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Surtex: On the Surface

VOL 4 Issue #23

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Penny Sikalis


By Penny Sikalis, SURTEX VP

Looking back on SURTEX 2014 just last month, I think I’m actually looking ahead to the future of the surface design and art licensing business.

In fact, all of us who ventured into the ReSource HuB at the Javits Center have seen the future, and it’s exciting, provocative, and – yes – challenging in ways that lead straight back to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century.  

That Revolution was brought about by the discovery of new materials, new sources of energy, newly invented machines, and new ways of producing goods.

The Revolution we saw at SURTEX 2014 also stems from new materials, new machines, and new ways of producing goods. Didn’t you watch in awe as HP and its partners showcased their turnkey solution for digitally printing wallcovering, from design to finishing?  

Were you intrigued by Design-A-Seat, a collaboration between SURTEX, First2Print, and Design Works International? The 15 different seats you saw around the show floor were designed and digitally printed in the US, in a dazzling variety of styles and colors on myriad materials: cotton, canvas, fleece, metal – there was even an old washing machine drum topped with embroidered poplin made from recycled water bottles!

Revolutionary? With a capital R! Which also stands for rethinking and re-envisioning – in short, for the ReSource HuB at SURTEX, designed to re-start your creative engines by showing some of the amazing new tools available today. We aimed to open new doors on inspiration and new worlds of product development for manufacturers and retailers.

That’s our responsibility, as we see it at SURTEX. To borrow a quote I found at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris:  

“By definition, contemporary art is always in motion. New artists emerge, unprecedented trends surface, and re-readings are undertaken.  It is (our) responsibility to bring these developments to the public eye through well- considered choices informed by continually redefined criteria so as to write a history of the last fifty years of art in the present tense.”

Still, I think that only the future tense will do when we talk of SURTEX 2014: Go through those open doors...Fire up your inspiration. Keep up the buzz …And you’ll be more than ready for the Revolution of 2015!



What happens when you gather hundreds of talented artists and designers under a great glass ceiling and then bring in thousands of top business executives, the manufacturers and retailers who spin the global wheels of commerce? The answer, in a word, is SURTEX. Our photographer, Dan D’Errico, recorded the action.

SURTEX scene
HP Printer


Describe a design student in three little words? Young, talented, and ambitious sums up the four winners of the 2014 SURTEX designext Student Design Competition. Now in its 28th year, the Competition has drawn hundreds of entries from top design schools around the world. This year, the four winning students came to New York to strut their stuff during the Show and meet the jury of top design industry veterans who ultimately picked the GRAND PRIZE winner. Here’s how it happened:



All work and no play? Never happen when SURTEX is in town. It was all sea air and sensational scenery Sunday night when the SURTEX Party set sail in the New York Harbor aboard the luxe yacht Cornucopia Destiny. On the itinerary: a DJ, sensational sunset, Statue of Liberty, and --- did we mention the open bars, great buffet, and terrific networking!



Three days, a dozen sessions led by some of the most successful players in the surface art and design business: No wonder the SURTEX Conference Program is known as the leading source for business information and trends that affect the art and design industry. And no wonder the sessions, which covered everything from the basics of monetizing creativity to legal issues and insider tips on growing a business, were the hottest ticket in town!
Conference Program

It was Show and Tell on a global scale when the curtain went up on the future of the art and design industry every day at the SURTEX Trend Theatre. Forecasters from a dozen world-renowned trend forecasting companies offered insights and inspiration in 30-minute bites. It was news to be used in every industry that strives to be on-trend, from home and accessories, to textiles, tabletop, fashion, and gifts. Priceless information, totally free of charge.

Trend Theatre


It should be sub-titled Getting to Know You, the popular SURTEX reception that drew a crowd of exhibitors and guests to the Javits lobby on Monday afternoon. They toasted each other, traded business cards, and celebrated a successful day at the Show, all in one very Happy Hour before racing off to a New York dinner.

