I am going to be doing a series of posts about the crazy and sometimes rude things that people say or do while at a craft fair/show. Please keep in mind that for those of us who do craft shows 99.9% of the people who come through our tent or booth are very nice people who we all appreciate. The other .1% can make a crafter's life, I don't know, shall we say stressful?! The great craftspeople on Etys have been kind enough to share some of their stories with me to share with you. Hopefully some of you will get a laugh and maybe some of you will re think what you say in front of the people who have worked so hard to bring their hand crafted, beautifully made items to the general public.
And just so you don't think that I am being too one sided I will also be sharing some stories about other vendors who can be just as rude and obnoxious to their fellow vendors as anyone else.
The number one thing that people say that tends to irritate artisans is this:
"I can make this myself"
"I can make this myself for less"
"If I had time to take classes I could make it myself"
Lady turns to friend and says "I bet you could make this yourself".
Some true life examples:
"No man alive could make that!"
...to which I (a nice, middle-aged lady, replied, "Well, a woman can!"
My husband once said "I could make that" at a modern art museum. I responded, "But you didn't".
A few years ago a lady was admiring some of my scarves, then she told me she would buy a loom and learn to weave before she bought anything from me cause she could to that herself. Hmm - buy loom, pay for lessons, spend years getting to the level of competence to create what you are holding in your hands before you would pay $60?? I was speechless.
this time i didn't have to have a quick come back...the customer did it for me....bless her little heart!
i owned a B&M shop in MI in the early 90's....i had over 40 artisans in my shop (including my own work). i used to do design work for BH&G magazine (Better Homes & Gardens), one idea i sold them was my button heart design, which started a HUGE trend of hearts covered in buttons that lasted for years....anywaaaaaay....i also sold them in my shop.
...one day a lady picked one up (not knowing i made them) and said "whaaaa?! $18.95 for THAT thing???! i can DO that!" i, of coarse, didn't admit to making them and replied "well, there are over 70-80 buttons & are exceptional vintage mother of pearl....each one is carefully sewn on by hand, plus it is a perfectly shaped stuffed heart their attached too. i don't think it's as easy as the artist makes it look." She snidely said back "oh yea? i got buttons...i'm gonna make one...it'll prob' look even BETTER than those, i'll bring it back & show ya'! $18.95, ya' got to be kidding me!!" off she went.
the next week, sure enough....she showes up, walks right to my counter and plops down a mash of buttons. i said "what's this?" because i couldn't really tell what the devil it was. "well, i REALLY tried to make one of those expensive button hearts...but, DANG, it's REALLY REALLY hard!! how does she get it to look like a HEART? and how does she manage to get 70 buttons to lay right? AND where on earth did find all those mother pearl button?! mine just doesn't look like HER."
i looked her right in the eye and said "well I spent several yrs collecting antique buttons, and it took many tries to develop the right pattern,...blahblahblah.." during MY explanation she turned bright RED realizing all the things that she had said the week before about ME & my work. when i finished my story she walked over to the bowl picked up the last four button hearts that were left and proceeded to buy ALL four....saying "deary, i owe you a HUGE apology....i just realizd what a BIG mouth i have and i won't ever say "oh i can do that!" AGAIN!!!"
before she left, i shared the REAL story of my button heart...."my neighbor lady died on Mother Day's while i was living in CA, and it was that experience that inspired my button heart design....i created a heart for each of her girls to remember their Mother by. they were to attach a different memory to each button, because a button's job is to keep things together." the nasty customer buying the 4 hearts began to weep, walked around the counter and gave me a HUGE hug...."can you make me 10 more hearts, please? that is the loveliest story....i want to share that story AND what a dope i've been w/my daughters and all my best friends i love. the next time i hear one of them say 'oh, i can do that'...i'll say to 'em...."you only THINK you can!"
"my three year old could do that"
I had a brief stint in art school and one year we made this into the school t-shirt!
I was doing shows every weekend and I make tables out of old windows..one of my biggest sellers at the time. Woman and her son came up and she said to son.."I have one of those windows in the basement" Sonsays "I can make one of those for you" Hubby was standing behind me when the son turned to me and said "how do you make that?" Hubby spoke up before I could say anything and said" for $225 you can take it home and take it apart and find out how she made it" With that.. off they went in a huff without my table..
At my last festival/fair, I had a front table with all my jewelry for sale on it, and then off to the side towards the back of the tent, I had a small table in the shade that my husband and I were taking turns working at. A fairly young lady came up to the table and picked up one of my Romanov weave necklaces (not listed on Etsy yet, but will be soon). Now this necklace took me almost three days to complete because it was made with really tiny rings (they blow away easily they are so small) and it's a complicated weave. But she was looking at it, flipped the price tag over, smirked and said she could make it for far less. Husband picked up my bag of rings and my pliers and told her to hop to it. She scoffed and walked off.
We realize that with the right supplies, the time to spend to learn to make something well (sometimes years) and the patience to do "it" you probably could make "it" yourself. However you are standing in front of the table and the vendor is standing behind the table. Please don't be rude and belittle the time and effort it takes for an artist to make the things they do. Chances are good that even if you could make it you won't. Or you would be behind the table not in front of it.
Many thanks to