Surtex 2014, Part 1- Booth Set Up

It’s hard to believe that 7 months of obsession is over. I was amazed at how quickly our trip flew by! There’s about a billion thoughts running through my head, so if these posts seem scattered, I apologize! I took the weekend to not think about Surtex/follow up etc. and just let my brain empty out.

No better place to start than the beginning!Image

We flew out of the Sarasota airport on Friday May 16th. I sure do love our home! We have the best airport ever…. I hope they never close it. Probably 10 gates? I’m a terrible traveler, so a quiet airport is welcomed.

As for luggage…. I was terribly intimated by the system GES (GES is the company that furnishes/maintains Surtex) has in place to ship your booth goods ahead of time. They store them in a warehouse then deliver it to your booth at the show. It required a multitude of labels/forms and fees. So at some point I decided we were going to haul everything in suitcases. Image

Some how it all fit in one normal sized suitcase and weighed in at 45 lbs. Well.. minus two binders that went in my carry-on (a soft vera bradley duffle) and the banners. I’m glad I put the important binders that had all my work in them in the carry-on…. because when we flew home, I put them in the suitcase and they got all beat up!

I’d have to say I’m glad I booked with Jet Blue… we each got to check a bag! One bag for clothes and one for booth stuff. We also checked the banners and that was 40.00. Ben carried the laptop in his backpack and the iPad (my second portfolio) went in my purse. I purposely booked a direct flight so I’d ensure our banners made it to NYC.

Banners…. one of the most important parts and also the most anxiety inducing.Image

We had 9 banners that went on the booth walls plus three for the table. We packed them in two 40″ x 4″ shipping tubes (we cut them down from 48″) and taped them together like there was no tomorrow. I was convinced they were going to bust open because of all the weight and our banners would be rolling down the luggage carousel. We used reinforced tape and packing tape.. then more tape! In total they weighed 25 lbs… but lugging them around Manhattan it seemed like they were a metric ton! Also we got a lot of looks at the airport with these big cylindrical tubes. Just as an FYI, they didn’t appear in the luggage carousel, I had to go hunt them down. Also the TSA opened them to inspect and did a terrible job re-tapping them. They arrived in one piece so all was good.

It was rainy in New York when we arrived at JFK. We opted for a cab (vs. Super Shuttle) because we had so much awkward stuff. We arrived at the hotel, threw everything in the room, then headed out to collect our give away cookies and Flor tiles. I’ll write up another post about the fun, unrelated show stuff we did! We picked up the cookies, which were heavy.Image

Something we didn’t take into account… and then headed out to get our FLOR tiles from an acquaintance storing them. Ben carried the cookies in a large bag on his shoulder and he still has bruises. We ordered 30 tiles for our booth floor. They didn’t come evenly boxed so one weighed more than the other. Combined, the boxes weighed 85 lbs. Plus the cookies. Plus it was raining and cabs did not like our bulky load. Eventually one stopped and we made it back to the hotel completely wiped! Whew! We did have to assemble the cookie/postcard give aways…


We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, Times Square. Mostly because it had a shuttle bus to the Javits center on show days and it had a mini fridge. It had a large room and was close to my favorite NY eats.


I’d say the jury is still out on where we stayed. We liked the free shuttle EXCEPT the pick-up point was a few blocks away, so we had to walk there each morning and after the show. Also, the pick-up/drop off at the hotel could only be reached by going through Times Square. It made for some very long bus rides home because of traffic. We may consider a different hotel next year or an airbnb place.

Now for the fun part… SET UP DAY!

We took a cab to the Javits because of all of our stuff…. the FLOR tiles… the cookies… the suitcase… the carry-on… the banners… I ended up leaving Ben on the curb while I checked us in and made a quick run to our booth to drop off some stuff. Together we hauled everything else in.

Empty booth! Here you can see the banners in their tubes.


We put down the FLOR first. Super easy. We didn’t, however, consider that the booth would not be at a right-angle. We cut the tiles using a box cutter and they cut perfectly with no fraying.