Happy Hour
Happy Hour

Something new and unexpected was there to be discovered down every aisle of SURTEX 2014, both in the exhibit booths and tucked away behind the scenes. This is, after all, the place where creativity is currency, where artists and designers air their imaginations on the wall, and iPads flip to previews of products yet to come. You can relax those fingertips now: no iPad required for this photo review of the SURTEX scene as our photographer recorded it.  



  designext® Grand Prize Winner Announced  

Big Win for Tori McLean
designext Grand Prize Goes to Student at Winchester School of Art

Tori McLean
Tori McLean, a third-year student at the United Kingdom’s Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, walked away with top honors in the 28th International SURTEX Student Design Competition last month.  

She plans to invest the $1000 Grand Prize package creating a collection of her own works, Tori said. “Now that I’ve seen SURTEX, I understand how I can make a living with my art.”

Tori’s work will also be featured on the SURTEX website for a full year, and she will receive letters of recommendation from SURTEX to any prospective employers.

The designer, who is the mother of two, holds a degree in garden design but says she “had always dreamed of going to art school.” A sudden bout with cancer finally spurred her into action, Tori says. Already, she has established an active freelance career with commissions that include designing fabrics for an eco-project at the famed Chelsea Flower Show this spring. Earlier, she won a competition to design a scarf for the Historic Royal Palaces Collection, sold through the Palace Shops to support projects at four of England’s royal palaces.  

“Tori McLean did an outstanding job of demonstrating her passion and new-found skill for surface design with an exceptional entry,” said Penny Sikalis, SURTEX vice president. “We expect the prize to help launch her career and those of the other three young, talented designext winners.”

Themed Street Inspiration, the 2014 competition called for students to submit original surface designs showing how they expect street art to influence surface design in the year 2020. Submissions required a collection of six surface designs in one of four categories: WEAR, WORK, LIVE, and PLAY.

Tori’s LIVE submission explored ways to make shared living both private and interesting by 2020, when the Olympic Games take place in Tokyo. She researched Japanese kimonos in the V & A; studied graffiti art in the streets, and applied graffiti “techniques” – read, spray paint – wearing a mask and airbrushing laser-cut stencils onto fabrics and semi-transparent screens in a spray booth custom-built by her husband John.

The panel of distinguished judges who rewarded Tori’s vision represented diverse sectors within the design and licensing industry: 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.

The judges critiqued the portfolios of all four designext winners, who traveled to New York City to display their work before 6,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors. They included Jenny Boucher, a third-year student at Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto, Canada; Samantha Mast of Grand Rapids, MI, a third-year student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and Karina Rasmussen of Pleasanton, CA, a senior at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.


What a Show It Was!  --  The excitement of SURTEX 2014 overflowed the exhibit aisles of the Javits Center and spilled out in many informative – and fun --directions.  

There was the Conference Program, a veritable MBA-in-three-days, offering expert advice for design biz newbies and seasoned pros alike. 

There was the Trend Theatre, half-hour-long professional forecasters’ previews of trends for 2015-16: what’s happening – and will happen -- around the world in color, style, consumer attitudes.  And all free for the note-taking!

There was the cutting-edge ReSource HuB, demonstrating the technology that’s opening new doors on creativity, among them, HP’s astonishing digital printer, outputting miles of marvelous wallpaper…and Design A Seat’s vintage chairs, re-puposed to show off the versatility of First2Print’s digital textile printing.

There was a prize-worthy preview of what’s ahead in surface design: four young winners of the 28th SURTEX student design competition, designext, predicting the changing role and growing importance of textiles by the year 2020.

Then there was the fun side of SURTEX 2014: meeting and networking with other exhibitors, the press, and invited guests for a sunny, Sunday evening cruise on board the luxury yacht Cornucopia Destiny. More networking the next night, too, at Monday’s after-show cocktail social in the lobby of the Javits Center.

We’re still gathering official stats on the show – watch for the numbers in a coming issue of On the Surface – but our “exit interviews” already confirm high marks for SURTEX 2014!

* * * * *

Missed That Career-Building Conference Program? There’s a great second chance coming:  you can order videos of the sessions and catch up on the valuable insights offered by industry experts during the three-day Program.  

We videotaped the Track I and Track II sessions and are making them available individually for the nominal fee of $40 each. Or, purchase an entire track or both tracks for further discounts. Click here to purchase the Conference Program Videos.

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

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