Ampersand Design Studio

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Category Archives: print + pattern

our big Surtex 2014 recap! 06.23.2014

Our third year of showing at Surtex is a wrap!! We can hardly believe it’s been three years for Ampersand Design Studio. In some ways it feels like it was our first year and in other ways, it’s as if we have been doing this trade show forever! From the time we first decided to show at Surtex in 2012 (full recap of 2012 here), we agreed that we’d do the show for three years to give it a real shot and see if licensing our art was going to be a viable option for our company! So, in a way, 2014 was a big year for us because we just completed this goal!

Of course, we were thrown for some loops. Getting out of town this year proved to be more difficult than planned. On our way out the door for the airport Friday morning, we got a phone call from our airline saying our flight was cancelled. You read that correctly, not delayed. Just plain cancelled….and that we could wait for another phone call to let us know when it would be rescheduled for. We did eventually get that phone call and our new flight was now set for 5pm…..with a layover…..making us miss the entire first day of set-up for the show. Complete buzz kill for us. We were so ready to just get to NYC by that point, it was really disappointing. But….we were SO thrilled when we actually got on a plane and felt like we were on our way….those are smiles of pure relief….

Then….we get to Minneapolis and our flight is delayed again!! ahhh. Then…….we land in NYC (finally) and we had planned on catching a cab, but due to flash flooding, everything was backed up. We waited in the taxi line for over an hour. It seriously felt like we would never get to our hotel. With Carrie still nursing, and therefore pumping for this entire trip, and Morgan being 7 months pregnant, needless to say, we were just beyond ready to be in our hotel room. Alas, we made it and got just a couple of hours of sleep before heading to the Javits Center Saturday morning for a day of setting up our booth.

For those of you unfamiliar with Surtex, here is our empty booth with all the boxes that we have shipped across the country and then lugged into the convention center.  After several hours, mostly of Carrie doing the heavy-lifting this year (thank you, Carrie for taking care of your pregnant business partner!),  we got the banners hung, the signage up, the portfolio books displayed and the samples of our work out on shelves!!  Whew! Many months are spent prepping for the trip, so when the booth is complete, it always feels like we can finally breathe again.

And TA_DA….the booth is complete! Much friendlier and MUCH more colorful than before :)

SIDE NOTE: We wanted to include a few resources for anyone else doing considering doing the show now that we have done our research and learned from our mistakes! This year we got our banners printed at Uprinting (by recommendation from our dear friend, and fellow Surtexee, Josephine Kimberling). In the past years, we’ve had major color issues with our banners and had to reprint them, sometimes more than once. So we were thrilled with the quality and color from Uprinting. We highly recommend them! We make postcards to send out to hopefully give a little teaser and a reason to stop by our booth. We have gotten those printed at Vistaprint all three years and have been completely happy with them (and they’re fast for those of us that sometimes run a bit behind). And lastly, we use UPS to ship our precious cargo halfway across the country to our NYC hotel and (knock on wood) everything has always arrived on time and in great condition!

Surtex is three days long, Sunday through Tuesday, from 9-6pm. Here we are feeling all alive and ready to take on the world the morning of the first day! We tried out a new aisle this year, the newly made #200 aisle and we were booth #235. We’re not quite sure how we feel about that aisle yet. It was the closest one to the National Stationery Show (NSS), but it also seemed as if there was less traffic in that row over all. Some parts of the show were overwhelmingly busy for us….and then other parts of the day, not so much.

So, everyone always wants to know, “How was the show?”. And the fact is, with Surtex, we never really know much immediately following. We talked to some amazing people and companies that we would LOVE to partner with. Made some really great contacts. We have high hopes for lots of things, but all the details of which pieces of artwork, existing or new, and timeline, and details of each individual contract are all worked out in the weeks and months following the show. So far in our first two years, Surtex has been worth it for us and we feel very lucky for that!

As far as this year, we will let you know a year from now! ha!

After the show each day, we try to get out and see and do as much as possible in NYC! We celebrated our booth setup with some street tacos and fresh juices at Tacombi at Fonda Nolita (and yes, there is a VW bus in the middle of the restaurant-what’s not to love about that?), We were lucky enough to get invited to the opening of the Alexander Girard pop-up exhibit by a friend which was just incredible, we did some last minute work at the Ace Hotel bar and of course, hit up the photo booth (see below), and after the last day of the show, we had a half day to do some exploring and even squeezed in a bit of shopping (see the “hey” entrance to the Kate Spade Saturday Soho store above). Each and every time we got to New York, we dream up ways of being able to live there. It’s just one of our favorite places on earth. Although living there doesn’t seem possible at this point, we’re pretty glad we get to go once a year, at least!

Coming off our third year, we feel like we have a bit of Surtex experience under our belt. So, we thought we’d share just a few tips for those of you that are considering going this route for your business:

1. Do your research. Walk the show first. Study what Surtex booths look like. Read other artists blogs about their journey to Surtex. Join a community of people who show at Surtex. Look into licensing coaches or websites where you can watch tutorials or receive emails. In general, the more information, the better!

2. Make a back-up calendar. There are SO many things to do for the show besides creating lots of great artwork to license! Start with the date of the show and go backwards setting mini-deadlines for yourself for each week. We have been using a 14 week calendar, but it would be ideal to start sooner than that. When marking deadlines for yourself, keep in mind things like making an announcement on social media, designing and mailing out postcards and/or designing and producing giveaways for your booth, updating your website with current info, designing your actual booth walls and anything else that might be on display, researching and printing all of the booth materials including banners and/or samples of your work, making travel plans including a place to stay and plane tickets if necessary, checking dates to order your furniture for the booth, and of course, setting a date to have your booth supplies shipped (if necessary). There are a LOT of things to keep track of, so lots of deadlines along the way are so helpful.

