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Surtex: On the Surface

VOL 4 Issue #23

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Penny Sikalis


By Penny Sikalis, SURTEX Vice President

Spring ahead!  That’s more than a mnemonic for adjusting clocks to Daylight Saving Time…it’s an imperative!   An imperative, you’ll remember from freshman English, is a verb of action!  A JUST-DO-IT verb.

Which is exactly where we are on the calendar leading up to SURTEX 2014.  

Would-be exhibitors and potential attendees:  It is time for you to take action if you are going to get in on The Action that lies ahead in May…if you want to be a player anywhere in this business of surface design…as an artist or agent who is serious about monetizing your talent…as a manufacturer or retailer who is serious about maxing your commercial success in the market.

Now is the hour to take action…to Spring ahead of your competition, to get into the game.  Wait any longer and you’ll be late to class.  You’ll be missing out on the insider tips and information we have been – and are still -- making available all throughout this year leading up to SURTEX 2014.  More than 270 of your exhibitor competitors are already signed-up and ready for action.  It’s not too late to catch up.  Not yet, but soon.

Moreover, your indecision could cost you, in more ways than one.   For example, there is no fee for qualified attendees who register in advance (before May 13 11:59pm EST). After that, it’s $60 for first-time qualified attendees and $25 for returning attendees.  And, both attendees and exhibitors, please note: as of now, you still have a crack at best-rate hotel reservations and important networking opportunities, like the SURTEX dinner Cruise on the Hudson, Sunday night, May 18.  It’s the best networking opportunity in town – and it comes with music, food, and sunset over the sensational New York skyline.  Hesitate much longer and you’ll miss the boat.

That goes for the Conference Program, too. We’ve pulled together a brain trust of presenters who are experts in this business of surface design, art licensing and trend strategies.  It’s a veritable MBA in three days, available only to SURTEX participants.  Hesitate much longer, and you’ll miss this boat, too.

As my Mother used to say, “The world belongs to early risers.”  Listen to my Mother: It is not too late to rise up now and stake your claim in your own best future.

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Cultivate Art Collective presents: 
Margaret Applin 
• Jami Darwin • Rizty Design • Diane Hunt Studio • Just Mary Designs 
Robo Roku • Tatyana Starikova • Stunningly Strange • Aileen Tu Design • Rachelle Panagarry

Artist, Entrepreneur, 'Scatterer of Joy'

Not many entrepreneurs can cite Ralph Waldo Emerson as their business coach.Kathy Davis

But then not many sell thousands upon thousands of greeting cards a day, sharing uplifting quotes, intimate thoughts, and artwork that’s inherently personal, warm and nourishing with millions of consumers a year.  

Mind you, greeting cards are just one part of the Kathy Davis success story. The art and design business she founded in 1990 now touches more than 50 million consumers and accounts for some $100 million in retail sales a year.  And there are major new collections about to debut this spring from such top companies as Demdaco, Madison Park Group, C.R. Gibson, Creative Converting, Prestige Arts, Creative Bath, Checks in the Mail, Westminster Fibers, Whitmor, and other leaders in the gift, stationery, baby, home décor, publishing and party markets.
Kathy Davis Pencils
But among the many lives Kathy’s heart-warming art has changed none is more dramatic than her own.

Newly divorced, a 38-year-old single mother of two, reluctant to return to teaching high school art, Kathy says she decided to follow her instincts, eschewing the “safe and sure route everyone expected me to go back to.  

“It was an odd time for me,” she recalls.  “I grew up in an era when we didn’t focus on selfies.  But I knew I had to explore – that it was time I followed my heart wherever it might lead.”

Which turned out to be the National Stationery Show in New York, where Kathy showed Christmas cards she’d actually made for her own family.  In a flash, she had gathered six different greeting card companies as clients – her first clients ever – an arrangement that quickly grew into an exclusive with the respected Recycled Greetings, eventually morphing into a relationship with American Greetings, still a “significant” partner in Kathy Davis card sales.

