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Surtex: On the Surface

Official Enewsletter VOL 5 Issue #4

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By Liz Crawford, VP Emerald Expositions,
SURTEX Director

As we enter into this holiday season, I’ve become more and more aware of how many wonderful designs and patterns are out there to be seen and enjoyed at this time of year.

Overall, it seems to me that the artwork of today reflects more depth and thought -- more rich colors, more intricate textures, more sophistication -- than I ever realized before I became involved with SURTEX and the surface design industry.  

I’ve always loved the holidays, the season of giving, the time to really soak in the richness of being with people you care about.  Everyone’s super busy, of course, but even strangers are smiling at each other as they shop or stroll around town.  

Certainly, the holidays give retailers something to smile about.  We Americans spend something like $4.5 billion on Christmas cards alone.  But the cheer those cards spread is priceless.  That hasn’t changed since the very first season’s greeting cards went into the English post in 1843.

However, exciting changes are happening in the surface design and art industry, thanks to new technologies such as iPads, iPhones, digital printing and 3D printing.  To think that with the push of a button (well, almost) you can deliver a product that is viable and usable. Pretty cool technology!  

Why does that make me think back to my first Easy-Bake Oven?  Pretty cool technology for a young baby boomer, cooking with a light bulb! I can only imagine what other “100-watt” ideas may lie ahead in the New Year…. 




They may be new to SURTEX, but not to the world of art and design. The pool of talent flowing into New York next spring is deep, experienced, and out for success.  Five newcomers tell what they want and how they expect to get it.

Georgia Perry, Georgia Perry Studio, Fitzroy Victoria, Australia. 

Growing up with artist parents in outback Australia – “where the sky is very blue and the sand is very red” – Georgia says she has always been obsessed with color and pattern, loves “creative problem-solving, and making everyday things more beautiful.”

She’s spent the past three years as a commercial illustrator, developing what she says is a bold and recognizable style.  But the commercial market in Australia is a lot smaller than in the States, Georgia reports, so she’s heading to New York next May.  

What does she expect to find at SURTEX?  “I am just going in with an open heart/mind with the focus mainly being on meeting new people and experiencing something completely new!  Color and movement are very important to me, and I'm constantly experimenting with new techniques. 

“I find inspiration literally everywhere – from the grocery store to vintage children’s books; the seasons and traveling – so many different things are filtered into my work, which always keeps it fresh and new.  

“I am so excited to visit New York and to meet some of my design peers and (fingers crossed) maybe even a new client or two!” 

Ashley Rodriguez Reed, Adjunct Professor, Tyler School of Art, Temple U, Philadelphia.

She’d been interested in surface design since she can remember seeing pattern on clothing, Ashley reports, but she was in college (as a fine art major at the U of Nebraska/Omaha) before she ever “realized it was an industry.” An MFA later, plus a summer in Copenhagen learning textile design by hand-- no computers -- and Ashley’s career path was set.

“My design work is always from original prints, drawings or photography,” she explains.  “I have to make art first and then decide where it fits.  I often imagine my artwork on many different surfaces, which naturally led me to explore art licensing.” Which naturally led her to SURTEX 2015.  

What does she expect to gain in NY?  “I’m most excited to have conversations, meet fellow artists, and learn!  SURTEX will give me a different kind of exposure that I haven’t had and preparing for the show is already teaching me so much.  

“In the past, I have sold original art prints, paintings, painted furniture, and clothing.  Now, I would like to see how my artwork might translate on a large-scale to product manufacturing.  I like the idea that my art will be enjoyed in different ways.  I’m hoping that the hand quality will stand out and offer something different.”

Tatyana Starikova, LaGrange, NY.  Born in Ukraine, earning a degree in Fine Arts and Education, Tatyana brought her career to the US as an in-house artist at Amscan, a gift and party goods company, before moving to a graphic arts studio and beginning a busy freelance career. 

