In my last post I talked about how I was able to walk the Surtex show for free (if you haven’t read it yet, start there). So now the question is, what was it like? Was it worth it? I met up with Alyssa from Drawn to Ecology before the show started on Sunday. She had set up her booth the day before and was just putting the finishing touches on how things were laid out on her table. She showed me around her booth and gave me some basic information about her work so I could be prepared to answer some questions if she was gone. And then she set me free to explore!
My first impression of Surtex was that it was a lot smaller than I had expected. From what I’ve heard, it was smaller than usual, partially because it was moved up this year from May to February. It will be interesting to see if it will be larger again next year. It was also a very small area of the building in comparison to the other shows going on at the Javits Center (NY Now and the National Stationary Show). It didn’t take long to walk through Surtex. I was honestly scared to do anything more than a quick walk through because I had heard it was disrespectful to take up the exhibitors time if you aren’t a buyer. So I walked through several times, but didn’t stop to chat with other artists much.
I spent the majority of the first day walking through NY Now and NSS. I walked miles and miles (I think it was 9 miles!) in that building and saw so many beautiful things. I wish I had been able to talk to more people or take more pictures, but I was very conscious of not taking up people’s valuable time or looking like I was stealing their ideas. I made sure to always have my badge visible and people are really good, and not subtle, at looking to see if you are a buyer or not. The shows were full of so many beautiful products and it was really inspirational to see what people are creating. I will say that I had heard a lot of talk about trend spotting at these shows so I was hoping to find out what the next big trends would be. Instead I saw a lot of llamas and unicorns still, so no new secrets were revealed! My absolute favorite sections were kids/baby which helped confirm that I am most interested in creating work for that category.
After hours of walking I was exhausted and went back to the booth to sit with Alyssa. She only left one time to go to the bathroom, so I wasn’t as helpful as I had thought. However, when a dream company would come by and talk to her, I understood why she never wanted to leave, what if she had missed them?! Even though I wasn’t at her booth a lot of the day on Sunday, it felt a little slow with not as much traffic as I had expected. However, Monday was a completely different story. I was only there until the early afternoon on Monday, but it was so much busier! It makes sense that buyers would use work days to come to the show instead of coming on the weekend.
Overall, helping at the show was such a valuable experience for me! I was able to really get behind the scenes and see what kind of conversations artists have with potential buyers, what questions the buyers will ask and what the artist should be asking. Alyssa was so welcoming to me and said that she really liked having a booth buddy. I think it can be less intimidating on both the artist and the buyers ends when there are a couple people there to talk to and keep the conversation flowing. There was also a great camaraderie between the artists around us which made the whole experience really positive. I made friends with several of the artists and loved cheering everyone on through the ups and downs. All of the people that I met will be a great resource to me if I decide to do a show in the future.
The part of the experience that I don’t know is how everything shook out afterwards. I definitely left on a high, feeling like it was a really positive experience and would help my career if I exhibited in the future, but I don’t know how many deals actually resulted for Alyssa or the other artists. Some buyers seemed really interested and wanted to be in contact later that week, and others seemed like they were browsing and weren’t in much of a hurry.
If you get a chance to help another artist at a trade show, DO IT! I got way more out of sitting at Alyssa’s booth with her and being a part of her interactions with buyers than just walking through the shows. I hope this was helpful to anyone thinking about showing at a trade show and please let me know if you have any questions about my experience.