Now fast-forward to May, 2014.  Kathy will be back exhibiting at SURTEX, intent on making a “Splash,” as her new home-focused collection is named, across a variety of lifestyle categories, including pillows, scarves, and fashion accents.Kathy Davis Wall Art

There’s also a new book– due out from Sourcebooks in May: “Love Blooms in a Mother’s Heart: A Celebration of Motherhood.” Third in a series of bestsellers, it follows “Simple Secrets, 7 Principles to Inspire Success,” and her first, “Scatter Joy: Living, Giving, and Creating a Life You Love.”  

The “Scatter Joy” concept comes straight from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Kathy explains.

“We were brainstorming, trying to find a way to describe our brand -- the very word ‘brand’ was new to me (I’m still wrestling with the business side of art) – and nothing sounded right.  I finally said, ‘All I really want to do is scatter joy,’ as in that wonderful quote from Emerson:  

‘There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.’

”That’s always resonated with me.  Now I’m ‘scattering joy’ in the home.  I try to reach women, to tell them to express themselves, celebrate themselves.  To make their lives a work of art.

“I think one reason I have met with success is that I was a bit older when I started this business.  I’d been through some life changes…had been a teacher and then a single mother.  Since then, I’ve learned to live in the moment, to enjoy the art of the everyday.

“And I know the way I want my own life to feel.”


Ice and snow in the US…rain, rain, and more rain abroad…But there’s one bright note about the long and gloomy winter we’ve been living through: more time indoors to plan and polish presentations for SURTEX 2014.  Watch this column to catch up with exhibitors’ news and preview some of the new and exciting, original art and design that’s on its way to New York in May.

Robin Z Studio, Denver, CO:  Making its debut at SURTEX 2014, Robin Z Studio will showcase more than 20 brand-new, never before seen surface pattern design collections.
Robin Z Studio
The year-old studio focuses on hand-drawn original designs inspired by a closer look at ordinary, everyday, often overlooked objects rooted in nature and science.  “I enjoy finding beauty and natural patterns in things that may be characteristically off-putting, such as insects, or viruses.  I fill my sketch book with drawings and inspirations.   What follows is a deconstructive process on the computer, then I reassemble the parts to form patterns,” says Robin.  She holds a degree in visual merchandising and has worked in the visual merchandising field for more than a decade, during which she owned a fine art gallery and founded Zietz Design, an interior design and consulting service.  


Julia Minasian

Julia Minasian Designs, Walnut Creek, CA, AKA, the “Pillow Lady,” has launched a new collection with Manual Woodworkers and Weavers.  With more than 100 designs being currently licensed for pillows, Julia comes by her nickname honestly.  Pillows are not all she does, however:  Julia continues to license kitchen linens and her 2014 collection is to be debuted by Mü Kitchen at the Chicago International Housewares Show. Her extensive melamine collections were well received at the Canton Fair and are available for US markets. Julia is also a new designer at the Keka Collection cooperative. Her work can be sighted in shops such as TJ Maxx, Home Goods and other major conglomerates, as well as boutique shops across the US. 

Creative Connection


Creative Connection, Inc., Gibson Island, MD, will introduce Aurelia Manouvrier’s artwork at SURTEX 2014.  Knowledgeable about trends and happy to present mock-ups for a variety of products, Aurelia is part of Robert Kaufman’s design team, which is how she and Creative Connection first came to know each other.  Already, they report, she has received licenses for flags, tins and coasters/tiles.  


Lucky Day

Lucky Day Studio, Cleveland, OH:  It’s a “whole new Lucky Day,” the studio reports. “We are thrilled to announce the growth of Lucky Day and the debut of exciting new work from handpicked artists at SURTEX 2014.”  Meanwhile, the studio is scheduling appointments during the show and making its art available via on-line meetings.

Parcai Designs, Dallas, TX: The agency has added two new artists to its stable, art licensing veteran Barbara “Barb” Scott and New Orleans native Holly Sarre.  
Parcai Design
Barb Scott’s designs have been licensed worldwide for many products including greeting cards, calendars, textiles, wall art, and vintage signs, and her art has been spotted on the TV shows Bones and HGTV.  Her wide range of styles is influenced by her many interests, especially retro art and all things antique.

