I recently exhibited at the Blueprint Show in San Francisco. Blueprint is a trade show for artists to license and sell their art to manufacturers to produce on their products like home decor, stationery and greeting cards. The last few years for me have been challenging (loss of parents and other personal things) and I toyed with exhibiting again but it wasn’t in the cards. I had the opportunity to exhibit this year and the timing felt right. I needed a push to make a body of work again and jump back into the industry. Nothing like having a goal and a deadline to motivate you! I made some of my favorite pieces to date and excited to see where I go from here.
In 2016 I exhibited at Surtex in New York. It has been the leading art licensing show originating in the 1980’s. I was one of hundreds of exhibitors bringing their A game in hopes to make deals and sales. I exhibited in 2013 and 2014 with a collective and decided to go it alone. Preparing for this show is a ton of work mentally and physically and a substantial financial investment. I prepped for months designing my art and the booth. I purchased a corner booth (2 walls facing the aisle) and wanted it to feel like a room that I designed and branded thoughtfully. I was really happy with how it came out and received a lot of compliments from my peers and attendees.
Disappointment and burnout:
The show wasn’t as much of a slam dunk. Lots of factors played into lack of traffic in my end of the row (partly because I was in the very back of the show unfortunately - but I wasn’t when I originally signed up, sigh). I had a huge build up before the big show where our Heart 2 Art Periscope show created a worldwide, supportive community where we conducted interviews at the show (watch here) and held a fun happy hour event. It was thrilling to meet all the viewers in person and it energized the show for me. But the anti-climatic ending was crushing. The few leads and potential deals I had didn’t go through (that happens unfortunately), follow up and submissions didn’t go any where and I didn’t see a return on my investment. Our Periscope show ended too. I took some time off from the industry after that. I needed a break. Fortunately I did get a couple of smaller deals early in 2017 and it kept hope alive for me.
Things took a turn:
The following year my elderly mom’s health took a turn and she passed in the fall. I officially took off 2018, working minimally. After much healing, support and self care I found myself making art again in late summer of 2018. I wanted to work on my art style, try new techniques and give myself a project to work towards (read about it here). I opened my online store in time for the holidays with my new art on products such as original art, home decor items and art prints. I started to feel like the fog was lifting more and more and decided it was time to get back into exhibiting this year. This time it was different - I didn’t have any expectations, wanted it to be fun, create work I love and enjoy the show. Just being there was a big deal for me and I knew it meant a fresh start. It was all that and more and I am so glad I did it.
A Fresh Start:
Exhibiting at Blueprint in their San Francisco show (they have a show in May in NYC) meant I could do a show closer to home (I could drive there) and be a part of a smaller show where I could get my feet wet again. It didn’t require a large booth design and investment as before and was in a familiar place I love. I only had 3 months to prepare. which isn’t a lot of time, but I had a lot of work from my previous show and had time to make new pieces that could make an impact. I was laughing at myself having minor moments of anxiety about not having anxiety over the show prep. This show was so much easier to prepare for than Surtex and I kept thinking I was forgetting something or that things should take more effort and time. NOPE - it was just easier and less details to handle. What a relief. With only 3 months it really was the perfect show to jump back into. I was able to feel more at ease and enjoy the art-making process.
I began to work on my new art for promotions and create my postcards and banner art. I created birds, flowers, plants and people. I didn’t even come close to creating the art I wanted and am excited to jump back into making the rest of the list this year for future submissions.
After a long, 6-hour drive I met Diane, a friend and previous coaching client of mine, at the show venue. Wow what a venue! I had a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge from my booth. The light filled room made it so pleasant and memorable. Set up went quickly (I set it up in my living room before I left to learn how to raise the banner). I am not that tall and Diane perfectly handled all the tall-person tasks. She helped me day 1 of the show too!
A BIG Realization:
Once there I had a realization that Fort Mason is where my journey in surface pattern design began. I moved to SF in the early 2000's and was seeking creative activities. I attended a talk on marketing your artwork and to my surprise signed with an art agent who was looking for art for Surtex. I had NO idea what she was talking about and proceeded to make the ugliest art and patterns ever. The internet was in its infancy and there were no resources on art licensing or surface design.
I didn't end up working with her but took all the classes I could - even taking one right there at Fort Mason on pattern design! We used graph paper and rulers and made intricate, tesselated patterns. I also attended a class at the Fabric Design School and made floral patterns using carbon paper and gouache - all pre-computer. I continued to take classes over the years and even use my new skills at my design job making patterns. I also met a consultant who encouraged me to exhibit in NY and not until 10 years later (2013) I finally did it with a collective. It floored me when I realized that this was the place it all began. It all came full circle.
I had such a great time meeting my amazing neighbors Ansada Licensing, Kenzie Frenzy, Katja Designs and Squinks Art. Thanks to Betsy Beier, Urban Daisies and Pomelo and Pomelo for all your support and fun chats. The show proved to be just what I needed to get back into it all. I met the most amazing and inspiring artists exhibitors, reconnected with previous exhibitor friends, had the pleasure of meeting some existing clients after 3 years and met a few, new potential ones. It wasn’t a super busy show but I was able to get some new contacts and work with some existing clients again. It was the perfect re-entry. Looking forward to the follow up and all the new work I will be making now on. Thanks Blueprint for such a warm welcome and the most amazing venue to be seen in.