Lynn Johnston and Deborah Peyton go to a surface design show called “SURTEX” and what she doesn’t say is almost as important as what she does say. I will quote parts of it and comment after the cut.
Early in May, I took off for New York, with cartoonist and fabric designer, Deborah Peyton, to attend the big surface design show called “SURTEX“. This massive show, together with the paper products design show, filled the second floor of the Javits Centre.
Lynn says “early in May”. The dates were actually May 15-17, 2016 at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. This is just 2 weeks before the Reuben Awards. Deborah Peyton has this website where you can find that she has no limits about where she will apply her artwork.
Book illustrations, cartoons, greeting cards, fabric collections, and caricatures.
She says about herself:
I have been cartooning and illustrating professionally for 16 years and am a member of the National Cartoonist's Society and The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
What Lynn is not telling us is that her association with Deborah Peyton is through the National Cartoonist’s Society and most importantly, she is not telling us that she and Deborah Peyton were scheduled to speak together at the Reuben Awards 2 weeks after this trip. No doubt this is Lynn’s presentation of her fabric designs at the Reubens she talked about doing earlier this year. Someone wisely paired her up with a female cartoonist who already does it and they took a trip to give Lynn some exposure to the fabric world, so she could speak intelligently on the matter. I am sure that a major part of this trip was figuring out what they would say at the Reubens. Why in the world Lynn fails to mention this, I don't know. The way this is written, it is as though Lynn is taking her fabric design work seriously, but I think it is just as possible, it is only something to prepare Lynn for her Reuben Awards speech.
Deb had attended before and knew what to expect, but for me, the first day was an overwhelming experience. Row upon row of curtained booths displayed designs ranging from modern florals to computer generated patterns; from cute to crazy to just plain complicated. In some booths the artists themselves were available to talk with prospective clients. Agents and marketing firms were also represented, and busy from the moment the floor opened in the morning.
The floor at the Surtex convention.
It took us most of the first day to walk the show. By the second day, we were focused and able to go to displays which interested us. New artists had been allowed to put up very tiny booths at minimal cost, and this, we thought, was a great way to introduce their work to the design community.
Here you go. Why is Deborah Peyton interested in putting up a booth with a fabric novice like Lynn Johnston? If you look at Deborah’s website showing her fabric designs, you will notice right away that (a) Deborah’s fabric designs look like fabric designs and (b) Deborah is far in advance of Lynn on this subject. With the words “minimal cost”, you can tell exactly why Lynn is there. What Lynn brings to the table that Deborah does not have is money.
What Lynn also fails to mention is that SURTEX booth costs have prices for First Time Exhibitors at $2700, 80 square feet at $4200, 100 square feet at $5000. So the First Time Exhibitors is the cheapest way to get in. You are still dropping a few grand to get the space and probably a few more grand to pay for hotel, food, and transportation costs. That's a pretty price tag to show off Lynn's limited number of fabric designs.
The paper products were displayed on the same floor; one show smoothly morphing, almost, into the other. Some fabric designs might equally be applied to paper products, so agents, buyers, and marketing people sniffed about both sections, their badges scrutinized by designers on both sides. New artists, like Deborah and I, were given badges which said “non buyer”—which made us invisible, and sometimes dismissed. We wished we’d been given a different moniker.
Lynn is all about getting the attention and feeding that ego. That's going to be the biggest problem with this whole idea. Lynn is adored in the comic strip world, but in the fabric design world, she is not so well known. I doubt she will feel that great at SURTEX in May, 2017, if there is no one there to stroke her ego.
Lynn Learns About Design Trends
An essential part of the show were the daily lectures, and the topics ranged from copyright law to finding an agent. We attended several, and the one I remember most clearly was the one on trends. Apparently after 9/11, design trends changed markedly to reflect a more somber world. Bright colours were left in the warehouses in favour of muted greys, blues, and metallics. The most popular gift at that time was the fondue set. People wanted to stay safely at home and visit with friends and family. Trends, apparently, follow the mood of the public—rather than the whims of designers. We learned a lot in three days.
I suspect that if I had heard Lynn's talk on fabric design at the Reuben Awards, that last paragraph is exactly what I would have heard her say.
Considering A Second Career
By the third day, Deborah and I were thinking seriously about taking a small booth at Surtex next spring, and showing the work we are doing. It will be a leap of faith…but then, I’ve always enjoyed a challenge—and we have faith in ourselves. We’ll let you know what happens over the winter. A second career might be on the horizon for us both.
Not a second career for Deborah Peyton. Deborah already does fabric design. This is just more exposure for her work.
The SURTEX website says they have another convention scheduled for May, 2017. At the end of the News&Notes pitch, Lynn shows us 4 of her own fabric designs. The cats, fish and sound effects I have seen before. Then at the end, we see one with multiple sketches of Farley and it dawns on me that someone managed to convince Lynn to draw something she could actually sell, except when I look at it carefully I realize they didn’t. Every picture of Farley on the fabric is a picture I recognize is taken from some other source like the Farley books and Sunday comics featuring Farley. Someone has made a Farley design by cutting and pasting old Lynn pictures together and come up with something that looks like Lynn’s other fabric designs. Tricky. My guess is that credit for the last design goes to someone else.