To Surtex or not to Surtex? That is the question

Melissa Hyatt Surtex type To Surtex or not to Surtex?

That is a question I have been asking myself lately.


It sounds like a Shakespeare quote but this phrase has been rattling around in my brain over the last few months. I am an Artist and Surface Pattern Designer and have been trying to figure out whether I should exhibit at Surtex, a major design and Art Licensing show held every May in NYC at the Jacob Javitz Center

I have attended Surtex many times in various capacities during my design career. First as a Stylist,then Design Director for Waverly Fabrics to review and buy designs from Design Studios from all over the world. I went back years later as a freelance designer to meet with prospective clients and walk the show. Now I wanted to go back and find out more about what it would be like to be an exhibitor.

So this past May I cleared by schedule and made plans to attend the show.

I have been taking numerous online design classes over the last year which has lead me to meet artists and agents in this amazing industry. Many of them are so generous about sharing their knowledge, which has been a huge boost to me as a solo designer. It’s really hard to stay motivated and focused when you have your own business and work at home alone. But I feel I have a whole network of coworkers and cheerleaders ready to lend and ear and offer advice when asked. It’s awesome….


I have been taking The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design classes with the Make It In Design team and they had asked if any designers were planning on attending any tradeshows and would we be interested in asking some question to exhibitors and report back our findings to them. I thought oh how cool and what a great way to meet people. So I signed my self up. I was sent a simple questionnaire that I could use at my discretion.


I am a member of a Facebook group called Heart 2 Art and I saw a post this winter from watercolor designer Corinne Haig asking for artists to help her man her booth at Surtex and in return she would give you a pass for the show. (The passes to walk the show over $300.00) so I contacted her and she replied back that she would love to have my help during the show! This was perfect and I knew it would offer me first hand experience to see what it was like to man a booth, set up a booth, meet with clients and help me decide if I should do the show myself. It’s a huge investment and I wanted to see if it is for me or not.


On May 15, 2016 I boarded the Long Island Railroad to Penn station NYC then headed via bus the the Jacob Javitz Center. Got my badge at registration and headed to find Corinne at her booth in the design district. Surtex runs in conjunction with the National Stationary Show and ICCF. So there are tons of people coming and going, it’s all very exciting and overwhelming at the same time.


I found Corinne’s beautiful booth and introduced myself. She gave me a quick orientation and the traffic started flowing. There was a steady stream of Art Directors and Buyers coming to see her look book and inquire about her beautiful designs. We had a handy worksheet to fill out with each prospective client that kept everything really organized.

Corinne's beautiful Surtex booth


When we had a rare quiet moment I asked Corinne a few questions.


I asked her how she prepared for the show and she told me that she made a huge list of to do’s for the show.

Then broke it into a timeline. Items included order banners and product mock ups, do her look book on and create new designs. Corinne said she would start sooner next time to prepare now that she knows what to expect.

She was thrilled with the show and she met lots of new contacts in categories she never imagined such as Fashion and fragrance packaging.

Overall Corinne said “It exceeded my expectations!!! Everyone was so nice it was delightful.”

She loved meeting Artists face to face that she knew from social media.

Her advice if it’s your first time exhibiting is to keep it simple that way there are fewer things to keep track of at the show. She said she would absolutely do the Surtex Show again.


I had a great time working and learning from her. She was so generous with her knowledge and her talent speaks volumes.

Thanks Corinne!


I also had the honor to meet Jennifer Nelson she is the Agent and owner of Jennifer Nelson Artists. I had done a one on one consultation with her a few months prior via Skype and it was great to meet her in person and say hello.


Here is her booth from the show.

Jennifer nelson Artists stunning surtex booth


She graciously agreed to answer some questions about the show. I found it was better to email the Designer and Agents after the show because they are at the show to find business leads and network, they have paid a lot of money to do so. I wanted to respect their time and investment.


Jennifer Nelson’s thoughts on Surtex


MH: Jennifer how long did it take to prepare for the show?

JN: 4 months of work.

MH: How did the show go?

JN: “GREAT! We were delighted with the response both fiscally and socially.”

MH: Was it busy, did you get out of it what you hoped you would?

JN: Yes and more!

MH: Who did you meet? Other exhibitors/visitors/brands

JN: Anthropologie, Demdaco, Pier One ,Kate Spade (to name a few)

MH: What will you do differently next time? Will there be a next time?