We hung banners next. No photos because I was busy! We used 4 large command strips at the top and a slew of artist tape with a piece of double-stick tape on top along the rest of the edges. We also added a piece of artist tape/mounting tape in the middle top to help hold them up. Nothing fell so it was a win. Totally bought way to many command strips and clips. Now we know!


Sign is up! Two 11 X 17 sheets. I guess this is new this year. Instead of a hanging system, it’s a plexi sleeve the paper fits into. Fine with me, no holes to punch! They did not tell exhibitors it was like this. I know one person who planned ahead and mounted her sign to a piece of foam core, came to set up and it was different! This is why you bring digital copies of all your work and booth assets in case of last minute printing.

And all done! It took us about 5 hours to put it all together! This was on the first day of the show, nerves abundant.


Back of our booth table. I had a curtain up, this was shot just before we tore the booth down.


We had three binders to show potential clients. One was full of collections, another with individual prints and one full of mock-ups organized by category. The binders worked really well, people could come in and flip quickly through my work. I also could easily point them in the right direction because I use tabs to separate everything.

In the mock-up binder were 13 categories of products. I didn’t know who my work would interest, so I did it all. Everything from housewares, to drink ware, to stationery, to tech, to apparel. Probably the only one that wasn’t really looked at was apparel. I doubted putting about 2 solid weeks of work into the mock-ups but I’m so glad I did. I could instantly show potential clients what my designs looked like on a product. One down-side was that people thought that because it was drawn up the way I did it, it was already in production.

The two clip boards in the photo above was how we kept track of leads. We wrote down information as we talked and then stapled their business card to the paper, ripped out the paper and put it in a special folder. This worked really well for us. Sometimes we had people coming into the booth as others were leaving and this system was pretty quick to wrap up and start again.  I thought we took good notes, but now that I’m home and sifting through, it doesn’t seem like enough! I might do a form type thing for next year with ample writing space at the bottom.

For the record the cookies were a bust! Nobody wanted to take a cookie. Maybe they were too big? Or people were watching what they ate? Who knows, but all the artists I talked to happily accepted a cookie and were surprised that no one wanted one! Lesson learned. We also gave away totes that I painted. It was super cool to see them around the convention center! I made 29 and I have 3 left. I did end up giving some to other exhibitors towards the end.


When the clock struck 5 on the last day, lights shut off and the aisle carpet was rolled up. It was amazing how quickly everything was dismantled. Our booth took about 30-45 minutes to pack up. We easily peeled off all our tape (yay artist tape) and rolled it all up and headed out. Since we didn’t have anything stored, we were out pretty quick. Ben left the show about an hour before and got our stuff from the hotel. We left the FLOR tiles. I know. There was no way I was going to drag those things around, again, and have them shipped home. Plus it had about 3 days of people’s dirty shoes all over them.

Wow that was long! There’s still so much more to say. The real work started the day after I got home…. sorting through leads, making spreadsheets with contact info and sorting out who was interested in what. Should have taken a vacation BEFORE the show 😉

I’ll be writing some smaller posts soon, about individual things, but thank you for reading through. This was a huge deal for me. A massive investment into my business that ( I think? Ask me in 3 months. ) was wonderfully successful. I read through SO MANY blogs to nail down every detail about how the booth worked and this whole process of getting there. I hope my post will be helpful to future exhibitors!



9 thoughts on “Surtex 2014, Part 1- Booth Set Up

    • Awh Thank you Julie! It’s so daunting, but you can totally do it. I did it! Ha! If you ever want to chat about it, I’m totally up for it. There’s about a billion more things to share…

  1. Thanks so much for writing this Abby, it was great to read and really felt like I was there with you! ( I helped a friend at the gift fair there about ten years ago and it brought back a lot of memories!)
    Sounds like it went well for you, I am looking forward to hearing more about your trip. I hope all the interest leads to some exciting projects 🙂

  2. You had a wonderful organizational system. I might never exhibit there, but it certainly was very helpful to know how to organize stuff ahed of time. You made it seem so simple and objective, but obviously the key was organization. Hope the follow up will validadte all the efforts and you manage to get a vacation period before the next show. You deserve it! Thank you for sharing it all!

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