Secrets of Trade Show Success/Interview with Surface Designer Khristian Howell

By Carolyn Edlund

Khristian Howell is a familiar face in the Art Licensing industry. She has exhibited at many trade shows, and has a lot of commercial success to show for her efforts. Not only does she create fabulous designs for many products, but she has business savvy as well, and has written an ebook to assist other artists who would like to pursue a career in this field. She graciously agreed to share some of her trade show secrets with us.

AS:  Khristian, you are very involved in the world of Art Licensing.  Who are your customers and what types of merchandise are your designs used for?

KH: I am currently licensed in fabric, online stationery, paper, tableware, scrapbooking, wallcoverings, lamps, and the list is growing everyday!  Some of my current clients include Anthology Fabrics, Robert Kaufman Fabrics, Creative Converting, IMGS Wallcoverings, Alluminare, Tiny Prints, etc.

AS:  Currently, you’re preparing to release your second ebook about trade shows. What’s so special about it?

KH: I am over-the-top thrilled about this new release called SHOWSTOPPER – Road Map to Rocking Your Trade Show.  After writing Confessions of a First Timer, I got  wonderful feedback and I was thrilled the book was energizing artists from all over the world.  However, I also got loads and loads of questions and comments asking me to go deeper on a whole range of topics.  What makes SHOWSTOPPER so exciting is that it is much more than just an ebook.  This time I have created a tool that will literally walk you through all the key items you need to do to prepare for a show.  On top of that I have included special video interviews with experts on topics you want to know about most like “Blogging for Artists” with Tara Gentile, and “File Management and License Tracking” with Tara Reed to name a few.
Topics and Action items will be delivered straight to your inbox 2-3 times per week for 14 weeks.  This way you can concentrate only on the goal for that week, do it fully and cross it off your list without feeling immensely overwhelmed.  The ebook in its entirety will also be included for your reference.  Of course there is an option to use the ebook on its own, but then you will miss out on the videos from the amazing guest stars!

AS:  Please share with us some of your secrets for creating a super-successful trade show experience.

KH: Sure, I’d be happy to.  Here is my list:

  1. Presentation IS everything: Always think of your business as a brand.  When you are designing the pieces of your marketing package for the show (booth, promo pieces etc.), make sure they all speak to and compliment each other.  They should all make a cohesive statement about you and your art.  You want to create synergy across all your platforms.
  2. Use social media.  Don’t be shy! Use all the major social media outlets to let everyone know your are doing the show.  Create excitement around the event.  Let everyone know that you are excited about the show and your new work!
  3. Do your research. Contact the companies that you are really hoping to connect with at the show.  Try to set up appointments in your booth with art directors.  Taking the initiative to get on their calendars will show them your are VERY interested in working with them, and a potentially great business partner.
  4. Tell, don’t sell. You do not have to sell great artwork.  Just be you, be excited, and be optimistic!  Remember licensing is not a hard sell. You are at a show to foster and develop lasting working relationships, so be authentic.
  5. Have a follow up plan. The vast majority of new contracts will happen weeks or even months after the show.  You must have a super organized plan for how you will follow up with the contacts you met.  Often times it will take your diligent efforts to really seal the deal. Be prepared to take detailed notes on who was interested in what pieces, what is their timeline like, etc.
Artsy Shark has an affiliate relationship with Khristian Howell. Sales of her publications help to keep this blog alive and well.


  1. I am very new to art world and interested in tradeshows I have no website or any show experience. Do you have any recommandation please?


  1. […] Surface designer Khristian Howell, author of two eBooks on trade shows, shared some tips with ArtsyShark on making the most of trade shows that we’d like to pass on to […]

  2. […] Surface designer Khristian Howell, author of two eBooks on trade shows, shared some tips with ArtsyShark on making the most of trade shows that we’d like to pass on to […]

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