life as a traveling saleswoman
I do a lot of craft and art shows each year. So far this spring, I've had three shows in three states:Michigan (my home state), Ohio and Indiana. Some shows are really, really good, and some shows are, well...not so good.
Last week I drove over 4 hours to Indianapolis, Indiana for a show called INDIEana Handicraft Exchange. I felt really good about it, and worked myself silly to get ready for it.
And so, it just turned out to not be such a good show. I base my success on so much more than just the money that I make. Sure, I love having a show that helps me pay bills and buy more supplies to be able to keep sewing, but it's also about meeting people, passing out my business cards, getting feedback (more than just the negative feedback, too) and whether or not I had a good time. It seems like a loose way of determining if the show was good or not, but all of these things really do matter.
I like to think that I put a lot of work and effort into all of what I do. I try very hard to make quality pieces that have great craftsmanship and aren't shoddy. I may not be a great artist, but I do my best to make unique, exciting pieces that you won't see at the other tables. But most importantly, I try really hard to make only the things that I like. I am very appreciative to have found an audience among the people that I've met and sold my silly bags and pouches to, but if I'm not happy with what I'm making, then I'm just not going to make it. Plain and simple. It's not worth my time.
I've come to not be surprised when people either scoff at my prices or try to wheel and deal with me. I've also come to trust myself on this matter and stay firm on my prices. I know the work I've put into what I make, and in my heart of hearts, I know it's worth (and is sometimes worth more than) what I price them for. People who come to shows looking for Wal-mart prices won't find it at my table, and I don't feel bad about it. (You shouldn't either.)
But it's the people who give unsolicited "criticism" about what's on my table that really gets to me. Back around the holidays, I had someone ask if "I had anything that wasn't so childish." Nope lady, I'm a kid at heart and it shows. I like silly patterns with frogs and robots and squirrels. In Indianapolis, I had uninvited feedback from another woman who told me that "you'd make a lot more sales if you used more solids." She told me that my workmanship was "nice, but a lot of people don't like these patterns mixed together." She then went to to pick up pieces that seemed to work for her, and compare them to the pieces that she didn't like. Her criticism went on for a solid five minutes. I didn't know what to say back to her. It was like a cartoon moment where my jaw was hanging open, and I couldn't find the words to tell her how I really didn't care what she thought! I make what I LIKE, and furthermore, no one has the right to tell me that my sales could be better! I'm doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. I just wish I could have told her that.
But on the flip-side of this, I really do love doing shows. I have made so many friends and met wonderful people who appreciate what and how I make what I do. But please just remember, if you're at a craft show or art festival this summer and you like what the craftspeople are making, tell them, or better yet, buy something from them. And if you don't like what they do, it's not your job to tell them! Wait until you get back in the car to talk smack about those crazy folks!