as massive (and costly) venture such as this, from as many different sources as possible in order to help you make the most of it if and when you decide to show yourself. If anyone has any other questions or insights, please feel free to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.