What NOT to say at a craft show
But first, THANK YOU!
Thank you for buying from your local artisans! Thank you for braving the heat and the wind and the rain and the snow (sometimes all on the same day) to admire and buy products from people who have poured their love and soul into them. Your support is truly, truly the life force of a creative entrepreneur. You put food on artist's tables, pay their rent, and (most importantly) give them enough money so that they can go get more supplies to make more products. Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU
As a person who has worked many craft show booths (wholesale and retail)in the aforementioned opressive heat, gale force winds and freezing rain I do have a small request. While you peruse the booths, please be aware that some of the things you say can be defeating, insulting and even devastating to an artist. Artists are daring, talented and trend-setting but they are also really very sensitive people who are just hoping that you will appreciate what they have made. They pour their heart and soul into their products and put themselves out on a limb to share with you. While you are by no means expected to buy anything from anyone (although, please do and often), the way you talk to or about an artistan is SO important!
We crafting entrepreneurs have come up with the top 10 worst things to say at a craft show:
1. "Can I get a discount?"
Discounts are for big box stores who mark up their products made from small underpaid children in foreign countries. Haggling is for market bazaars in the middle east and garage sales when people are trying to get rid of their crap that would otherwise have to be lugged to a freestore if you don't buy it. This is art! Do not ask for a discount! Even if it's the last day of the show, the artist is likely going to pack up their minivan and head to another one, hoping to make enough money to pay booth fees and travel expenses. Their artwork is priced under it's value as it is, please don't insult them by asking for more off the pricetag. If you really want a deal, at least first tell them how awesome the art is and how much you love it. Then say what your budget is and ask if they have anything in that range. If they don't, then skip the nachos snack cash and pay that extra to the artist. You'll be so glad you did because those nachos are really bad for you anyway.
2. "I could make that!"
Possibly you could. Especially if you've had years of experience perfecting your craft. The point is: You didn't! This artist did! They thought of a great idea, bought the supplies and not only finished it (I'm talking to you people with several totes full of 'great ideas' you started last year), but stayed up until midnight making several of them. They also tagged it, paid for a booth, lugged it from their house, and held down their tent poles so that it didn't blow away in the freak spring hailstorm waiting for you to walk in and make your comment. Do youself a favor and buy it so you can enjoy it right away!
3. "Can you do this (other person's art) for me?"
Okay, I know you're just trying to inspire this particular artist and give them an opportunity to make money right? But really, you've just made yourself look like a cheapskate AND a jerk in one fell swoop. If another person made it and you liked it, why did you not pay that artist for it? And why would this artist want to do someone else's art for less than the original artist is charging? I don't have an alternative suggestion for this. It's just really wrong on too many levels.
4. "Can I hang your artwork on the wall of my (insert establishment here)? It would be great exposure for you!"
We have a little saying in the crafting biz: "Exposure will kill you." At least it kills an artist's ability to make a meager living making something that you think is awesome but don't want to pay for even though it would enhance your space and impress your friends. Unless your establishment is the jumbotron on Times Square, please just buy it. Or instead, you could say, "I love your art! Give me your card because I'm going to tell all my friends with money about you so that you get what your worth and more!"
5. "I wouldn't be caught dead with that in my house!"
Congratulations! You just stabbed a creative right in the gut. You don't have to like anything in any booth, but please, please, PLEASE remember that this artist loves what they created. That mixed media cat portrait you think is "garish" is some artist's (and believe it or not, some other person's) thing of beauty. Just keep the negative comments to yourself until you are in your air conditioned car and well away from earshot of ANYONE at the festival. Before you do, say something like: "Wow! I can tell you're really passionate about cats!" and walk on. It's not a lie and you have made an artist's day.
6. "That's too expensive."
Okay, everyone has a budget, but when you say this, you are actually demeaning the artist's work. You're outright saying that it is not worth your perceived value of the art. That may be true, but it's so much better to say: "I love this so much! It's worth every penny but out of my budget right now." If the artist is smart, they'll take your information and keep you on their mailing list for when your budgetary situation becomes more...generous.
7. "Why does it cost so much if the materials are only (insert some small $ here)?"
Well, it's because this is an artist who has studied and practiced for years working with said materials can finally make magic and beauty with them. Is there a price for that? Yes, and it's probably more than what the artist has asked for. How about saying, "Holy cow! You have transformed that discarded tin can into a masterpiece! It's worth triple what you've asked!" Then buy it.
8. "Can you do custom art?"
I fooled you here. This is actually not a terrible thing to ask as many artists are happy to do commission work for you. Just don't follow the requested price for custom work with popping shocked eyeballs and say, "it costs THAT MUCH for custom work?" Trust me, put your eyeballs back into their sockets and know that it may be 4 times the price but it's 10 times the work to make something special just for you. Don't ask if you're not willing to pay a high premium price.
9. "Oh my gosh, how have you been? I haven't seen you in SO LONG!"
You aren't talking to the artist in the booth, you're talking to your friend. It's awesome that you ran into your long lost friend and even better that you both love local artisan craft events. Please remember that you, your friend, and both of your oversized purse totes are blocking other paying customers from seeing about half of the booth's wares. This kind of friendly gathering is only acceptable if you are telling your friend which awesome stuff to buy (that is in this booth)and that she should also purchase 4 more for all your other friends. If you can do that in about 10 minutes and head out of the booth, that would be very much appreciated.
10. "You know what you should make..."
Stick a pin in that crafter's balloon brain and pop it until it's as deflated as her sweaty hair in this humid 100+ degree day. Trust me when I tell you that this artist has already tortured herself over what she should make, what you would buy, and how best to present it to you. Yes, your suggestion might even be a good one, but remember that it's better to just say, "You are an amazing artist! Have you ever done (such and such) too?" That at least softens the blow and the crafter won't have such a strong urge to give you the finger when you walk out of the booth. Although she's probably too hot and hungry to have the energy to lift it anyway.
Thank you again and have fun buying from some amazing artists this holiday season! -Margot