Commentary, but not a review. Maybe later.
I purchased my copy of this book at a Friends of the Library sale years and years ago. The price was $1.00.
Yesterday my artists' group held a show at a local restaurant. Outdoors, in a lovely but very dusty setting where the set-up and take-down is incredibly awkward and difficult and frustrating.
The weather was perfect, and we had a lively, steady crowd. Overall, the event was financially rewarding enough for me not to complain too much, other than to say I was completely exhausted by the time it was over and very glad I have no more similar shows until next fall. Yippee!
I'll spend most of today unloading the car, washing table covers, and getting ready for our Spring Fling Studio Tour in April. At least will take place here at my own house. I can set up over a period of several days and do the same when it's over, rather than having to do everything in a single day.
Most of the customers at these events are wonderful. They come into our little booths genuinely appreciative of what we do, whether we are "artists" or mere "crafters." (That distinction is a subject for another post!) Sometimes they try to bargain on prices, but it's up to the individual vendor whether to go along with it or not. I personally don't, and most of the time the customers understand.
The few annoying customers come in a variety of techniques. Some want you to tell them exactly how you do your creative thing, as though they will be able to absorb years of study and practice and failure in a few minutes, then go home and replicate your work. They can completely monopolize your time, while other customers go unaddressed. Others want to tell you all about their own art, or their grandmother's. We even have a few who try to sell their work to us, or who want to know how to get into our shows, or . . . a dozen different ways.
Fortunately, these nuisances are few and far between. Most of them are easily dispatched, too, with a few pointed words or even a laughing brush off.
Yesterday, however, I had one who was less easily brushed off. And he was actually more frightening than almost any I've ever encountered before in over 40 years of doing art and craft shows.
He started by complimenting me on my work, saying it was really beautiful. I thanked him, and said, as I always do, "I have fun with it."
He asked if I did everything myself. I explained that most of my pieces are made from stones I have gone out into the desert and collected myself, but that I do occasionally buy rough material or slabs at rock shows and estate sales.
He asked if I did all the wire wrapping. I answered that I did every single bit of it. I have no helpers.
He was eating a large, crumbly cookie and holding a plastic glass with what looked like iced coffee. Cookie crumbs were landing on my table covers, and the iced coffee was sloshing enough that I feared he was going to spill it on my jewelry.
At some point in the conversation, some ladies came into the booth. I greeted them, not just because it's what I do with all potential customers but because I was also trying to subtly hint to the guy with the cookie that this was my place of business and that if he wasn't going to buy something, I had to attend to other people who might.
The ladies didn't buy and soon left. Did they leave because the guy kept hanging around and blocking their access to part of my merchandise? I don't know, but since he did keep hanging around and he did block their access, I had to think that might have been at least part of the reason.
After they left, he said again that my jewelry was very beautiful. Again I thanked him.
And then he said, "And so are you."
I laughed and thanked him again, even though I knew that was the wrong thing to do. I knew it meant he would stay longer, that he would be encouraged to continue the conversation, that he would think . . . whatever.
But what else was I supposed to do?
Ten or fifteen more minutes passed. He maintained this kind of conversation no matter how I tried to steer it away. More customers came in, more customers left. I began to think they saw me as having a personal conversation with this guy and they were deliberately leaving me alone with him. More cookie crumbs landed on my table.
He hadn't done anything physical, there were plenty of other artists and customers around that I think they would have come to my aid if he did. He didn't, and eventually some ladies came in who showed serious interest in a couple of pieces so that I excused myself and turned all my attention to them. I just literally turned my back on the guy with the cookie.
Finally, he left. How long he had been in my booth I'm not sure. How many potential sales he cost me, maybe none, maybe a lot. I brushed all the crumbs from my tables and tried to brush off the whole experience.
I thought about saying something to the other artists around me -- all women, by the way -- to see if they had had similar experiences. I ended up not saying anything, however, because I feared they would laugh and tell me he was just an old guy trying to be nice to me, paying me compliments. That they would tell me I should be flattered. That he was harmless.
But this is my place of business, I kept thinking. I didn't bust my ass to set up this morning because I'm looking for a date. I'm here to sell stuff, to make a living, to pay my bills and buy my groceries. I don't have time to humor some old guy with a messy cookie. And what gives him the right to harass me but I have no right to complain?
An art show obviously isn't the venue to make a scene over some guy trying to hit on me. But the experience brought home once again how pervasive the harassment is, and how easy it is to brush it off as harmless and inoffensive.
No, sorry, I was highly offended. Not by the compliments, but by the guy's assumption that he could invade my place of business and take up my time with his compliments and flattery as though he had a right to. As though I should be so flattered that I would give up the opportunity to make a living in my chosen field in order to make him feel . . . flattered.
No, sorry, guy with the crumbly cookie and sloshing coffee, I was not flattered.
Our art group meets on Wednesday afternoon. I'm going to bring this up and see what the reaction is. Anybody wanna bet a nickel I get the "Oh, he was just an old guy trying to be nice!" response.