Accomplished, contemporary folk artist Holly Sarré hails from a long line of distinguished artists who’ve been capturing the beauty and complexity of New Orleans and southern Louisiana since the 1800s. Like the Sarrés before her, Holly’s work embraces iconic imagery, but with a decidedly contemporary style.

Tammie Bennett
Tammie Bennett Art + Design, Red Bank, NJ:  A self-taught artist, illustrator and designer known for her sense of youth and whimsy, Tammie will be debuting her brightly colored geometrics, novelty prints and florals at SURTEX  2014.   She also holds an undergraduate degree in marketing, graduated with honors from law school, and is the mother of three children. “Throwing herself head-on” into a career in art and design, Tammie reports that she created more than 400 patterns in 2013 alone, many of which will be shown for the first time at SURTEX.

Denise Albright, Charlotte, NC:   Not only is Denise a designer for a slick new mobile app, Photofy, but she assumed the role of Photofy’s Director of Licensing in August. 

Denise Albright

“Who better to work with fellow designers than one who knows how to ‘take care of their own,’ Denise asserts. is a free digital photo enhancement app that allows users to embellish photos, either their own or Photofy’s professional stock images, with designs, typography, stickers and frames, then share it through all the popular social media channels, text or email…right from the palm of one’s hand.  There are several other designers who license their work to Photofy -- "most of whom, I met at SURTEX last May" – among them, Sarah Beise, Figgy Pudding, and Gina Martin.

More news:  Crown Point Graphics is publishing the sixth edition of the Reminder Binder, available in The Christmas Tree Shops this July.  Denise reports that she’s also "this close” to closing a calendar deal for Words of Wisdom by Wilma.


Retailers, manufacturers, and other SURTEX participants: lend us your ears.  

That sound you’ve been hearing in the background is SURTEX, drumming up more and more attendees as the show draws closer.  

“We’ve mounted a vigorous multi-faced campaign to enhance attendance at this year’s show,” said Penny Sikalis, Vice President.  “The SURTEX aisles will be overflowing with terrific original art and design, and we’re going all out to let as many manufacturers, retailers and product developers know.”  The targeted, specific outreach includes:

  • A series of promotional e-blasts (click here for the most recent one);
  • On the Surface, the SURTEX newsletter, sent to all registered attendees and then archived on the SURTEX site with a sign-up link;
  • Telemarketing to make sure SURTEX news reaches the right contacts and the right type of companies (see the partial list of pre-registered attendees below).

“We’re pulling out all the stops to draw qualified attendees to the show,” Penny pointed out.  “That’s why SURTEX has developed a world-wide reputation as THE SOURCE for the best original art and design.”

Look Who’s Coming to do Business at SURTEX:  Among the attendees already signed up:
1 800 Flowers • Armstrong Word Industries • Barnes & Noble • Crayola LLC • Croscill • Dillards • Disney Consumer • Dollar Tree • Estee Lauder • Ethan Allen Home • Excell Home Fashions • Fisher Price • Fitz and Floyd • Frontgate • Garnet Hill • Georgia-Pacific • Godiva • Hallmark Cards • Harrods • Harry & David • Hearst Brand • Houzz • Hudson’s Bay Company • JC Penney Inc • Joann Stores • Juicy Couture •  Kimberly Clark • Kohl’s Department Stores • Kravet • Kurt S. Adler Inc. • Leanin Tree Inc. • Lenox • Lifetime Brands Inc. • Lillian Vernon Corp. • Lord and Taylor • Macy’s • Marshall Field’s • Martha Stewart/Living/Weddings • Mary Engelbreit Studios • Mattel/Fisher Price • Metropolitan Museum of Art • Michaels Stores Inc. • Museum of Contemporary Art • Museum of Fine Arts Boston • Museum of Modern Art • Nautica Sportswear • Neiman Marcus • Nickelodeon • Nourison Rug Corp. • One Hundred 80 Degrees • Oprah Magazine • P Kaufmann •  P/K Lifestyles • Pantone • Partylite International • Payless • • Philadelphia Museum of Art • Portmeirion USA • Pottery Barn Kids • Precious Moments Inc. • Ralph Lauren Fragrances • Random House Inc. • Revman International • Richloom Fabrics • Robert Allen • Robert Kaufman Fabrics • Room and Board • Saturday Knight Ltd. • Sesame Workshop • Simon & Schuster • Snapfish – HP • Starbucks Coffee • Target Corporation • Tarkett North America • The New York Botanical Garden • The Orvis Company • Thibaut Inc. • Time • Town & Country Magazine • Trump Organization • Uncommon Goods • Vera Bradley • Villeroy & Boch • Wal-Mart Stores • • Waverly Fabrics • West Elm • Workman • York Wallcoverings • Zrike Brands


