My friend Dane Shobe recently talked about people not valuing or placing importance on something he created, and he was wondering how others handled this, which made me question my own response to careless or thoughtless comments about my work. In responding to Dane's question, Huascar Medina put it all in perspective with his sage advice, saying "I try to put myself behind the work not in front." YES! It should not be about my ego.
It is frustrating to be doing an art fair and listening to comments people make. For whatever reason, I can have a hundred people pass by and tell me how much they like my "stuff, " and some even pay lots of money to own one of my creations, so why is it that one ignorant comment sticks in my craw? And what is a craw, anyway? But it does, and I have spent years dealing with the best way to deal with these comments. Generally I ignore them, smile and move on to the next customer. I have come to the realization that some people like my stuff and some don't. That's human nature. I just wish they would save any snarky or ignorant comments until they have left my booth so they won't ruin the enjoyment others might get from my work.
I have heard comments by people standing in my tent talking about my work or directly to me like:
1. "Why would I pay that for a chunk of plastic?" (My "plastic" is art glass that costs me up to $35 for a 4" square before I even look at it, much less start manipulating it into art, adding other layers to it, transporting it in a way it won't get broken, and dealing with theft);
2. "I could make that." (Then do it! And MAYBE you could after you had thousands of dollars of training, bought tons of expensive equipment and supplies, and honed your skills for over ten years - IF you had the talent);
3. "The artist on the next row sells these for less." (Yes, that's true. She is 20, lives with her parents, who buy the supplies she uses along with their space and their electricity and they pay for her van to get things there. And guess who paid the $400 cost to enter this art fair? She is selling for less than her actual costs [well, her parents' actual costs], not to mention no money in there for her design time or talent. I love doing my art, but would at least like to cover my costs.); and my all-time favorite:
4. "I saw that at [name your store] for a lot less." (First, no you didn't because every single piece I make [except my $6 bracelets] is an original, so the one you buy from me is special and absolutely unique. Second, I don't use child labor or underpay women in second-world countries to do my labor. All my work is done by me here in the good old USA, plus I buy components also made in the USA whenever possible.)
People often can't or don't understand how to value the creative process. Just because it is not their thing doesn't mean they have the right to denigrate it.
Take Dane, for example. He creates these wonderfully creative art works using animated creatures as his subject matter. He probably does lots more that I have never seen, but this is what I have seen. I consider his artwork to be outstanding and would love to have a piece of his artwork gracing my walls. Is his use of cartoon characters any less art than Andy Warhol's soup cans? Absolutely not.
Another family friend does glasswork and creates smoking apparatus for marijuana. Her glasswork is outstanding - much better than mine will ever be. Because it is used in that context, does it make her artwork any less credible? That's not my thing, but I have to admire the artistic endeavor.
I remember my sister coming to an art fair in which I was participating and coming home with a piece of art that was expensive and didn't seem very complicated to justify such a price. I have since found that some of the best art is quite simplistic, and have tried to edit my own work toward this goal. I now view that artwork from an entirely different point of view since I am now more educated in design than I was then, and give my sister kudos for being attracted to a higher level of artistic design.
Ok, so where am I going with all of this? I guess I am hoping people will keep negative comments out of the hearing of those selling at art fairs and their potential customers. We work our bottoms off before and during those shows, so please don't pass on your negativity to us and our customers. You may not like my sculptures and I may not like the outfit you have on, but I am not going to confront you about it - to each their own!
If I solicit your critiques, go for it (and I often do and have learned a lot). At an art fair, though, my most important critic is my bottom line - if my stuff doesn't sell it may be for many reasons, and one if those reasons might be that people don't like a particular design or type of product. I get that, and often what sells well at one location bombs at another. I will follow Huascar's advice and put myself behind my work, not in front. I may not always succeed but I will give it my best shot. After all, who wants to buy from someone negative? Not me! So growing a thicker artistic skin will help me keep a more positive persona for those who will appreciate what I do.