Friday, November 21, 2014


Art Market is halfway done.  I'm glad.

While I love weaving, I love even more that people pay me to take my textiles home.  While chatting with another vendor at another show, we talked about how the selling was the hardest part of being a professional craftsperson.   And then he summed it up by observing that if you don't sell what you make it might as well stay on the shelf as raw materials.

Since the whole point is to earn an income by making things, said things have to sell in order to pay the bills, buy food, and, oh yes, buy more raw materials.

Which is why it is disconcerting to have people offer to 'pay' you by offering 'exposure'.  The latest is a blog post by Revolvo.  (I'm on my iPad and can't easily link, but I am quite confident a quick search will bring you to her Blog.)

She said it much more eloquently than I could, so if you are interested, do read her blog.

It seems North American society has by and large lost an appreciation for the arts...unless someone soars to celebrity status.  Nowadays they don't even have to be particularly talented, apparently, because technology can fix less than stellar performances.  Most people are so removed from how things are made that they don't understand what goes into making textiles (or pottery, or whatever).  

And so craft fairs often turn into an educational experience as people ask if the vendors have actually made everything in the booth.  Then they want to know how long it takes.  I try not to get vexed at this question, but use it as an opportunity to explain how weaving works.  And how much time is involved.

An informed public has to be a more appreciative public.

What most people don't understand is that making things and selling them means that you are in business.  That means we have to pay attention to our budget, know how to schedule production, figure out legal requirements, design packaging or labels, hone our marketing skills.  The fact that we enjoy the making of our product does not mean that we should be expected to work for nothing.   Or 'exposure'.

Having spent about 40 years learning my craft, I have achieved a pretty high level of skill.  In any other field I would be making a whole lot more money and have a tidy pension plan.  Instead I chose to be self employed for the satisfaction of directing my own life the way I wanted it.

Am I complaining?   Perhaps a little.  But would I have changed my life in order to have more security?  No.  That doesn't mean that I will any longer work for 'exposure', though.


Betty Bell said...

You're right; making it well is one thing, and selling it with grace is another. Never counted how many people were surprised that we couldn't dicker the price, as we had a high show fee as well as transportation. "You mean they charge you to be here?" is the amazed query. Oh, yes, dear lady, they certainly do, and many times the show givers themselves make little profit. Been on both sides,and like making and selling best.

Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

Here we have a "magazine" (at least in Swedish that has higher status than just a (news)"paper") that wants to "help small businesses" by telling the public. The only thing we have to do is to book an ad - the bigger ("more expensive) the ad, the longer the article printed...
While it is quite ok to pay for an ad, to get this person on the phone, telling one how wonderful one's products are, and how wonderful it would be if s/he would be allowed and interview (yadayada) - and NOT being told there is money involved... until much later, is a different thing altogether.

Good luck with the audience! (And, BTW, how long did it take you to weave that towel...? ;-)

Anonymous said...

It's a tough job what you do, but then again, you know that. Thanks, though, for writing about your experiences. Every time I think I'm going to change course and leave my job to pursue my art, I come back to reality. I'm not cut out for this.

When you are able, can you please link to the blog post you mentioned? I couldn't find it.

the Mighty M said...

The public is very ignorant. They know nothing about making anything. It doesn't matter if it is a handwoven garment or how to milk a cow. Should they know? Maybe. Can they know? ... not so sure. I keep thinking of these Japanese temples. Everything is handmade, the building, the bells, the tatami mats. So they have fires and there are craftsmen that come in and rebuild and refurbish the whole temple as it was. If you have ever been in a place where human energy is in every aspect of its creation you know how powerfull it is. I get that feeling when I go to the lodge at Mt.Hood, Oregon.. A lot is missing in a life that does not have a human touch.

Laura Fry said...
Click on 'read her words' ...the open letter to Oprah.

I tell people this work I do provides a nice supplemental income, but a very hard 'living'. :)


Peg Cherre said...

Thanks for the tip about Revolva, Laura. It's a long post, but so worth reading. And so right. I do love the customer interaction of shows, even when the person admires my work but can't afford it. I do tire of the 'how long does it take to weave that scarf', and do get a bit frustrated when I attempt to provide enough information for the person to maybe understand, and they interrupt me and say, "yeah, yeah, but how long did it take you to weave this particular scarf." I do my best to smile and say something like -- "I've been weaving for a dozen years. It took me this long to get this good at it so that scarf looks great." Ok, I never actually say that except in my mind. My short answer at that point is something more like, "hours and hours and hours."

And when people ask if I'll take less for something, what I want to say is something like, "will you take a pay cut at your job?" but I don't, of course. I simply say no.

Sandra Rude said...

Glad to hear you have a tentative surgery date. It'll help to be able to plan your life with more assurance. My own bypass was in 2000, so there is still lots of life to live after the surgery. All best wishes!

Laura Fry said...

Thanks Sandra. Just having a tentative date, especially one early in the new year, has really helped. :)