Getting Ready for Surtex (despite life's hurdles)

by Bryony Clarkson

Ask any of my fellow artists what they are doing this week, and you will pretty much get the same answer, "Getting ready for Surtex." Surtex 2017 is May 21st-23rd this year, so a mere 7 weeks away.

I have been with Finch and Foxglove for two years now, but last year I wasn't able to do the Surtex show as my daughter was very sick. So way back in Summer 2016, I decided that 2017 was going to be my year. I am lucky to be working with this great bunch of artists - they are so knowledgeable and professional, and we are planning on show based on their experiences of exhibiting last year. So I have lots of helping hands all the way through this somewhat daunting process - phew!


Those of you that have already mastered Surtex will have a good idea of what is needed to pull this show off, but for those of you that are thinking about it, you will need LOTS of design collections (including Christmas, Halloween, birthday, valentines, hand lettering....). I have heard various estimates of how many collections ( 70 is a number I have definitely heard somewhere) but when I posed this question to the Finches, their wise answer was that quality is better than quantity, so show the work you love. 

Once you have got all of your work together (notice how breezily I make that statement!), you need to design a banner for the back of the stand, a portfolio book for an easy overview of your illustrative style, and print outs of each collection in a loose leaf format for the group portfolio. Oh, and update your website, keep a consistent presence on your social media platform of choice (I Instagram most days @bryony.clarkson), design a press kit, send out promotions to your dream clients, book flights and hotels, make small giveaways to hand out at the show, design social media flyers - oh my word, the list is exciting but endless!

Here is my studio with piles of designs on paper that all needed scanning, uploading and editing before the show!


What has been amazing at keeping me on track has been a timetable of deadlines produced by our collective, which allows me to stress about only a couple of things at a time. Otherwise , all of this show prep would be far too overwhelming. We know when things are due, so we're not trying to juggle a thousand things every day. 

Some promotion postcards I made to send to dream clients before the show.

Some promotion postcards I made to send to dream clients before the show.

Things were going well, but for me the curveball landed in November last year - my daughter was seriously unwell again and was going to need a bone marrow transplant at the Children's Hospital in Seattle (home for me is Oxford, England) The sensible thing to do at this point seemed to be to  quit the show for a second year running, but after long talks with my family, we decided that I would go ahead with it. So I flew to the other side of the world with my daughter and a mobile studio in tow - boxes of paper, my favourite art kit, iPad Pro and iMac. I knew I wouldn't be home before Surtex, so I found myself making decisions like 'what am I going to wear at the show', WAAAY earlier than I would have had to otherwise do and trying to think of every last little thing to pack for a show that was still 7 months away. 

Fast forward 5 months and I am SO glad that I made the decision to keep going. It hasn't been easy juggling family and work (I do 24 hours in the hospital, followed by 24 hours at home sleeping and working, and also have two other children back in England to check in with), but I am happy that I am still making art on a regular basis and I honestly don't think I would be doing that right now without a deadline like Surtex looming. My current mantra is "Done is better than perfect" - I don't have the luxury of being able to procrastinate over every decision and that is probably beneficial in the long run. And when I do drop a ball, I have a team of finches ready to catch it and carry it for me (I LOVE our teamwork!)

I'm really excited for New York and hope that you will come by and see the Finches on stand 3026. We will be updating on how the show goes for us afterwards, so be sure to check back here to find out if I actually made it!

Bryony x