JN: Yes! Next time we will have 2 sets of prints and 2 sets of books when we do two shows at once! (She also exhibited at Blueprint, which overlapped days with Surtex!)

MH: What are you top 3 tips for doing the show?

JN: 1. Plan to sell work outright

2.Bring loads of Christmas designs

  1. Take some R&R time before the show-because the real work comes when you get back to your studio and have all the follow up work to do!



I met a fellow designer Jennifer Speer while taking Rachel Taylor’s Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design classes online. She was also helping out Corinne in her booth. She graciously shared her impressions and photos of Surtex with me. It was her first time to the show.


Jennifer Speer’s thoughts on Surtex -

“Overall, I’m happy about what I’ve learned and who I met for the first time and who I was able to meet that I had only spoke with over social media!


I can’t name just one booth that I loved the most, but I can say some of the practices that I noticed were best… Go big with the artwork. I found the smaller work to be busy and not so eye catching. That might work if you are well established though so that there’s plenty to look at. You just need something that will draw them in to your booth to then browse your portfolio.


Another best practice that I saw was having a sheet to take notes with the buyers. They may try to run off quickly, but if you engage with them and ask pointed questions about what they are looking for they will appreciate it! Then staple their business card to that page. If they start to run out of business cards, ask to take a picture of it for them.”


Jenn Speer's photo of the Javitz center


Heart2art meet up at the Javitz center photo by jennifer Speer

Corinne Haig's Surtex booth and assistants












Another Designer that exhibited at Surtex was Jennifer Mercede and she had some answers to my questions too!


MH: How much preparation did it require?

JM: I started preparing around Christmas time 2015, so about 5 months.


MH: How did the show go? Was it busy, did you get out of it what you hoped you would? Any successes you can share?

JM: On one hand, I didn't know what to expect in terms of busy-ness. I felt there was a steady stream of interested people connecting with me and my art pretty consistently throughout the show.

I don't think it was as AMAZING as I had hoped for, but if I do my follow up and keep connected, I'm hopeful that some projects will come out of it :)

I got a lot of interest from wall art companies and a variety of other products, some quite obscure.

I'm grateful for all the wonderful compliments and great energy I received at my booth :)


MH: What will you do differently next time - will there be a next time?

JM: Yes, in a dream world I would go back with a little bit different branding .. different approach. I think I would spend time making more designs that I can sell outright.. maybe work that is a little less edgy. I'd try that for fun. I'm not sure if that will be next year though, mostly due to booth cost and other creative endeavors I want to focus on.


MH: 3 top tips for exhibiting at a show for the first time

JM: Parking! If you're driving.. figure our where exactly you have to go and when before you drive into the city! It can be insane!

Its true what they say that most of the work is after the show.. so really be prepared, ready and interested in doing that!

In general, I say.. do art that you love. For you, that makes you happy. I say, follow your own voice.


And finally I met Illustrator Claire Picard who was visiting from England. She is represented by Agent Brenda Manley. She assisted Corinne Haig as well. It was her first time to NYC and Surtex.

She said it’s been so colorful and exciting to be in NY and felt it was a great place to network. She also loved meeting up with social media connections face to face. Coming to NY has been “Lovely! A dream come true!’


Thanks to Corinne, all the Jennifer’s (I just realized I interviewed 3 of them!), Claire and the Make it in Design Team for inspiring me to ask the questions! I love all the knowledge and experience I have gained.


I have a lot to consider and many questions to ask myself. Am I ready to exhibit at Surtex? or do I want to find and Agent to represent my work? Do I have enough designs to show at a trade show? Can I afford the $7-10,000.00 investment of Surtex? Do I consider another smaller trade show like Printsourse or Blueprint?

It’s scary and exciting all at the same time. For now I am going to keep on painting, either way I’ll be sure to write all about it in an upcoming Blog. Thanks for reading this far!


Find out more about all the fantastic Designers and Agents I interviewed here:











Hitting the road to share my art in June

Melissa Hyatt art showing Melissa Hyatt

It occurred to me the other day, while I was in my studio painting, that June has shaped up to be a month of me taking my art on the road. One of the main objectives I had upon creating my brand and business was that I want to make the world a more beautiful place by sharing my artwork. It seems that is actually happening.