Why exhibit at SURTEX?  “In order to bring my art to the next level and learn more about the art licensing industry, I took Lilla Roger's and Tara Reed's classes during the last couple of years…which brought me to the decision to show at SURTEX.

“Creating art for products is especially rewarding to me, not only because it is beyond exciting to see my designs in stores, but more important, it allows me to share the way I see the world, who I am as a person, and at the same time to be a part of their lives when people buy products with my art and bring them home…

‘When I work on a new design, I imagine who might enjoy it – maybe it will be an image on somebody's favorite coffee mug, a pattern on a tablecloth at a family's gathering, or a design on a nurse's scrub that could make a child smile. Thinking about it leads me to many new ideas and gives my art purpose. I believe this is not just art for things, but art for little and big moments of our lives, for memories, expressions of our taste and feelings, and statements of who we are.”

You’ve shown at SURTEX before? “This is my second show, but the first time solo! I've learned a lot about the industry and its demands, received much positive and helpful feedback from manufacturers, and made new supportive and caring friends!”

Svetlana Titarenko, Happy Clowns Art Design Studio, Baysville, NY.  An artist-designer with 25 years’ experience in fine art and interior design, Lana graduated from the Architectural Academy in Russia with a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design and Fine Art. She brought her talents to the US in 1995.

What are your special interests?  Russian classic fine art techniques of watercolors, classic drawing, sculpture, art composition, and 3D design. I just love watercolors for the medium’s charm and ability to show form, light, color, and expression of life itself.  I also deeply admire Eco-Design, Art Nouveau (Alphonse Mucha in particular), and old Japanese engravings.  

Do you work only by hand? “I freely sketch and paint by hand, but also work on a daily basis with Sketch Up, V Ray and Photoshop. I also like very much to experiment with all kinds of paints, texture & techniques. 

All my 2D and 3D designs are registered for copyrights with the Library of Congress, USA. My intention is to license my 2D & 3D designs, but I also will entertain any other business collaborations.”    

Katie Patrick, Kitty Keller Designs, LLC, Sequin, TX.  With a BFA from the U of Texas at Austin, Katie launched her business some 27 years ago hand-painting tee shirts. 

Katie Keller Designs has since grown to include custom design t-shirts, custom sterling silver jewelry, and the custom, collegiate, and other cloisonne ornaments for which she’s most widely known.

“I’m a very recognizable image and brand in Texas, and I would like to increase my audience in a way I couldn't do if I were just a fine artist,” Katie explains. “I'd also like increased brand recognition in Texas…(in fact) I would like to increase this to a world-wide audience.

“I want to become more known as an artist. I want to sell my designs and create new designs so they can be used in many mediums all over the world.”

What makes her think she can?  “My art is fresh, alive, joyful, studied…It captures a wide range of subjects. I have been creating two-dimensional art for more than a quarter of a century and it sells all over the world. My art is hand-drawn and painted, giving it a unique texture and dimension. (It’s) also very diverse, which makes it unique and interesting.”

How did all this start?  “I like to make a mess and get paid for it. As a child I was an artist before I knew what an artist was.  Honestly, I love creating art. It is so exciting to see what you have created being used in different formats, especially on things you had never thought about.”



Jesse Gelsinger, Gelsinger Licensing Group, Says Yes...No...Maybe
(And That Goes for 3D Printing, Too)

‘Tis the season to make your numbers, or so says conventional wisdom in the retail business.  Sales hit some $3 trillion from Black Friday through the after-sales in 2013, and a rising economy foretells even bigger numbers this year.  

What does that mean to the surface design business?  What kind of designs keep credit cards hot: Traditional, Nature scenes, religious themes? Jesse Gelsinger shares his observations with On the Surface.

“There is a healthy appetite in the market for traditional Christmas themes in general, but the art has to be spot-on.  Manufacturers know they can post big numbers on perennial Christmas favorites, so long as the designs appeal to the masses.  If the colors, styling or theme fragments the customer base, success will be limited.  

