Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I Learned At Surtex and The National Stationery Show

  I've mulled over this blog for a couple of days now, still reverberating from the sights and energy that swirled through the Javits Center - trying to get it all down to a nutshell.  It just isn't that simple. 

Having never walked this show, I was acutely aware that I should not approach the artist's booth unless invited - I kept my "Artist" badge front and center as I began walking the perimeter aisles.  Before I had even gotten to the end of the first aisle, I had been greeted with smiles and nods from several artists...I guess because after all, they were in my shoes at some time in their lives!   This is the first artist I met:

Julie Britton of Lillie and Julie
She's from Chattanooga - not far from me - and had a charming booth with wall sized posters of her work.  You can see her art at this link:   and read about how her Grandmother Lillie inspired her.  Love those power-house Grandmothers!  When I checked back in with her later, she was happy to report that she had made some promising contacts, even though this was only her first time to show at Surtex.

Then around the corner, I was drawn to the images and crisp colors in Laurie Wisbrun's booth:
Laurie Wisbrun

 She invited me to chat for a minute, and we quickly got to the fact that she is authoring a book that every Neophyte fabric designer is going to want to have:  The Complete Guide to Designing and Printing Fabric that you can preview here:  I WILL be buying that book, as soon as it hits the shelves this Fall.  Laurie confirmed that I have to crack down and learn Illustrator, and revealed that she is getting tutored in Photoshop by her Father.  Goes to show, you can NEVER stop learning and teaching yourself new tricks.

Booth after booth of Fab art, the result of many long hours of hard work.

 I walked every aisle, and met more artists, and I'm here to tell you that there is no subject that isn't covered by the Surtex artists.  You could really see the individual styles, even when they dealt with the same subject.  I was just floored by the more graphic styles shown...simply beautiful colors and combinations.

After lunch, I walked most of the National Stationery Show, and just when I was getting blurry-eyed  I happened upon the booth for We R Memory Keepers, and met the dynamo who was giving demonstrations of their Cinch Book Binder, one Stephanie Coleman.  Good heavens.  That woman is AMAZING!  No matter what was thrown at her, she had the answer - all the while binding books, demonstrating new products, zooming around the booth to grab samples, and making it all look so simple.  I walked away a half-hour later with orders for most of their products, and can hardly wait to get them!  I'm dreaming of hand-bound books with my designs, both fabric and paper!

But, back to the recap - here is my take on all of this:  There are thousands of really good surface design artists out there.  Thousands.  And with the economy the way it still is, I think that for a new artist to get picked up by any major company is a very slim chance.  Buyers are looking for proven sellers, designs that are backed by known artists who have years of experience in surface design, and the street-wise knowledge that comes from having been "out there".  I just didn't feel like the newbies were getting that much attention at this show...and although the buyers may have really wanted new blood, they are constrained by what the general public is actually plunking down money for.  I may be wrong, but that's what it felt like.

So, a long "Thinking Walk" back to the hotel for a nap, under NYC "low ceiling" skies:

And then, a lovely dinner at Ai Fiori on 5th Avenue, with their renowned Lamb Chops:

Followed by a night-time shopping trip to Lord and Taylor!  I love New York City!  Tomorrow, I'll tell you what I found while exploring the amazing shops in the Garment District.



Helen said...

Handmade books, I'm on board.

M said...

You have to take me with you next time-- I'm drooling over the chops!

Linda McMullan said...

We'll have to have a book-binding party, Helen. As soon as I settle down and learn how to use my new toys, I'll hook up with you.

And Meg, I'm telling you there are no chops on earth like that! So, we'll just have to go to NYC. Sigh.


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