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Why we individually hand painted 880 tiny squares on to our latest trade show stand.

It has to be said, we’ve made some questionable decisions when it comes to the design and build of our stands at trade shows. In our first year, we spent way too much money on a posh paint by Fired Earth called ‘Flake White’. “But aren’t the trade show stands already white?” I hear you ask. Yes they are, my eagle-eyed friends, but they are not ‘flake’ white. You see, Flake White is not just any old white. Oh no. Flake White is warm yet mellow. Sumptuous yet airy. “Customers will absolutely notice the difference,” explained Jack. “Yes,” I agreed, “they may not see it exactly, but they will feel it.” And that may well have been the case if we were painting the drawing room of a National Trust property, but we weren’t. We were painting a 2 metre by 1 metre MDF shell at the Business Design Centre and no matter how we tried to justify it to ourselves, the outcome remains the same: we painted a white wall white. And it cost us a small fortune to do so.

Fast forward to year two when we discovered the magical building properties of wood. “But aren’t the trade show stands already made of wood?” I hear you ask. I think we’ve had quite enough of your questions for one day and no one likes a know-it-all. But yes, whilst they may in fact already be made of wood, there is one thing better than wood and that’s more wood. So we elected to add more wood to our stand, and when I say ‘more wood’ I mean hundreds and thousands of pieces of more wood, all of which we screwed in by hand because we couldn’t afford a drill. Why could we not afford a drill? Probably because we’d spent all of our money on Flake White the year before. The setup took us four entire days and by the time the show opened, we were beaten and broken and we had no palms left. But this was just the tip of the iceberg of self-inflicted bodily harm in the Year of the Wood. The real highlight, of course, was the time that Jack cut his hand open on a rusty nail, covered the entire stand in blood and possibly gave himself rabies or whatever it is rust does. This was also the time that we realised that we'd made far too many phone calls to 111 of the nature, "Should I be worried if my arm/leg/head is bleeding/facing the wrong way/no longer attached to me?' This could not go on.

We needed to make things a bit easier for ourselves; it was clear that we were taking the whole 'suffering for your art' thing way too literally. Luckily we found the solution in a well known proverb: "It is better to build one stand at home which can be used at multiple trade shows than to build a thousand stands until thy chickens hatcheth in a bush making light work of thy gift horse." Confucius, I believe. First things first, we treated ourselves to a drill.

The building of the stand was fairly straightforward. Apart from the fact that the things we had to work with did not fit into the space we had to work in (imagine a large and very serious game of Twister). And also the fact that we had to work outside in the middle of a heatwave, in a garden whose fences we had inexplicably painted white meaning that the laser beams of the sun were firing at us from every direction. And also the fact that we had decided to decorate the stand with a 5 metre long zigzag in 6 different colours of paint, which poses quite the masking conundrum. And also the fact that every evening, the universe deemed it appropriate to send rain, forcing us to build a very wide but not very high tent out of bin bags to protect our afore-mentioned zigzags. But yeah, apart from that, fairly straightforward.

So now, after four paragraphs of non-essential back-story, we have finally arrived at the point at which I am going to answer the question that I originally posed all the way back in the title. The reason, I assume, that you're here, if you are in fact still here. Why did we paint millions of squares on to our latest trade show stand? Partly because we had some masking tape left over from the zigzags but also because we believe that the way you do anything is the way you do everything and the way we want to do everything is as well as we possibly can. Sometimes that means agonising over two different shades of the same colour, sometimes it means testing our physical limits to see what we're capable of, sometimes it means spending more hours than we'd care to admit working painstakingly on something simply because we haven't seen it done before.

We spend a lot of our time and energy trying to create products that are exciting and original. We then spend a lot of time and money exhibiting these products at trade shows. Add to this the fact that customers are also spending their time and money to visit the shows and it seems counter-intuitive not to put the same efforts into the spaces that are essentially our shop fronts. And after all, it's a creative industry, surely that creativity should be evident in every face of our business.

Building our stands is fun, it's a challenge and we do it together. And those are the exact reasons why we run a business in the first place. But if you need one more reason for why we hand painted 880 tiny squares on to our latest stand it's this: we knew it would look fucking awesome.


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