Monday, February 28, 2011

It took me 30 years to make that one

by Patty Lakinsmith

Have you shown and sold your work at art fairs? If so, you might have a chuckle at this 3.5 minute little animated YouTube video, "Potter at an Art Fair". While the artist in the video is a potter, he could easily represent any kind of artist, even a jewelry maker.



It's easy to laugh at this if you've been through it as an artist. I've personally encountered a few customers like this myself, but fortunately only a few. If it were more it would be very frustrating.

The poor potter in the video tries to do everything right. He emphasizes that the work in his booth is handmade, and tries to convey the value through describing the amount of work that is involved in creating it. He doesn't give in to the shopper's desire to barter, and she moves on. Unfortunately, this customer is only looking for cheap finds, and would be better off at a flea market.

Depending on the venue, I usually assume that the shoppers entering my booth think that I went to the bead store and bought the beads used in my jewelry. Some have even asked me that and I'm quick to tell them that no, I make each and every bead by hand using a propane and oxygen torch, and glass rods imported from Italy. That usually slows their browsing speed immediately, as they take a closer look at my work with new eyes. I watch to see which pieces capture their attention, and then try to engage them a little by explaining the techniques I used to create the piece. Yes, I get questions about whether it comes in another color (blue?), and once I even had someone try to barter with me on the price (it was a very expensive piece), but by then they know that the piece was created by hand, and would not be found in any store.

I also have a digital photo frame I use that shows pictures of myself in the studio making beads, and it helps them to understand the process. I've even shown videos on my laptop before and that can really draw a crowd. Demonstrations are a great way to educate.

By and large nearly all of the shoppers I've encountered have been friendly and polite, and interested in the process I use to create my work, and I love getting out of the solitary confines of the studio and interacting with them. If they leave my booth with a better understanding of the value of handmade jewelry I'm happy.

Have you encountered shoppers like the one in the video? Do you have any special techniques you'd like to share for helping them understand that your work is not comparable to things they might find at a yard sale or flea market?

If you'd like some more laughs, check out this one on art fair neighbors, and this one on translating an artist statement.

12 comments:

For My Sweet Daughter said...

Haha I have not done a craft fair but I have done jewelry shows and I sell my work in my salon. I have had people comment on the price and even had a woman complain about a clasp being on the side of a necklace. Why would she put it there they belong in the back. While I do not make my own beads I still think I am worth the extra money because of the thousands of hours invested in finding, sorting, and storing my materials, learning the techniques, pricing and tagging my pieces among other things. Some people don't see beyond well I can get this bead at such and such place for x amt. Thank God not everyone is like that!

rosebud101 said...

Patty, I had one shopper who absolutely refused to believe I made my beads. Even after I told her, she kept saying, "Yes, but where do you BUY your beads." She refused to be convinced.

Palimpa Lim said...

Hahahahaha!!!!
I haven't shown my work at an art fair, yet, but I work as a sales assistant in a fashion boutique and oh, I know these people sooo well!!! Thank you for sharing this! I am still laughing!

Higgins Design Studio said...

These little animations are fabulous! As a potter and a jewelry designer, I can appreciate them. I have heard things similar to the potential customer, as recently as this past weekend!

missficklemedia.com said...

This is an awesome post, Patty!
The digital frame idea is a wonderful, modern way to show people how deep your work goes and how important it is to show people that depth.

mairedodd said...

thank you for this patty... like i am sure so many do, one finds themselves shaking their head and smiling while watching it... what has seemed to work for me is something that i am not always comfortable doing - that is, self promoting... i lay out the publications i am in and if i have them, the pieces that are shown... i did however have a woman ask me if i 'copied that from the magazine'! which then made me doubt even that approach as people might be thinking i was copying...
i love your idea of showing yourself working - who wouldn't be drawn into watching you 'play' with fire?
my daughter works at a glass blowing studio and will sometimes come with me to shows... she is the one who will kick me under that table once i start to sound like i am apologizing for the price... while lots of people just need some education - there are just those who want the $15 set from the guy down the aisle... art fairs/shows are certainly interesting places...

Norma's Clay said...

Yes, I know this "person"!!! We can write a book about all kind of anecdotes. And while the prospective customer is asking whatever they think we should be nice and educate them. Thank God for the very nice educated customer who appreciates our work and buys!

MaCarroll Beads said...

Patty.. That was hilarious! I have only done one small show, but did take a portable case that Bill had made me to school many times. Although, most of my colleagues were great, there were enough to annoy me about the prices, which, at the time, were double what I had paid for the materials. I sometimes find this person on Etsy too! They make the rounds ;o) LOL

VanBeads said...

Oh, boy, was that ever familiar! When I used to sell fused glass jewelry, I had a woman stop at my booth once who was looking at the pendants. She picked up a large, intricately painted dichroic glass pendant with a sterling silver bail and asked me how much it was. I told her it was $35. Horrified, she slammed the pendant back down on the table and dragged her children away, muttering, "$35 for a little piece of glass!" I didn't know what to say until the vendor in the booth next to me (who was selling $4,000 handmade rustic wood furniture) leaned over and whispered, "Attention, Wal-Mart shoppers..." That gave me a laugh.

Since I've stopped doing most of my fused glass jewelry and have started focusing mostly on my higher-end beadwork, I've had less of that kind of customer. Most people understand what goes into a piece of my jewelry, and they understand why I price things the way I do.

I still encounter the occasional customer who wants to bargain for a better price, or someone who is shocked when they see the price of a piece that took me 20 hours to make. When I am dealing with one of those people, I just tell them about my work, point them to my portfolio (which I keep on my table, along with a list of my art shows and credentials) and just let them be. Sometimes, they'll buy a piece from me. Other times, they'll be unimpressed and walk away. But I try not to let it bother me - I did all the right things, and I just have to remind myself that this person is just not going to get it.

Kristi Bowman said...

That's so funny!! I don't do many shows but I've done enough to totally understand that scenario. It's a crazy business we're in sometimes, gotta love it!

SummersStudio said...

Good one, Patty. As a sometimes maker of pots, I can totally relate to this video. I do a monthly art market and we do sometimes get people through who treat it like a flea market. But those people are a very small minority. I just let them walk away. The vast majority of people are interested in my process and appreciative of the value of handmade over big box.

D'Arsie Manzella said...

This is so funny! I don't do shows with my pewter, so I don't get to interact with these customers very often. I do love this little story though, it takes all kinds of people to make this world interesting! "That one took me 30 years." great line~

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