Looking by Valerie (Valry) Drake

I will be attending Surtex in New York City this spring. Surtex is an art licensing trade show. The exhibitors will be artists who license their work and artist’s agents. Surtex is held in conjunction with The National Stationery Show and my ticket to Surtex also gets me into NSS. NSS has exhibitors who are (predictably) stationery manufacturers – a large market for art licensing. There are also several seminars offered at the shows which sound extremely valuable.

If you are not familiar with the term, licensing is when artwork is used on manufactured products and the artist receives a percentage based on how many of those items sold. Think about how many things have artwork on them! Party plates, scrapbook stickers, tissue boxes, kitchen towels, school notebooks, t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, etc. I think the going rate for a license is 5% of the wholesale price.

Since this is my first time to attend Surtex I am not expecting to walk away with a licensing contract. Then again, I can always dream! The cost for an independent artist to attend Surtex is $150. As part of my preparation for the trip I am spending hours researching the individual exhibitors, going to each individual web site and seeing if the exhibitor is a possible match with my work. So far I have targeted one manufacturer and six agents.

As an attendee I am not allowed to carry my portfolio into the show, which I think is perfectly reasonable since other artists pay a lot of money to be exhibitors. I also need to be considerate of the paying customers that are talking to the exhibitors. However, I can carry “tear sheets” and I can set up appointments to discuss my work.

Question #1: What is a tear sheet?
The best I can figure out is that a tear sheet is basically a single page flyer about ONE of my “art collections” (see Question #2). It should show the components of the art collection, various combinations of those components, and some “mock-ups” (see Question #3).

Question #2: What is an art collection?
The art which is licensed is not what I would really refer to as fine art, more like illustrations. An art collection is a themed set of various components that can be combined in different ways. For example my set of dancing stick people has three stick people and various border elements. Here are some of the ways they combine.

Question #3: What are mock-ups? Mock-ups are where I go one step further on my samples and merge the art onto merchandise graphics. So I will take the round piece above and merge it onto a paper plate graphic, and the square one onto a napkin. Or I might take the round one and make a sheet of mock stickers. You get the idea.

I am planning to take four art collections with me to the show. Consequently, I am a busy artist right now.

More about my Surtex preparations next time.

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