Lost Forest on Tour! The National Craft & Design Fair 2016

Lost Forest attended the National Craft & Design Fair in the RDS, Dublin for the very first time. The show traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping period, showcasing over 600 stands of Ireland's best and brightest in craft and design. Although it was a mammoth undertaking for my small business, it was a hugely exciting time and I met so many wonderful customers and vendors.

Pre-show chaos! Billie wasn't much help, but gladly supervised my stock. Being organised in the run-up to the show is highly recommended. I began working on stock 5 months prior to the November 30th kick-off date. I also allowed the last few weeks of November to be solely dedicated to boxing and packing each and every item, as well as working on props and signage. I set myself deadlines to finish each task, ticking off boxes along the way, which was not only satisfying but gave me constant determination and drive. It definitely takes most of the stress out of the process by being efficient and conscious of time management.

The day of set up finally arrived and with invaluable help from my dad and sister, we loaded up the car and trailer with stock and furniture props. Everything was carefully bubble wrapped to protect the delicate cargo, and ensure no nasty bumps to the freshly painted vintage tables. As it was my first time at the show, I was located in the Industries Hall at stand A40.

My new little home for the next 5 days; doesn't it look pretty? I was really happy with how everything turned out. We had planned the arrangement at home using masking tape on the floors to determine the placement of each item and to make sure that we were within the 3 x 2 m boundaries of the stand. My dad and I constructed the Lost Forest wall as a striking visual to grab the attention of passers-by. It certainly worked, and also provided a very handy hidden storage area. Additionally, it doubled up as a packing and payment area, and a refuge to indulge in a sneaky snack!

The Lost Forest tables were a big hit with customers. Once again, my dad and I completely rebuilt these tired old tables from my boyfriends farm, and injected them with a dramatic burst of colour and life. I have a big passion for renovating vintage furniture, so this was such a wonderful project to work on. I also created handmade wildflower resin knobs to the duck egg blue table, to add an intriguing and bespoke element. I'll have a post dedicated to this project very soon. 

My glass display case was a great addition and kept all of my most precious jewels neat and sparkly behind the glass. My dad made the wooden stands, which really made the dynamic colours of the flowers pop. Natural wood discs and moss were added to bring the forest into the whole scheme. 

The buttery yellow table was home to a table top glass display case, which I customised. It held lots of glittering Lost Forest gems from the Tea Party collection and my unique Puddle Plates. I also had my new greeting cards on sale, and a more affordable range of earrings and bottle pendants housed in vintage enamelware dishes. The overall look was classically elegant with an ode to a by-gone era. 

I mounted a few large-scale photographic posters along the walls to immediately inform the customer of what products I was selling. As my work is very small scale, it is imperative to have posters to catch the eye of the potential customer, as the first initial few seconds are crucial to achieving a sale or going completely unnoticed in a very competitive environment.

The duck egg blue table once again was adorned with a customised display case, decked out with hand gilded Lost Forest jewels. I added my botanical books to emphasise that they're real flowers within my jewellery, and little pots of lace-like gypsophila were dotted around to add a beautiful natural element. 

I had flyers printed for the show, so customers had a way to get in touch with me afterwards, as well as a short story detailing what my brand is about.

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I used some old books to display a range of pretty pendants and earrings. This was a cost effective and charming way to mount them, as well as re-enforcing the aesthetics and impression of my brand.

A lonely corner needed to be given a special touch in the form of a customised pine chair. I painted the top in a duck egg blue to compliment the table, and I mounted my wood burned sign to the back to personalise it further. A vintage stoneware pot (another find from the farm) was spruced up and became home to a beautiful bouquet of fresh billowy gypsophila and pussy willow branches. I completed the chair with another botanical book and a few scattered miniature photos of my work process. 

I brought my new Sum Up terminal with me, and clearly advertised that my stand accepted card payments. It was a highly valuable piece of equipment to have at the show. The Sum Up device is so simple and easy to use. My account was set up on my mobile phone, and through bluetooth I was able to connect to the terminal and process customers payments. At a huge event like this, 50% of sales are made with card payments. My advice would be to definitely have a system like this at hand, otherwise you will be losing custom and we certainly don't want that!

Coffee anyone? Yes, that questions was asked many times during the day! The 13 hour days are very long and tiring, and it is something you need to consider when embarking on a large scale show. Be sure to get plenty of rest and sleep in the weeks coming up to it; being healthy is of the utmost importance. It's also important to stay hydrated during the event. I constantly had a bottle of water with me at all times, my throat was straining with all the talking I did with customers. I'd also recommend to snack during the day on fruit salads or freshly made juices to keep your vitamins and energy levels up, and prevent any midday slumps or loss of concentration.

It can get very hectic at times, so always have at least one extra person with you to help. Another factor to consider is safety; always have someone with you to keep an eye on your stand while you're busy with customers. Pick pockets are unfortunately a common sight, and you need to be vigilant at all times.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and exposure for my business. Seeing my products in 'real life' is a real positive for customers, as photographs can never truly capture the magic and beauty of such delicate pieces. To be able to chat with people about my work; my biggest passion, is a wonderful thing. For them to appreciate it and love it, is even more wonderful. Thank you to everyone who came to visit me and helped support my business and dream, it means more than you could know! I hope you enjoyed reading my account, and it gives you some handy tips for your own shows in the future.

-Gillian x