Adventures in Soft Furnishings
It's early, early, Monday morning and we're driving through the West Country from London and back to the calm and quiet of Newlyn at the toe end of Cornwall. My husband and I - I get very regal after midnight - are exhausted, hungry and a little bit tetchy. I have swags under my eyes so voluminous that they would be deemed excess baggage by Ryan Air. We have spent the last 6 days hawking my company, Betty Boyns, kitchen linens and oilcloths in the capital to the well healed, House and Garden crowd of the Spirit of Christmas Fair in Kensington. We live in one of the most inconvenient places in the country, every journey has the 'getting in/out of Cornwall' add on, but like most down here we manage. So the two in the morning drive past St Michaels Mount is a reality and despite the tetchiness we love it - I think.
Retail shows, can be like war, sudden bursts of activity followed by mindless boredom. You grow very attached to your fellow stall holders and tales of daring do flow like wine - wine which also flows ... um like wine once the sun is past the yardarm or ‘Ping Pong’ hour. We are sharing a stand for the first time, with Jurate Jakstaite the creative brain behind JJ Texties. I like Jurate very much, she says what she thinks with a look of a slightly mischievous fairy. We met a few years ago after introducing herself in her quietly assertive manner. Her jacquard designs, produced as blankets, cushions and capes are manufactured in her native Lithuania with a soft luxurious fine wool in lovely muted shades of greys and browns with images of Labradors, bears, sheep and seasonally, Christmas themes. Her 'must have' winter warmers can be found in various shops in Devon and Cornwall including ... ( she's getting back to me with her stockists) I have a couple of her throws which I love to snuggle up with of an evening in front of the fire, imagining I was by the chilly Baltic to the distant sound of the Archers. We're very much in to our home comforts at Chez Newlyn - even the dog has her own slippers.
Jurate has adopted the role of my surrogate mother, despite being 15 years younger than me. Finding a piece of chicken and ham pie in my hair, after a 5 minute lunch break between the customer and credit card onslaught, she says " Paula you are very messy. You need to take time to look in the mirror" I apologise for my slattern ways, find a mirror and agree. I am a mess and I have accidentally accessorised my chicken and ham hair with a cheese and onion crisp corsage. I have a hole in my favourite grey wool tights and I might be wearing my jumper inside out or is that the style? You just don't know these days. I look on enviously as the Kensington great and good glide by manicured, pruned and groomed as I scrape pastry from my fringe. You can take the girl from the country but not the country from the girl.
Through the week I have a lot of conversations about my designs, my home in Cornwall, my hubbies suits ( he's very dapper) and our pets and their sad demise and this year, due to our gorgeous new Cornish Hen design - chickens. Did you know that Bantams can roost in trees and that in London there are thousands of chicken keepers and many hundred of hen pods are sold each year to the city inhabitants. And so our Cornish Hens and Goosie Goosie design ' fly' out. Oh and little girl told me the difference is a duck goes quack and a goose goes honk, I decide to relay this too my customers when they ask. I hope they don't think I'm being facetious.
Marketing gurus tell how we should sell. How to 'convert' the speculative customer into a buying customer. At 'Spirit of Christmas' our stand shows off our gorgeous matt oilcloth a treat, it brings people in, everyone loves it, everyone touches it tenderly. We engage them in conversation, talk of the quality and it's' UK made credentials with a will to 'convert' but equally chatting to them about something that you both feel passionate about, family, pets, the Archers overly eroticised storyline will create a connection and maybe a 'conversion'. Ultimately if you're nice to people they might buy from you, if they don't you might have had a jolly nice chat and they'll remember you engaging repartee and pastry hair. Not sure what Dragons Den would make of it but I'm glad to be a designer of fabric that makes people smile, that someone will don one of my aprons and make the mundane washing up slightly less mundane. The moonlit drives might be worth it after all.
Betty Boyns products can be bought from our stockists and online. Or by phone .
Bettyboyns.co.uk 08450 219 550