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The countdown to Surtex 2018

The Source takes a closer look at next week’s art and design show in New York.

If you’re looking for a simple yet effective way to sum up the secret to the success of legendary art and design licensing show Surtex, second-time exhibitor and artist Amarilys Henderson has it in a nutshell.

“The message of the show is that possibilities lie ahead,” says Amarilys, from company Watercolor Devo, who can be found at Booth 2646 at the Jakob K. Javits Convention Centre when this year’s show opens on May 20 on West 34th Street.

“As you walk into the convention centre you are greeted by long glass walls that lead your eyes up to the ceiling of the foyer. It’s this location, the show’s proud history and the fact that it’s being held in New York – the city known for being the centre for America’s art and business advances – that are all key to Surtex’s prestige.”


Last year Amarilys (pictured above) showcased her work in the Design District, which features first time exhibitors and a host of fresh art talent, and by the second day of the show knew she would be coming back.

“We had filled our little black book of contacts thanks to a steady influx of new faces and exciting opportunities,” she reveals. “It also doesn’t hurt that New York is full of creative energy and one of my favourite places – making Surtex an easy yes for years to come.”

Amarilys is one of around 200 exhibitors from across the industry, including artists, design studios and art and licensing agencies, who will be attending Surtex this year, with about 40% of those heading to the Big Apple for the show for the first time. And with more than a quarter of these hailing from outside the US, Surtex really does deserve its global reputation.

Each year in excess of 4,500 visitors – manufacturers, retailers, licensees and buyers among them – attend the show to get their hands on some of the best and most innovative art and design around. Artwork and patterns are after all everywhere in today’s modern, visually-driven society, from bed linen to stationery, fashion accessories to wall coverings. And if you’ve seen something with a beautiful design on it, there’s a very good chance that the business deal that conceived it was dreamed up at Surtex.

Surtex show director Randi Mohr, who is also vice president of show organiser Emerald Expositions, has been working in the trade show business for 15 years and directly on this event since June 2017.


She says that Surtex, which is now in its 32nd year, having launched back in 1986, continues to evolve as a show alongside art and design styles.

“Surtex is a destination for both established and emerging artists and designers,” Randi tells A&D LSB. “This adds up to an expanded breadth of design styles on display. For example, we see watercolour continuing to be popular this year but also anticipate seeing more contemporary designs, bolder prints and patterns, colours, geometrics and very dark and edgy designs featuring fire.

“This year in particular we welcome the participation of artists and designers from all over the States as well as from around the world.

“Surtex continues to be the largest licensing forum in New York City for those seeking the latest prints, patterns and design services for their product development needs and also art and designs for purchase in our ‘Atelier’ section.

“Surtex is the only forum that brings all facers of the industry together in one place – whether you’re new to it or an established hand.”

Show features include the previously mentioned Atelier sector, first launched back in 2013, which is effectively a huge textile design studio where forward-thinking surface designers meet manufacturers and licensees.

There’s also the Design District for artists and agencies attending for the first time, the Art & Brand Licensing Forum and the Trend Theatre, which will play host to an inspiring programme of 30-minute flash talks from industry experts.


In addition, Surtex takes place alongside the National Stationery Show and the ICFF luxury furniture fair, with The Boulevard area connecting Surtex and the stationery show and providing the new home for the shared shows’ theatre, trend focused programming, the social media lounge and demonstrations.

Amarilys Henderson says the benefits for attending the show are really too numerous to mention. “I exhibit at Surtex to make connections with future clients that I otherwise would not meet. Nothing quite meets the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings and listening to clients’ needs, those insights are so invaluable. Surtex is also a great motivator to create new work to show as well.

“My work had actually attended the show before I did as I was represented by an agency for three years, but there’s nothing like hopping on an aeroplane to meet several new contacts within a few days.

“This year I’m also looking forward to meeting fellow exhibitors – illustration buddies that I’ve crossed with online. And I’m also eager to see it all come together as I have prepared for Surtex over months and I hope my corner booth will provide a thrilling visual jolt for those passing by.”


Meanwhile MHS Licensing will be showcasing the talents of two new art signings, Jen Montgomery and Jetty Home (booth 2626) for the first time.

MHS is one of America’s leading licensing and art consulting agencies and collectively the art properties it represents generates more than £85m in annual sales through licensee partners.

Jen Montgomery (pictured above) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose range includes hand-lettered sentiment, seasonal icons and celebration themes, while Jetty Home’s brand creator Emily Wood launched it back in 2014 after seeing a gap in the market for bringing a: ‘modern twist to recognised icons in the home décor world starting with art prints.’

Marty Segelbaum, president of MHS, says: “We understand that finding new talent and trends is top of mind for our licensing partners at Surtex. It’s crucial that we not only have new content from our proven art brands, but more importantly new and untapped artists to offer. We’re confident that at this year’s show these talented additions to our client portfolio will open their eyes to fresh new ideas.”

Trend Theatre

Surtex’s Trend Theatre is showcased within ‘The Boulevard’ – a special show area that connects Surtex with the National Stationery Show.

“The Theatre schedule includes industry experts, thought leaders and trend spotters,” says show director Randi Mohr. “Topics include the use of vintage and antique textiles for inspiration, products with personality and the impact millennials are having on product designs and brands.

“I’m especially looking forward to ‘It’s Now a Millennial World,’ which looks at how millennials are spurring the home textiles companies to transform and attract their business, and a session by Steve Greenberg and Chris Moore discussing digital technology in design.”

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2018 edition of Art & Design Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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