SURTEX NAMES 2014 designext® WINNERS

The four winners of the annual SURTEX designext international student competition have been selected by a panel of top industry judges and will participate in the show, May 18-20.
“The winners truly represent the future of surface design,” said Penny Sikalis, SURTEX Vice President.

“Each year the designext participants continue to surprise us with their passion for surface design.  Winning this competition a sure way to launch a promising career in art and design,” Penny pointed out.
All four winners are students enrolled in specialized design programs at colleges across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.  They are:

  • Jenny Boucher of Toronto, a third-year student studying Material Arts & Design at Ontario College of Art & Design, Canada;
  • Samantha Mast of Grand Rapids, MI, a third-year student  in the Crafts Department with an emphasis on Textile Design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI;
  • Tori McLean of the UK, a third-year student in Fashion & Textile Design at Winchester School of Art in Winchester;
  • Karina Rasmussen of Pleasanton, CA, a senior in the Fashion/Textiles Design Department at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.

The 2014 competition theme is “Street Inspiration.” Students submitted original surface designs inspired by what they think will be "street influences" in the year 2020.  Submissions were required to include a collection of six surface designs for one of the following categories: WEAR, WORK, LIVE and PLAY.

Now in its 28th year, the popular competition drew more than 70 submissions from 14 colleges and universities worldwide. The winners were judged on creativity and development of surface design, the potential commercial appeal of their designs, and overall presentation.

Each winner will be displaying her winning entry at SURTEX in New York, receive an in-depth critique of her portfolio by the judges, and gain exposure to potential industry colleagues through networking activities at the show.  

Judges, who will select one grand prize $1000 winner, include Dorothy Cosonas, Creative Director of Knoll Textiles and Knoll Luxe; David Laubach, Director of Design, Avanti Press Inc; Bonnie Mackay, Principal of BMackay Consulting; and Susanne Martinez, VP, Design and Product Development, SFERRA Fine Linens.


WHAT’S OLD MAKES NEWS -- The internationally famed and ever-popular Pier Antique Show returns to Pier 94 March 29- 30. Recognized as New York City’s largest antique event, the show will feature more than 400 exhibitors of quality antique furniture, jewelry, decorative and fine arts.  Articles from the 18th century through the 1980s will be available,  including kitchen and home décor, paintings, silver, art glass, ceramics, and more. For the past 40 years, the Pier Antique Show has attracted interior designers, celebrities, and socialites, along with novice and serious antique collectors.Pier Antique Show

Show times are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The $20 ticket is valid for reentry both show days. Children under 16 are free when accompanied by an adult.

SURTEX On the SURFACE subscribers:  enter the code PMSURTEX to receive 50 percent off tickets at

* * * * *

DON’T MISS THE BOAT! --  Sunday night’s Cruise on the Hudson during SURTEX boards at 6:30 and sails from 7-9pm.  Get on board for a night of fun and food, served while the sun sets behind the Statue of Liberty and the lights come on all over the incredible Manhattan skyline.  Space is limited.  Click here to reserve your spot.  At $85 per person (advance rate), it’s the best entertainment bargain in town!                                                   

To submit editorial content for consideration
in On the Surface, please contact
Editor Rose Gilbert at

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