2/25/2014 8:02 AM
By Nicole Tamarin
Nicole Tamarin Licensing Illustration
Exhibiting at SURTEX is one of the most exciting, frightening, daunting and rewarding tasks you can put yourself through. Row upon row of the most original and professional work you can find and here you are, volunteering to set up next to it all! To say it’s anything less than intimidating would be laughable. But you do it, you take the leap, all in the name of getting your art in front of the right people at hopefully the right time. You look around at the other booths, at the other artists, these people who are your competition and you find yourself with an unobstructed view of just what caliber of talent you’re up against.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Those people with all that beautiful art around you are far more than your competitors. They are your allies, advocates, coaches, cheerleaders and friends. It’s hard to understand how this is even possible in such a competitive industry until you experience it for yourself. For anyone who knows the show, I think the consensus is that most exhibitors are pretty friendly, but I was both shocked and humbled by the generosity and encouragement I was met with when I exhibited. It felt like I had crossed some imaginary line allowing me instant access to a wealth of information.
I highly encourage people to get out of their booths and introduce yourself to those around you. If you are an introvert, as I am, this very thought just might put you over the edge, but I assure you it will be worth it! Say hello to someone you may know the work of, exchange a business card or two, stop at everyone who has the first initial “P”, whatever your system, make sure you do it. SURTEX is a rare opportunity to have access to some of the most experienced and talented in the business and you are literally a few feet away!
The relationships I have built through the licensing community and SURTEX have allowed me to learn an exceedingly large amount in a very short time. There are hundreds of classes, webinars, e-books etc. that can help you get started in this industry but there are just as many individuals who are happy to help you get through the unknown. I have had individuals selflessly offer their time to talk with me about specific questions, suggest companies and art directors I should get in touch with, help explain contract wording, or provide me with specifics to ask, not to mention all the little tips and tricks those more experienced have picked up over the years. Some of these amazing exchanges occurred on the show floor but even more happened over the months and years after the show. I truly have a support network to go to when I get stuck, and in most cases, it’s simply because people remember being in that same place in their career.
Often you hear that SURTEX is about relationship building, mostly in reference to the wonderful companies and manufacturers that attend each year. I will go one step further and say it is also about the relationships you form and maintain with those who are in the same position you are. I am very grateful for those who have helped me in innumerable ways before exhibiting at my first show right through as I prepare for my third and look forward to reuniting, or meeting for the first time, this spring. See you all in May!