In 2 days I have a Meet the Artist event at The Pottery Barn store in Southampton Long Island. You may ask "What is that all about?" so I am going to tell you!  I was invited by the Managers of the Pottery Barn Store there to come in and paint (I predominately paint in watercolors), show my artwork, meet customers and offer my products for sale. I am so grateful and excited to have this opportunity. Last month I did a similar Community event at The Pottery Barn Outlet in Riverhead, Long Island,where I worked previously as a Visual Designer. Before I even did the first show I got a call from the Southampton Manager to do a show with them as well.

Of course I said yes! After I pinched myself and thought is this for real? I love the Pottery barn brand and my work is perfect compliment to their brand so it's a great fit. And the staff at both stores has been fantastic to partner with. As I have been busy preparing this week for the show I have reflected on how far I have come in a year.

Last June I didn't even have a website, I had just hired The Wonder Jam to create my branding and website. I had no prints, no notecards, no fabric designed and printed, no pillows, no shop, no Instagram, none of it. Now I all of those things and more. I have momentum. I have an online community of artists to share ideas with. I have taken classes with Make it in Design and Lilla Rogers. I have done webinars, consults with Agents and Designers, made a lot of mistakes but I am learning and growing everyday. It's great.

Now I get to share my work this weekend at Pottery Barn and then on June 25th I am doing a show with my Sister (in law) Mary at the Simsbury 1820 House in Connecticut. Which is a homecoming for me as I grew up in Blooomfield Ct. We will exhibiting our art together for the first time for a month. It's going to be great as well we will be celebrating my Dad's 91st birthday!

I am so honored and thrilled to be able to have these events to share my work. It continues to motivate and inspire me to keep on painting and doing what I love.

Hope to see you out there on the road sometime....

giclee print of "the Crab"

Meet the Artist, who me the artist?

Is this for real? Am I really doing a show at Pottery Barn? Featuring my Artwork? I've done a few group shows, I have a website, and I love what I do but that's about it.Pinch me! I said this earlier this week and I'll say it again! In February I was approached by the Director of the Pottery Barn Outlet (in Riverhead, NY) to be their first Local Artist to come into the store for an afternoon, to show my work, paint and sell my products. I didn't have to think too long about it and my answer was a resounding YES!!! I met with the Managers and we decided a Saturday before Mother's Day would be best. I will be setting up my paints and brushes and supplies in the store. I will be surrounded by my artwork , my prints, my cards and my pillow designs. I will be painting as time allows, answering questions and having fun! I decided to create some new Limited Edition Prints for customers that visit that day to purchase and it's been so fun to do it. They are a smaller size for me 8 x 10, my prints are usually 13x19 or 17x22. This size will work great with some of the frames in the store and I can't wait to display them in their frames. About 3 years ago I applied for a job at Pottery Barn. I have always loved their brand and products. I had just separated from my husband and I needed a change. I really had fun working there, the people were great and the job was challenging. I was first trained as a cashier (hadn't rang on a cash register since college :-)), I also stocked the shelves, did inventory, display work and tons of customer service on the sales floor. I really loved doing the Visual Displays in the store and really liked working with Todd and Amanda the managers of the department. Pretty soon they realized my design skills and I began to do more and more work in that department. It was natural for me with my previous design and Interior experience. But as my Freelance business grew it became difficult for me to juggle the schedule and so i had to leave my job there. But never did I think years down the road they would call me and ask me to partner with them for this event. I am so honored and excited! I will post again with pictures and feedback after May 7th event.Melissa Hyatt_Dogwoof floralMelissa Hyatt event

New Challenges for this Designer

I have been trying to push myself everyday. Sketch something new, paint, update my website, research trends, go to yoga, paint some more, design and oversee a home renovation for an Interior Design client, enter daily challenges and contests with my Art. This week I submitted 4 pieces for the Minted Art Print Challenge for Pottery barn Kids and Teen. I've been following these challenges for months and never had the guts to enter , I did it and I am proud of myself. Yeah me!! check out the minted site.

Independent Artists were challenged by to design Art Prints for Pottery Barn Kids and Teen. will choose editors picks and sell the winners on their site. The pieces with a lot of votes will rise to the top once the judging begins so the more votes the better!! As well Pottery Barn will award their top picks with gift cards and cash and a chance to be featured in their stores and catalogs. It would be a major accomplishment for this Artist! (You also receive royalties on the sales, good thing because my son Matt's going to college next year!)

Now waiting for results.....if you want to vote on my pieces please do so by 2/29/16 just click the box to the right to go right to my Designer Profile on


Thanks in advance for your votes and your support!




Here are 3 of my entries.....