3. Be yourself. please, please, just do you. There are hundreds and hundreds of other artists showing their work. There is no need for you to look like anyone else. Sometimes, we feel like its best to be naive in this way. Don’t look at what other artists are creating. It’s wonderful to be on top of trends and understanding why types of pieces companies are looking for. But make your artwork your own!! That’s the best way to stand out.

4. Don’t overlook anyone. One thing we have learned is that just because someone stops by your booth and you don’t recognize the company name, that does not mean it is not worth your time. In addition, what is a good fit for your work, might not be a good fit for someone else. So no need to compare what companies your friends have talked to. Some of our best partnerships have come from companies that we originally had never heard of!

We wish all artists the best of luck if you decide to go the Surtex route!! We hope to see each and everyone one get matched up with the perfect companies!

Lastly, the other thing we get asked the most is, “Are you going back to Surtex next year?”. And for that, we don’t necessarily know. It is a huge investment for a tiny company like ours. Three years was our goal and we just completed that. We have a lot of really exciting things happening for Ampersand right now and  we have set some big goals and new directions for our company in the next couple of years!!!

As for the future…..we will all just have to wait and see.

Just in case you are so inclined,  read our full Surtex 2012 recap here, and read our Surtex 2013 recap here.

  1. Olivia

    Oh my goodness, the trip to NYC sounds agonizing!! So glad you finally made it. I didn’t realize Morgan was pregnant – congrats!!

    June 24, 2014 5:22 pm
  2. ampersand

    Oh thank you so much, Olivia :)

    June 24, 2014 5:42 pm
  3. Rachel

    It was great meeting you ladies. You are as adorable and sweet in person as you are on your blog. Hope the show was a huge hit for you.

    June 26, 2014 8:09 pm
  4. Rosie Martinez-Dekker

    Great post, thanks for sharing and for the tips.
    Loved you booth and wish you lots of luck !
    R-

    June 26, 2014 9:34 pm
  5. Joy Laforme

    It was so great to meet you both at Surtex! What an exhausting bit to get there, but I hope it ends up being well worth it!

    June 30, 2014 7:21 pm

Marimekko Celebrates 50 Years of Unikko 05.30.2014

Have you heard? Marimekko is celebrating 50 years of its most iconic print Unikko (it means “Poppy” in Finnish). Since 1964 it has blossomed in more than eighty color palettes and has been spotted all over the world. Talk about staying power!

Here are some of our favorite products with this beautiful poppy print:

1. Pillow  //  2. Scarf  //  3. Coffee Mug  //  4. Bowl  //  5. Accessory Bag  //  6. Coin Purse  //  7. Beach Towel 

Instagram: Summer fashion show at the Esplanade park in Helsinki.

Instagram: Summer fashion show at the Esplanade park in Helsinki.

Instagram: Unikko exhibition at the embassy of Finland in Washington D.C.

Instagram: Celebrating 50 years.

8 days a week: thank you to jordan clark 03.21.2014

We are so happy to introduce you to Jordan Clark, the owner of ScatterBrained collars. Jordan makes the most amazing and fun pet accessories that we’ve ever seen. She does bow ties collars like the one below, fabric flower collars, leashes and so much more! You have to check them out here! Jordan made the adorable bow tie along with a (human) headband :) and two pillows! Biggest thanks to Jordan for volunteering your time and sharing your darling collar set with us and for being so versatile in your sewing. She can do it all! Plus, her company was born from her love of animals and she works with her local shelters and rescues in her home state of Mississippi! What’s not to love about that?! Thanks, Jordan!

  1. Dana

    Hi! I love this fabric line! I bought a bunch to make my daughter a birthday pillow with the calendar panel but there are no zeros on the number print! Have I lost my mind or are they really none? I’ll happily find other uses for the prints :) I see a big full skirt with the month names print.

    May 16, 2014 7:14 pm

8 days a week: thanks for caroline ritter 03.20.2014

We found Caroline Ritter’s site, ‘Lina Bean, awhile back and fell in love with her beautiful designs for babies and kids. So, we were hopeful that she would lend her talents to our 8 Days a week project and were thrilled when she agreed. She created the stylish and functional pieces below in our fabrics and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Caroline sells crayon rolls and carry-alls like these in her shop along with many other adorable things like capes, ties and pillows. The craftsmanship on Caroline’s products is flawless and the crayon roll, in particular was a huge hit with Morgan’s son, Shaw. We love that it can roll up and be tucked in a purse or diaper bag to be used at restaurants or anywhere a busy toddler needs to be occupied. Both of these designs are Caroline’s own creations. We’re so impressed!

Thank you, Caroline, for sharing your talent with us! We love what you made with our fabrics!

8 Days a Week: thank you to Stephanie Patton 03.07.2014

When Stephanie approached us about sewing projects and said she had been working on baby and wedding quilts recently, we knew she would be a great fit! We had been hoping to have a baby quilt to go in our nursery photo shoot and we couldn’t have dreamed up one more charming than the chevron number Stephanie put together. We showed her an idea we were considering, and she made it look so much better than we’d imagined. We just love it! We only wish we had Stephanie’s sewing talent. When we asked if she had used a pattern, she just said that she “sketched it on the back of a scrap of paper and figured out dimensions.” She makes it sound so easy, but we know that it is definitely NOT. Definitely would not have been for us, so we can’t thank you enough, Stephanie! Can you please start selling these? So we can buy one (or many!)?

We feel like the quilt makes the whole nursery come to life. Wouldn’t this be a sweet gift for a new baby?