Sunday, November 21, 2010


We recently had the privilege of exhibiting at IDSwest 2010. This was our 5th year. Originally the show was called DV Decorate Vancouver, which gives you an idea of the naïve optimism of its founders. (The topic of Interior Designer verses Interior Decorator is worth discussion on its own)
None the less, they had vision and recognised that Vancouver was large enough to support a public show devoted to interior design (or interior decorating as they called it at the time). More importantly, the founders of this show had and continue to have enthusiasm, and commitment, qualities essential to the continued success of this venture.

For the local and not so local designer / maker / woodworker, aside from “culture crawls”, this is the only venue in Vancouver I know of where they can showcase their work and meet the public.

This year’s event took place in the new Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, a very impressive facility built not without controversy as construction costs went out of control prior to the winter Olympics. It was built without a business plan and at a cost $346 million higher than B.C. taxpayers had been promised. (Original budget: $495 million. Final bill: $841.2 million.)

Two things I like about the new trade and convention centre are the use of BC wood and the choice of relevant art. There is a great collage of archival photos and original works by Ian Wallace and BC Binning among others. A number of the archival photos depict cruel and violent events perpetrated by the government and police. I was impressed and surprised to see these.

Our experience this year as exhibitors was the best yet. The logistics were vastly improved over previous years. Although I recognised many of the exhibit staff, they were different people. They were well co-ordinated, helpful, and kind. This is no small achievement given the circumstances.

Other woodworkers often ask me if they think that they should be exhibiting at IDSwest. In answer to that I would ask; what do you expect from exhibiting? If it is immediate sales this is not the show for you. IDSwest in my experience is about building new relationships and re-kindling existing ones. It’s largely a social event, and as we know, especially in this business, it’ all about relationships.
For a small business like ours the financial and time commitments are considerable. You have to enjoy doing it in order to justify it.

Two other significant differences I noticed at this year’s event were, one, the lack of green washing. In previous years there were always a number of exhibitors touting their supposed “green” superiority. I saw almost none of this in 2010. I attribute this at least in part to the unfortunate reality that so much of the so called “green” movement on the part of manufacturers and retailers is really only a matter of fashion, and that the “fad” seems to have passed.

The other noticeably absent contingent was the “design scouts” or whatever we might call attendees with cameras collecting ideas for immediate appropriation. I guess with all the great design on internet blogs it is no longer necessary to leave the office or factory to gain access to them.

On the topic of "green" practices and sustainability I was amazed at the waste created by the show itself. A number of exhibitors build large booths from scratch, on site then when the show is over simply chuck the whole thing into a dumpster destined for the land fill.

One flooring exhibitor tore up hundreds of square feet of new laminate flooring and tossed it. Another had a display with large stone tiles glued to plywood. Rather than dis-assembling it for later use, they smashed the whole thing up with hammers and threw it out. What a waste and what a chore.

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