Big Blue crab

Palm tree

Botanical Dream Big

Being an Artist is in my genes

nana 2 Isabelle K. Miller was my maternal grandmother and a huge inspiration to me. She was a strong woman, a talented oil painter, a savy business woman (when most women were homemakers), a loving and giving mother and grandmother. She loved her gardens, Garden Club, crafting and antiquing. All of the granchildren called her Nana. She signed her paintings I.K. Miller. She studied in Allentown at The Baum School with Jerry Quier and Queenie Stein for well over 15 years

nana 7    nana-3

She and my Aunt owned a home together in a small town near Allentown Pa. When visiting her in Pennsylvania I vividly remember being surrounded by her beautiful paintings. In the kitchen she changed the paintings seasonally, there must have been a huge magic closet full of her creations somewhere in the house! A picture with pumpkins for Halloween, turkeys at Thanksgiving (a favorite holiday always spent there with my cousins and my Aunt and Uncle), pointsettas at Christmas.... well you get the idea.

It looked like a fine art gallery in the downstairs hallways. The walls were covered with her landscapes, florals and still lives. One more beautiful than the next. All framed to perfection

.nana-6nana 8

One of my favorite pictures with her was when I graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in Surface Pattern Design. She was so proud of me and the look on her face shows it. When I was freelancing in NYC I designed a morning glory pattern and when those sheets were out in the marketplace my Mom went out and bought them for her. They matched her bedroom perfectly as she loved the color blue.

All the beauty of her painting must have seeped into my bones, the inspiration was deep down in my soul. And now it's found a voice in my own paintings. I prefer to paint with watercolors but I have recently tried my hand at oil painting. I feel like she has guided me to this place and is cheering me on from above. Her entrepenurial spirit lives in me and when I pick up my brush I feel her stannding beside me with a smile on her face.

My new studio member

Photo Oct 25, 5 24 26 PM I am excited to introduce my new team member, April.  She is a 2 year old Golden Retriever I just adopted through the Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue here on Long Island. She is a great team player, has an international sense of color and is loveable and furry! She loves to hang out in my office, take naps and occasionally walks on my designs, it's very cute!


Photo Oct 19, 12 16 27 PM

Our beloved yellow lab Gracie had suddenly passed away in March. My heart was broken. My kids missed her tremendously. As my friend Bethe told me "you need some Doggie love". Boy was she right.

My friend Michelle saw a piece on the news about  Golden Retrievers that were being brought to New York from Istanbul Turkey. They needed homes and we needed a dog. So I went on the LIGRR website and to learn more about the "turkey dogs" as they refer to them. Took one look at April's picture and decided to send in an application.

A couple of weeks later I got a call. Was I still looking to adopt a dog? They told me April had hip surgery, she had a dislocated hip which they believe was that way since birth. She was spending her recovery time with a foster family. But if all went well with her post op appointment we could adopt her.

I took my son to go meet her. She was so sweet. She was very loveable and just wanted us to keep petting her.

She had to wear a cone, her rear right area was shaved and she had a big scar. She was going to need a lot of TLC. She couldn't go up any stairs, needed meds and had to be on the leash outside, no running. Melanie from LIGRR asked me "Are you ready for that?", my heart said yes but I was scared, could I take care of her? would she like us?

It was so emotional I didn't know what to do. I decided to take my daughter Hanna, there a few days later to meet her, then I'd make a decision. We walked down the stairs to see her, she came to greet us and when my daughter started petting her April began to purr it was so sweet. The decision was made later that day when I asked her what did you think about April and she said "Oh Mom I just love her!"

The call was made and a week later she was ours. She is doing great. She loves her walks and her leg is getting stronger everyday. Our house needed a dog and we found the perfect one for us.

The hole in my life and heart is starting to close up. I will never forget Gracie but if I can honor her life by giving sweet April a new home then my heart is full.

sweet April

My whole design world shifted on the bleachers at my daughter's lacrosse game

Mood board Photo Oct 03, 1 33 51 PM

my little corner to transform at the 2015 North Fork Designer Showhouse

While sitting in the bleachers at my daughter Hanna's lacrosse game on a chilly May morning, I was approached to design a room at a local designer showhouse. Voice inside my head "Whaaatttt!?, I can't do that." But I quickly remembered what I learned in B School from Marie Forleo, to take something on even if you don't think you are ready. Now what do I do? So I ignored the fear and I said "YES ,I would be interested in doing that!"  I definitely surprized both Christine and myself !

