Earlier this week, I deserted the cozy life of my Somerset bubble, and ventured out to The Big Smoke in the name of research. Top Drawer is ‘London’s international lifestyle event for creative retailers across the U.K. and beyond‘; AKA …. a big massive trade fair where designers can exhibit their newest stuff to flog. I rather thought I might fancy exhibiting at something like this a bit further down the line. So duly I spent lots of money on train fares and a ’boutique’ hotel (one of those places where you pay extra for a window), just so I could ‘get a feel’ for what goes on at these things.
Naturally I was rather excited. After the obligatory bag rummage courtesy of the G4S brigade, I was hit with a visual sensation; vivid colours, beautiful objects and sensational designs ….. on an industrial scale:
With such greatness came the biggest sensation of being overwhelmed I have ever experienced. In one fell swoop, I lost my ability to talk; smile properly; make eye contact. I was an intruder on the fringes of exposure. I clutched onto my bag as I might an errant child – not for fear of theft, but in lieu of a stress ball (and a triple G&T.) I spent the first hour actively avoiding exhibitors; slightly problematic when there were 1500 of them to contend with. With no foundation, I assumed that a) they’d not be interested in speaking with me once they ascertained I wasn’t a buyer, b) they’d tell me where to go if they found out I was a ‘designer’ on the look out for things to copy. Oh the frustration, when all I wanted to do was just talk with some of them …. about their work, their inspiration, their process. But intimidation got the better of me and I simply didn’t feel on an equal enough footing to be worthy of anyone’s time; I was just a housewife in need of a reality check, thrown stratospheres from her comfort zone and rendered mute (unless an opportunity to talk ‘family meal-planing’ presented itself. It did not.)
Strong coffee beckoned. As I sat – down-hearted, drained, dejected – I began to write this blog entry (might as well use my time effectively.) Whether it was the act of writing, or the effect of the sugar consumed from a large bag of jelly babies gifted to me by a wonderful friend, I felt my spirits lift… nearly as quickly as they had be thwarted. It was really rather odd. Still, I wasn’t about to let this miracle lay idle. I got up and started again:
Head up: tick
Shoulders back: tick
Teeth exposing smile: tick
Eye contact with other actual human beings: tick
Approaching The Higher Beings (AKA The Real Designers): tick
Beginning conversations with The Higher Beings: TICK!!!
The people I spoke to – turns out – were pretty normal. Stupendously talented, confident, business savvy, crème de la crème …. yes. But when it came down to it, they were just human beings doing what they loved. And wasn’t that what I was too? Maybe at some point on their design journeys they’ve even felt the way I did in that vast space. Who knows. Mostly importantly I achieved my aims of experiencing a trade fair and being inspired. I’ll take that for now.