Furniture shows happen all over the country all times of the year. Here in the Chicagoland area we seem to have some seasonality to these shows, and those seasons don't correspond to anything remotely like a holiday calendar.
You see, with the Merchandise Mart, one of the big three locations for design and decor on the planet in our downtown area, there's always something cookin' and which coat-tails on big draw shows going on down at the Mart.
This weekend I'm heading to two shows - one here in Chitown, the other up in Milwaukee. A couple of members of my furniture group are showing at the Design Harvest Festival. I must admit that I haven't even heard of it before. It's an outdoor fest and presumably that'll involve booths worth of furniture and furnishings, good eats and lots of people watching. My associate, Rocky Levy, is a contract furniture maker (read: big commercial stuff) and operates under the name IconModern. I'm looking forward to seeing his booth and the entire vibe of the show. I've heard good things about it and am going with an eye towards deciding if I'd like my own booth next year.
On Sunday I'm heading up to the Harley Davidson museum and conference center, situated on the southern end of downtown Milwaukee. It's parked at the edge of one of their up-and-coming hip wards and is getting some momentum for more than just bikes. The Fine Furniture and Fine Furnishings show is going on this weekend. Unlike the last two years, I'm not showing at this show this year. I've got too much regular paying work on my docket and there was no time to either make some speculative new pieces, nor time to handle all the pre-show prep and the whole weekend.
Furniture expo shows are really quite interesting critters. As I've highlighted in the past, these are NOT craft shows nor craft fairs. You're not there to try to sell what's in your booth. You're there to gather names and contact info for future clients, and the furniture that you haul around with you are examples of your work. The crafspeople who show at these types of events are going for one-off commission work. The furniture you bring with you demonstrates that you actually know what you're doing, and the clients come to you to have personalized and individualized pieces made for them at a later point in time.
There are no ribbons, there are no best-of-shows. They're not at all the same thing as the shows you've seen in church basements, municipal lawns or even retail mall common areas. You're not going in to the show having made a hundred items for $2 each in hopes of selling them for $5 each. This is a whole nother ballgame entirely.
It's an interesting world to be living in, truth told. A couple of well made speculative pieces that show what's possible are often times all that's needed to bring in a raft of new business. It's part of how and why I've currently got almost a year's worth of work ahead of me, with three clients fighting to be 'next' on my fabrication calendar.
I'll be curious to see what's going on in the Design Harvest show. And the Milwaukee show is, at least for me, a known comodity and I'm going there to visit friends who are exhibitors this year.
Stay tuned for some reports on how it all went down.