Next step later that week was a walk through at the Showhouse in Cutchogue, NY and choose the room I wanted to design. The home is an old farmhouse circa 1835 which was given to the North Fork Designer Showhouse commitee to raise money for local charities CAST, NFAWL, Maureen's Haven and scolarships for local high school seniors, all great causes. There were 12 designers and 12 interior rooms to decorate.

I attended the showhouse last year and remembered an upstairs sunny room that would be a perfect artist's studio. We toured the house and I chose that space to design. The wheels start turning, I'm dreaming about color, where to hang my art, window treatments, I decide I want to print one of my designs for the fabric on the windows. In my head I got it all figured out. Not sure how I will get it all done in time but I will make it work.

Next thing I know the phone rings and it's Christine, telling me that there were 7 designers that wanted my room and they did a lottery and guess what, I didn't get it. But they were offering me the front porch or half the kitchen. Ughh disappointment sets in. I tell her I want to go see the spaces because I am such a visual person. I needed to get over the fact that I didn't get the room I wanted and figure this out.

As for the Front Porch it's a nice space but I can't hang my art outside. Option 2 half the kitchen, what's that all about? It was basically the eat in kichen area, they wanted to keep the rest of the kitchen as is because they were using it for the Raffles they sell to raise additional funds for the event. As well the space got new appliances, marble countertops and the cabinets were resurfaced last year and the commitee wanted to be green and not create unecessary waste.

So my decision was made take the kitchen space. After all half a kitchen is better than no kitchen at all!

Best decision I could have made.

Have you ever felt like you weren't ready to take a new project on but were glad you did?

Look for my next blog post for part two of my Showhouse experience......

Let There Be Light

Once I embarked on this creative journey, one thing that I struggled with was workspace. When I moved in 2011, I set up my studio in a small den in my house. I didn’t realize how dark and uninspired my space was until one winter day when I brought all of my supplies into the Great Room and began painting where the light was so much better. But the kids would come home from school and say, “Mom, what are you doing?!”  They had no intention of sharing the room with my painting table smack in the middle. I knew that if I wanted to create, I needed a new, bigger and brighter place to do it in that didn’t impede on my children.  I asked my friend and contractor, Doug to come over and help me. We looked at converting my attic into a new space but it would have been too costly. So next we looked at the space over my garage…it had skylights, windows, electric and it had lots of potential. So in March we began to convert this unused storage space into my studio.

Once it was ready I decided to paint the plywood floors with one of my designs. I wanted it to look like there was a rug on the floor. With the help of my incredibly creative friend Michelle, we embarked on a 3 day adventure in designing and painting the floor.

I can’t believe how bright, sunny and wonderful it is! I haven’t fully

Moved in yet but I can’t wait to …

Artist Studio


East Coast Artist Studio

I will share my process for painting the floor in a future blog .

New Beginnings

crab Sometimes you just need a fresh start , a reboot…

I am an Artist, a Surface Pattern Designer and a Mom. Since the birth of my son I have been freelancing from home (he’s 16 now). It’s allowed me great flexibility to work and raise both of my kids, which was so very important to me.

In 2010 I started taking Watercolor workshops at my local library. I hadn’t painted since college. I forgot how much I loved and needed to paint.

After a heartbreaking divorce in 2011, I suddenly found myself needing to generate more income and I became bogged down with making $$$.

I was feeling very uninspired. In December 2014 I stumbled upon a website called Do what you love…..and WOW it has brought a whole new world of change and possibilities my way.

I am lucky that I love what I do but now had to figure out how to earn a living doing it.  My next discovery was B School with Marie Forleo. Even though I had no marketing or management training as an art major at SU and felt intimidated by the 6 week intensive online course, I jumped in with both feet anyway.

My aha moment came during the first module of the course and I knew what I needed to do. Rebrand myself, keep painting, launch a new website, blog, financially support my family through my craft and get my artwork into homes all over the world.

Marie taught us to take opportunities for your business even if you don’t think you are ready. Next thing I know I agreed to show my artwork at a local Artisan Fair and as well to design a room at the North Fork Designer Show house this August.

Along the way if I can inspire others to dream big and go for it.  I will be thrilled.

So join me on my journey as I share with you my process, my inspiration, my projects and my art through my blog and newsletter

Melissa Hyatt Painting

Read my next blog entry for a sneak peek at my new Studio space…..