Well….what an end to 2016!
Last summer we had a phone call out of the blue, from a lady in China, expressing interest in our horses. We get a lot of calls from abroad asking us if we would wholesale (very tricky as everything is made by us by hand and there aren't enough hours in the day!) and so I listened politely (while writing a shopping list ) and let her explain the situation. She asked if we would be interested in exhibiting in Dalian as the featured artist in their Christmas exhibition. I didn't really take it seriously but asked her to email the details for us consider. Emails followed and things started to get exciting!
They wanted my son Robbie and I to attend the exhibition for 8 days at their expense and they placed a considerable order with us for a number of horses. I was still sceptical, (things like that don't happen to people like us!) right up to when the deposit was paid and our flights and hotel reservations were confirmed!
They had agreed to handle all the logistics of shipping the horses, (it's extremely complicated in China, the rules and regulations can change weekly) and we made sure we had all the usual paperwork in place. Crates were ordered and delivered and the horses were completed well within their deadline. The week they were due to be dispatched, the powers that be decided that we needed formaldehyde testing on all the wood that was used to make the horses. This delayed things by about a week.
That wouldn't have been so bad, but we are a very tiny company working from home and the crates were being kept in my kitchen! To make matters worse, our house is on the market,(we need bigger workshops) and a viewing was booked. I explained the situation to the estate agent and she told me not to worry as the couple would be able to see past them. My response "No they won't, the crates are stacked up to the ceiling!" 🙂
Finally the horses were shipped, certificates and all, and Robbie and I flew out on 6th December. We arrived to the news that the horses were still in customs, another certificate was now needed.
The opening ceremony and various workshops had been arranged and heavily publicised so the show had to go on. The plan had been to do live demonstrations, with me painting some hobby horses that were part of the shipment now incarcerated. But it was ok….the exhibition organisers presented us with some planks of wood and a tiny saw ( I kid you not!) and we muddled through managing to knock up some "plank" horses that I then painted. All of this was taking place in the middle of a luxury goods mall and we were surrounded by Gucci, Versace, Tiffany, Dior etc. The moment a Chinese lady came up and admired my "plank" horse had to be one of the low points, I could have cried.
We opened the exhibition of my rocking horses…..Wowsers…. the Chinese certainly don't hold back! Fireworks, confetti canons, cocktails, TV interviews, ballet dancers, jugglers……. it should have been incredible but without any of my horses on display it all felt a bit something and nothing.
Although we were disappointed, it was an amazing experience, and we still feel lucky to have been given that opportunity.
The horses finally arrived the day after my son and I returned home and will be on display until the end of January.
Lessons learnt from this:
* Arrange the carriage ourselves and double check EVERYTHING
* Don't automatically suspect strange phone calls as scams….some of them are genuine
* Good things do happen to normal people like us!
Looking forward to 2017 and whatever gets thrown at us!
P.S. Talks are now in place for doing something similar in Hong Kong!!!!!