“It’s a short selling season, with limited time for markdowns.  Ultimately, this means both licensee and retail buyer have less margin for error with seasonal selections.  

“Finding the right look is key, accomplished through research, collaboration with clients, hard work, repetition and many years of experience.

We also asked Jesse about new technology, such as 3D printing: “Way too slow, too expensive, and doesn’t lend itself well to surface design, YET.  

“The technology is going to improve and one day could be very important to the industry.  If the capability arrives to print a full-color, fully decorated 3D item, quickly and inexpensively, then things will become interesting.  

”Home users would be printing all sorts of things, from jewelry to Christmas ornaments, featuring licensed designs.  One of the pain points with online shopping is the wait for delivery.  

“Imagine ordering an item online and then your printer makes it right in front of you.  Again, it must be cost effective and fast, but I see the potential way down the road.”          




The talent pool deepens as industry experts line up to lead sessions at the three-day Conference Program at SURTEX 2015.

Day One: The seasoned “faculty” already includes some of the top names in the surface design business, among them Suzanne Cruise of Cruise Creative and Tara Reed, Tara Reed Designs, who will explain how to monetize one’s art; attorney Joshua Kaufman of Venable LLP, deconstructing the legal details of licensing; Marty Segalbaum of MHS Licensing and Sam Abel, Courtney Davis, on how to go about securing the right agent. 

Day Two: The conference will move into “category close-up’s” on tabletop and home décor, and paper, greeting cards and gift products, with speakers Suzy Bramlet of Mohawk Industries, Tom Mirable of Lifetime Brands, and Susan January of Leanin’ Tree.  

Day Three: Conference focus will be Trends and Beyond with Scott Power, owner of Crewest Studio, and Sarah Van Aken of the Cathy Davis Studio.  

Registration opens in January. Watch On the Surface for more details.

* * * * *

SURTEX WEBINARS – LOOK & LEARN: Get ready and set to go well-informed to SURTEX in May.  Free for the watching, five hour-long webinars promise to demystify logistics and fire you up for success at the show.  

Mark your calendar for:

January 21, 1 pm EST: 5 Tips for Bringing
Your A-Game to the Show Floor

Presenter: Tara Reed, licensed artist/ founder of

Exhibiting at SURTEX is more than standing in a booth for three days. During this webinar, learn about who you will meet, what their goals are, what kinds of questions they might ask, and more. We will also include strategies for following-up after the show. This webinar is designed to make you come to SURTEX feeling confident and ready to interact with the retailers and manufacturers who license art. Presented by Tara Reed.

February 5, 1 pm EST: Booth Design and Logistics Bootcamp
Presenters: Robin Zietz, Robin Z Studio,
Keith Colavito, SURTEX Operations Mgr. 

How do you grab an art buyer or licensee’s attention in a few seconds?  Join us for this booth design webinar to find out.  Presenters will discuss themes, colors, budget, and more to get you on the right track.  In addition, don't let the paperwork overwhelm you!  A SURTEX operations professional will be here to offer key pointers on set-up, ordering materials, break-down, and more.  

February 19, 1 pm EST:  Maximize Your SURTEX Success

Presenters: Dan Nazario, Founder of Creativo,
Trish Rivas, SURTEX Exhibitor Marketing Mgr.

You've confirmed your space at SURTEX 2015 -- now start planning for a great show! In this webinar hosted exclusively for SURTEX exhibitors, we will discuss actionable items to maximize your success at the show, including impactful tricks of the trade, from preparing your art to developing a marketing plan.  

March 12, 1 pm EST:  5 Tips for Bringing Your
A-Game to the Show Floor

Presenter: Tara Reed, Tara Reed Designs, Inc.

April 2 – 1 pm EST: Booth Design and Logistics Bootcamp 
Presenters: Robin Zietz, Robin Z. Studio, and Keith Colavito, SURTEX Operations Mgr. 

To register for SURTEX 2015 webinars, click here.


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