Well you might be one of the many artists who has just gone through an intense time in your life. You have participated in your first trade show.
There has been a frenzy of activity going on since January/ February as you excitedly created collections, recoloured and refined, and presented your designs in endless iterations for market . You might have even travelled to the event with all the anticipation and nerves that come from being part of something huge, professional and let’s face it, it’s your dream come true. You go there, you are part of it, you come home and return to real life. It is a few weeks down the track. You might have had a sale, maybe not. You might even have a long list of contacts that you need to follow up. You might have had one of the most amazingly affirming career experiences of your life.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps you are sitting at home right now thinking, why did I just work so hard, invest heaps of money and time and not even get a sale? You might now be wondering what it was all about.
Yes it can be pretty disheartening, but I am here to help you work through the post-tradeshow blues. Let’s put a positive spin on things…
You have a portfolio of work
Let’s not forget that this madly intensive production time has produced a large collection of work. There is nothing like a deadline to make us rise to the challenge and you certainly did! Look at your beautiful prints, collections and lookbooks. You have done an amazing job for your first (or subsequent) time and you can now proudly show it in a professional way, when the world comes knocking.
If you weren’t sure of your style before, I bet you have one now!
The all time most asked question for surface designers- ‘What’s my style?’ Well my guess is that you have a pretty good flavour coming through in your work now and you might have also landed on some new techniques that you want to explore and refine. Not to mention the colours you would never have tried if you hadn’t introduced the new season palettes. Your work looks amazing in SS19 pastel shades (that you would have said blah to before!). Maybe you felt that after all the work you did, the style you were leaning into is not really your bag. Time for a change. Why not now? Artists change their focus all the time. When it flows easily, then you know you have arrived. When we are pushed to do our best work, then we can amaze ourselves with what we create.
You are the most organised you have ever been in your surface design career
Did you set up a website? Did you develop the look of your brand? Get really present with your socials by posting regularly, creating a look and feel that was comprehensive to your brand? Have you got your financials in place where there were none before arranging invoices, bank and payment portals? Well if so, then you are now organised and ready to go!
You will now be aware that there are companies who are after artwork for some applications that you have never considered before. The bedding company that wants your print for their children’s range (who knew?) the outdoor supply company who like your illustrative motifs for their upcoming range of camp equipment (didn’t see that coming) or the wallpaper manufacturer who wants to use your modern day damasks in a shop display (never thought of that!) The point is, we don’t always know where our style of work could fit amongst the wide world of possibilities in the commercial landscape. And if you didn’t get that contact number or be given the magic suggestion of what market your work would suit best, then it is time to get brave and send some emails to the companies you would like to work with. Manifesting is a thing!
An experience like this can open your world up to not only the possibilities for your artwork, but can create alliances, collaborations and finding others like you out there. Surface designing can be a lonely life. Thank goodness we have the FB groups and professional organisations that as members we can share our experiences remotely. How many times have you needed some quick technical advice, just need assurance that a repeat pattern works or need to moan about juggling real life with your surface design life. Then discuss it by finding your tribe- they are out there. Skyping each other is also wonderful! (FB: Check out Surface Pattern Design Community)
I hope this article will go a little way to helping you make sense of the process. There has been no better time in our lives where we have access to information, technologies and skills to get a surface design career off the ground. Personally, I have made a 5 year commitment to see where I can go with this. I am a realist at heart and acknowledge that there may or may not be room for my work in the marketplace. Fact. There is no use getting down about it. You can accept this and make the required changes such as adapting, up-skilling, getting mentoring or adjusting your goals, or you can go quietly into the night saying- ‘At least I gave it a crack’. If it is one thing I can observe of those artists that make a going concern out of their surface design practice, is that they work extremely hard and make their art their total business. Just ask yourself, how far are willing to take this?
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