Three shows in one building!

    Surtex: “Selling and Licensing Original Art & Design” is the tag line for this show. For those of you who do not know me well, or who have just met me in this last year of blogging, I will tell you that Surtex holds a very special place for me. I showed here, almost continually, for twenty years. The show was still fairly new when, in 1990, I decided to do it. I had been designing for a number of years and even had a few licensing contracts at the time. But I had also been very sick that winter, was fully recovered, and wanted to reach out to the design world. It was a first attempt! The booth was not great… but what did come of it was a job with a manufacturer and importer of wovens. That was a genuinely remarkable experience: from designing, to marketing, to managing the showroom during market weeks, to Heimtex, to the factories in India. I will never forget it!

    After showing for so many years, both as designer and then licensing agent, it was time for a break this year. But, of course, going back as an observer is bittersweet. I passed customers in the aisles, saw them working with other artists in their booths, visited both old and new friends. Those of you associated with the show are familiar with Kay Degenhardt who is the media/marketing guru.  Kay and I go way back: she represented me many years ago and now we have become colleagues in the design business. She is a role model for me (!) and I was hoping I would run into her and sure enough, we had a reunion in the 200 aisle…and were soon joined by Lisa Newman, then Barbara Richardson and Krim Danzinger of AkzoNobel Paints . Barbara is presenting “Color Futures: an Informative Look at Color” as part of the Surtex conference program.

“I think of my presentation as an informative look at color,” Richardson says. “I’ll delve into the details behind the color vision we’re anticipating in upcoming years and touch on the principles that inspire designers in their selection of color, with an emphasis on the psychological reasoning associated with particular colors and their appropriate applications.

“Color is a remarkable instrument,”

    What did I see at Surtex? Honestly, a little bit of everything because, as you can imagine, all artists have their own “interpretation” and way of presenting what is timely. Everyone has a different style. That said, there were flowers galore. All kinds of flowers to be sure, but many were almost letter-pressed/botanical looking. I would say the scale was large for the most part: one gorgeous flower on a white ground. One interpretation had that flower with lots of texture; another had it almost pastel (perhaps done with water based colored pencil?) as part of a bouquet. One thing that seemed evident to me was a return to showing artwork as is: not always presenting an entire collection of formatted products but rather just presenting the artwork, thus allowing the manufacture/buyer to reformat and experiment.  Is there a consensus on this? What do you all think? All of you designers who read this: are you doing less “product formatting” and concentrating on design/artwork alone?

    But I also saw so much one and two color patterning; this is almost always computer generated. Negative/positive, silhouettes, border treatment, geometrics: all of these and more. Which then segues into the Stationery Show where this was very much in evidence.

    The very first, and to me most obvious, design element I noticed at the NSS were ALL the cards with clever sayings, a “bon mot”, contemporary illustrations, or photography with an appropriate cute phrase. All over; everywhere. Now, I am just not a big fan of this type of card…so I can’t get excited about this…But, of course, they sell. And that IS the bottom line here, right? There is truly something for everyone: whether as card purchaser or card recipient. 

    But back to the geometrics as seen as Surtex: here there are wonderful interpretations of one and two color graphics, in note cards, journal covers, diaries, note pads, giftwrap, calenders and so much more.  I do think the product offerings are remarkable: from the traditional paper products to “giftie” items such as key chains, business card holders, cubes, candles, wall stickers,  and on and on.

    Colors? A lot of green, but then that works well with the botanicals and the “flora and fauna” themes also seen. Jonathan Adler showed turquoise. Vera Bradley has wonderful florals for both their fabric products and paper line. Many were on dark grounds: black or indigo.  Marsupial had a wonderful chocolate brown booth backdrop with magentas, purples and pinks in evidence. Anna Griffin had, front on, neutral colorways on new bags; a key line geometric and then an almost jacobean floral companion. Birds: large, small, botanical, silhouetted; they are definitely an item. 

The Furniture Show (ICFF): 

    I think I have only been to this show once as I was never able to leave my booth up at Surtex in order to make the trip downstairs. Oh, what I have missed! It is wonderful and if you ever have a chance to go: do it! One of the best things about it is just the space available…. wide open aisles, no real booth setup, and then all the fabulous furniture and finishes from all over the world. This year there was lots of glitz and bling in the finishes available: one small table even had real Swarovski crystals in the faux glass as the center inlay. Or a square table with caning in the center finished with a gold spray. Or a traditional 18th Century chair spray painted with metallic silver. Lots of chrome and stainless steel; metallic surfaces for counters and walls. And then, the oversize florals from Graham & Brown Wallcoverings: beautiful flowers on long, 12 ft. high hangings.. Jonathan Adler, again, showing turquoise but also in evidence the new pear green and chocolate brown combination, with rust accents. 

    At the very end of the show, just as I was  ready to leave, I thought I recognized her…. another blogging friend in person! Yes, I met Jackie Von Tobel and her daughter Anastasia…Now, I would never have known who she was were it not for her picture on her blog. And, of course, on my blog here I show my feet! Maybe it’s time for a real head shot!