Design Shanghai was sold to me as huge event. China opening themselves to the best in British and European design. Lots of very wealthy Chinese seeking to buy all kinds of high quality consumable products including modern furniture.
I have been doing exhibitions where I stand in front of my work and talk to people for most of my forty year trading. I think they are a great way to meet new customers directly and strike up the beginnings of a relationship. One that can be nurtured, worked with, developed until there is enough trust to spend money. I believe the Chinese think this way too. Softly softly catchee monkey. Or should that be catchee money .
Exhibitions, trade shows, call them what you will, can bring you that wonderful new contact that will feed you for twenty years. And, they can break you. Most of these shows are expensive so its is important, when you start, to choose cheaper shows that will enable you to “learn the ropes.”
We had a genuine government incentive of thousands of pounds paid after the event to encourage us to go. And Shanghai is such an alluring city. What a history, what a place to visit for the first time.
Shows like this I know are always exhausting and it is a very energetic person who does them alone. We were promised an interpreter for the duration of the show who would be with us the whole time. But even so, I planned to go with my partner Carol. Like me, she had never seen Shanghai and the prospect for her of getting a couple of fashionable new outfits was a great attraction.
The show was end of March and stuff needed to be on a boat for China in January whilst we were under The Dubai Hammer. The more the Dubai job over ran the less time we had for Shanghai furniture. I wanted to take at least one new piece. We have a five metre by two metre stand with white walls and three spotlights all in “the package”. Two pieces we were showing were on their way back from a gallery in America but were not here yet.
I should have planned it better and sent half the pieces by sea and the ones we could not finish later by air, but the work on Dubai was so consuming I just put it off and chose to send by air freight. That cost me. I have been sending bits of work mostly to America for years so you get a hang of costs . I had a figure in my mind of what this air freight should be and was stunned when it came back twice my budget. “But David, China is twice the distance” my always right, wife tells me. This didn’t ease the £6000,00 bill .
In the end i was able to put together what I felt was really good stand. Two cabinets two exhibition chairs and a pair brand new chairs based on a Chinese chair but brought up to date. This last chair i am very proud of, its taken a few years to get this one “right” so right that you cannot change any aspect. Strong, light good looking from all around and most of all comfortable. All qualities a good chair should have and all qualities that make chair design so difficult.
We set off for Shanghai not knowing if it would be a very expensive holiday or a fantastic sales trip. Advice we had before we took on this was this. Don’t do it unless you can afford it, don’t use borrowed money, and be prepared to bring it all back home.