2015 Surtex & National Stationery Show Recap

Even though I decided to exhibit at the Licensing Expo instead of at Surtex this year, I was lucky enough to be able to attend Surtex 2015 which is co-located with the National Stationery Show and ICFF (furniture design show). Before attending, I worried about the costs involved and whether it would be worth it to my business. Coming from Los Angeles it's an expensive trip. I knew it would be a blast to see my design friends and also very inspiring, but wanted to make sure that it was a smart investment for me. IT WAS. I am excited to come back next year, hopefully as an exhibitor. The main reasons I think it was worthwhile to attend are, INSPIRATION, TREND SPOTTING and NETWORKING. Surtex




I try my best to be inspired in a more general than specific way. There is a fine line between being inspired by someone or something and imitating or copying. I was inspired at these shows by the creativity of my peers. It lights a fire in me to be better and more creative in my own work. Instead of being inspired to imitate, I want to be inspired by others success in being original and going down their own path. While I wish I could share more of what inspired me with you, taking pictures of booths and/or products is not allowed on the show floor without the designer's permission (understandably!). I did find this awesome blog post that has compiled some inspiring NSS booths, with permission, from instagram posts. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.  I'll also be mentioning many of the Surtex designers and artists who's work I found inspiring and include links so you can check out their websites. Many of them will post photos of their own booths so you can see them that way. The Louie Awards (for cards) and the Best New Products exhibit, were open to the public so these are snapshots of some of those inspiring designs. Click on the images to link to the designer websites.












For the record, this sympathy card by Anemone made me cry. Crazy dog lady.






Visible Artist's Hand

This one has been strong for the last few years but continues to gain momentum. There was a lot that was hand painted, hand crafted and work that was evocative of the artists spirit. August Wren's gorgeous paintings are a perfect example of this.

©August Wren 2015

3 Dimensional Elements

I noticed a lot of art and products with something extra to give it more dimension. I saw art that used collage and mixed media, stationery with new and interesting embellishments, and on booths a lot of paper cut and folded flowers like these from One Canoe Two.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.27.25 PM

Modern Takes on Maps

Vintage maps have been around in design but I saw a lot of designers doing there own modern take on maps, whether illustrated or done more graphically. This was exciting for me because I am amidst a huge map project that I can't tell you about just yet but will share once I can!

Faceted Geometrics

This trend was especially strong at ICFF in home decor. I think that means we will be seeing more of it incorporated in the art shown at Surtex next year.


Combining Old and New

Ephemera and the vintage look is always present in design, but I am noticing a trend of making it fresh by contrasting it with something very new. I saw cards with vintage etchings paired with contemporary slang and ephemera collaged with bold and graphic florals.

Black & White

There is something striking about the simplicity of an all black and white design, and these were evident throughout the shows. Often times translated through artists brushstrokes, like this one from Ashley Goldberg.

©Ashley Goldberg

Fashion Illustration

I first noticed the increasing popularity of fashion illustrators on Instagram. There also seemed to be more artists at Surtex promoting their fashion illustrations than last year, and this trend was also seen at NSS. I'm digging the fresh take that some artists are bringing to the table like this one from Monica Lee.

©Monica Lee

Pin-Up Ladies & Bathing Beauties

I saw a lot of illustrations depicting vintage, full figured ladies. Some were pin up girls and others were bathing beauties like these for Windham Fabrics by Mirdinara.



Sweet treats continue to be a popular subject matter for art. I saw Ice Cream, Popsicles, Lollipops and Donuts, which was pure torture on the floor. Here's some ice cream from Kristin Nohe!

©Kristin Nohe

All Indigo

This gorgeous trend is rampant in home decor with hand dyed textiles on furnishings and vintage ceramic tiles in blue. It was also seen throughout Surtex.

Houses & Buildings

Quirky and whimsical illustrations of houses and buildings were spotted throughout the shows.

Beyond the Butterfly: Insects

Butterflies will always be a staple in design, but I'm seeing more and more insects creeping in (pun intended). Artists who find a way to make them beautiful instead of creepy are rocking this trend.

New Metallics: Rose Gold & Copper

Every friend of mine engaged in the last year has a rose gold ring, so I should have seen it coming. While gold is still prevalent, rose gold and copper gave a fresh look to home decor at ICFF.


Dogs and cats were everywhere at Surtex and NSS and I even saw some incorporated into home decor at ICFF. Good for me because pets are my favorite thing to illustrate! Here is a dapper dachshund from one of my collections.



Attending Surtex and NSS is an amazing networking opportunity. I was able to meet face to face with many of my friends, colleagues and clients for the first time and also make exciting new connections. Being friends with other artists and designers may not seem very important for your business, but from personal experience I can tell you it has been INVALUABLE to me. I have learned more from my friends in this industry than I have from any class. They also offer a means of support and feedback in a business where many of us are quite isolated working from home. Here are some of the amazingly talented artists I am lucky enough to know!

Emma Schonenberg makes amazingly intricate patterns and I got to visit with her in her agent, Brenda Manley's booth.


On Monday evening after the show there is a free happy hour for Surtex exhibitors and attendees. It was so great getting to visit with these ladies I have become great friends with over the last two years! From left, Ohn Mar Win, Victoria Johnson, Claire Lordon, Jo Chambers, Me and that's Rachael Schafer in front.


Ohn Mar Win is a fabulous artist with a flare for food illustration. Check her out, she's amazing.


Nicole Tamarin is a new friend who I got to meet in person for the first time. I hung out with her in her booth and got to see her in action. She is so professional and knowledgeable about her business! I should also mention that all of her beautiful work is hand painted in unbelievable detail. I heard a client tell her that she is a "diamond in the rough" at Surtex.


Just look how cute the ladies from Happy Happy Collective are! I met Emily Balsley last year at Surtex and got to meet Jill Howarth and Tammie Bennett for the first time this year. I've been following them all on social media for a few years and am such a fan of each of them. They are a super creative bunch and had photo props at their booth! Don't ask me why I'm crouching for no reason in this photo.


I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my dear friend, Victoria Johnson. She is such an inspiration to me. I mean, just look at her booth - it is INCREDIBLE. She was nice enough to let me share this snapshot of it. She is represented by the fabulous Jennifer Nelson of Jennifer Nelson Artists who I also had the pleasure to meet in person for the first time.



A few other artists I was excited to meet, but didn't get a picture with were Elizabeth Olwen, Monika Forsberg, Kathy Weller, Tracy Mattocks, Hilli Kushnir and Este Macleod. Be sure to check out their amazing work.

I was also able to meet with some of my existing clients and potential new ones. Here are some samples of my work that I received from the lovely people at Design Design. These cards all have such cute embellishments from glitter to embossing and the last one even glows in the dark!









I had the pleasure of meeting with the wonderful people at Studio Oh! / Orange Circle Studio and got to see my work on display in their booth. I have a new line of cards out with them and they even put my art on the cover of their Christmas catalog! I also met Becca Cahan, who has various products with them including a new line of cards as well. Hers are the ones in the row second from the top. She's great! I've got more exciting stuff coming out with them soon which I will share once I can.

The lights are intense in the booths at NSS! Good for cards, not great for my face.












An unexpected but welcomed contact I made was a lawyer for Copyright Armor who helps protect artists' intellectual property while saving them time and money! Um, where do I sign up?? We talked about my recent copyright issues and I'm hopeful that they can help me.

In summary both shows were fantastic and I highly recommend attending or exhibiting if you are an artist who is ready. Can't wait for next year!

I hope this recap was interesting and insightful to you! Please let me know what you think, I'd love to hear your comments about the show.