Sunday, March 20, 2016

Four Weird Things People Say to Beaders

If you use Facebook, Pinterest, or Tumblr, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point you’ve seen some variation on the meme “10 Things Not to Say to an Artist”. I’m sure I’ve even seen one specifically for beaders. Anyone who’s been beading or designing jewelry for a while has probably heard at least a few of the unfavorable comments on these lists, though many of them are the types of barbs that only come about when you’re face-to-face with potential clients. The conversation at craft fairs can often turn to debates about price, skill, and even materials.

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While reading one of these memes I started thinking about some of the other not-so-flattering comments that one can sometimes hear not from strangers, but from our family, friends, and acquaintances. Assuming that you’re not hiding your creations away under the floorboards, chances are someone that you know has asked a question or offered an opinion that made you feel less than inspired. Although they don’t always come from a bad place, they can still sting. Just for fun, I’ve listed four of my “favorites”, and some possible interpretations and responses.

1. “I usually hate ___, but I love this.”

There’s something about we humans - at least in Western culture - that makes it nearly impossible to give a true compliment. They’re often a little bit skewed, and it’s almost funny that no one feels weird about paying a compliment that includes the word hate. I think it’s possible that we’re afraid to sound insincere if we’re not a little bit negative, too.

Weird Things People Say to Beaders

This comment can often pop up when a friend is admiring your latest creation. Before telling you they like it, they first have to point out what they don’t like about it. On the other hand, a more favorable interpretation could be “I don’t usually like ___, but you’re so talented that you’ve changed my mind.” That certainly feels better! In fact, you should translate that back to them by saying “That’s because I’m so awesome I can make anything look good.”

2. “I could never make anything like that. I’m just not creative.”

This is probably the most common thing that people say when viewing someone’s handiwork. And it’s definitely the weirdest. Creativity is one of the things that make us human; it just doesn’t always manifest itself in color and crafts. Creativity can be found in almost any activity or skill – from cooking to organizing one’s closet.

Sometimes this comment comes across as “I’m too busy/sophisticated/cool to make art.” But it’s probably more like “I’m being self-deprecating because I’m really intimidated by your amazing talents.” To be honest, I haven’t come up with a great response to this comment yet, even though I’ve had so many chances to practice. If you know the person well, you can always point out something they do that is creative. Otherwise, you’ve just got to own your skills by saying something like “It takes a lot of practice, but I find it very rewarding.”

3. “I should totally buy something from you sometime.”

This one isn’t exactly rude, just kind of annoying - especially after you’ve heard it for the tenth time. The fact is that if someone really does want to pay you for your work, they’ll ask for a price and get their wallet ready. Or they’ll tell you what they want and work out how they’ll pay you for it. Giving you their custom is one of the best compliments that someone can give you, particularly if they don’t try to haggle!

Things Not to Say to Beaders

The most likely translation for this statement is “I don’t like your work that much, but I want to make you feel good about it anyway.” This isn’t really a bad thing – our friends aren’t required to like what we do. A more forgiving interpretation might be “I really want you to know how much I like your designs, but also I know I can’t afford them.” For a really good friend, you can always make a note of the elements they like and make them a variation for their next birthday. Otherwise just smile and say “I do custom work, too. Let me know if you’d like a quote sometime.”

4. “Why don’t you ever make ___?”

A question like this often pops up in the jewelry section of a clothing shop, when a friend or family member catches a glimpse of a colleague’s design in your Facebook feed, or perhaps if you've left a beading magazine lying around with one of those ads featuring award winning pieces on the back. The design is usually way outside of your skillset, or so completely different from what you like to make that it might as well be architecture or championship pumpkin growing.

Weird Things People Say to Jewelry Designers

This comment probably stings the most, because we’re most likely to interpret it as “I like that person’s work way more than yours.” Or perhaps “You’re not very good yet, are you?” Of course this isn’t usually the case. A fellow artist of any medium wouldn’t say this, so the commenter is just not familiar with the techniques and materials involved in either design. Deep down, what they’re really saying is “You’re going to win awards someday, too. Get on it, you awesome beader!”

What’s the best or worst thing anyone’s ever said about your beadwork? How did you respond?


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  1. If I had a nickle for every time I heard these.....

  2. How about: yes, lovely, do you know you can also use a differnte material? or maybe you can make different ones and change the colours.

    1. In other words "I'd like your work if you changed everything about it." Yep, that's a pretty common one, too!

  3. Great topic! One that needs to be re-visited often. I really enjoyed your perspective! Well done!

  4. This made me laugh! How true
    I had a friend tell me "you should make... Bangle charm bracelets" The samend ones you can buy at every store now. I know she was coming from a good heart but clearly not understanding individuality and the uniqueness of handmade!

    1. Yes! #4 is even more perplexing when the other design in question is actually below your skill level or quality standards.

    2. I have a certain friend who comes over to visit me and we play "show and tell" with all the stuff I have made since the last time she visited. Every single time I show her stuff, without fail, she gives me advice on how I "should have" made the thing. Usually the advice she gives is just not right. Not what is trending, not what I was feeling, just not right at all. I try to hint to her that her advice is bordering on being rude, but she just don't get it. I have even offered to let her dig into my beads and try her hand. But no, she's not the "doing type", she's the "advice-giving type". Face/palm!!!

    3. That's super frustrating! I much prefer the fans who love absolutely everything you make without condition. Like my MIL, who once dove under the Christmas tree to get at the package I brought for gift exchange. That was a great compliment!

      Have you tried offering to do a custom piece with her so that she can see some of her ideas in action? Actually, that would probably be way worse for you. Persnickety custom orders can be a nightmare.

  5. 'It would look better if you did....' I sometimes respond, only God is perfect.

  6. The one I hate is the 'I'd love to try that if I just had the time', as though we are a) bone idle with nothing else to do b) just passing time c) have no discernible talent at what we do

    1. It's so true! And the worst part is, we probably do the same thing to others. I also hate it when someone says "I just don't have time to read" as if books are more trouble than they're worth. But I've also probably said "I don't have time to watch TV" in a somewhat snobby way. I wonder if there's an evolutionary connection to this social one-upmanship we do. Things to ponder...

  7. Unfortunately, the people who really need to be educated about these comments are not reading this blog. It would be great to be able to frame these 10/14 comments and display it on your table at a craft fair, but then we would be seen as the rude ones! I have a print of the good fairy from The Wizard of Oz holding her Magic wand, with the caption, "I make beautiful jewelry one tiny bead at a time. What's your Superpower?" I have a friend who has blown it up, framed it, and put it on her table. She gets very positive reactions to it. "Really? Every one of those beads is a stitch?, Wow, etc. It's quite a conversation starter and she's positive it has increased sales in some cases. Bottom line is, people just don't stop and think before they speak. If they had any idea what went into beading they would be the first to quit, I think sometimes. And no, it's not just about waving a magic wand!
    P.S. I don't do fairs. I did years ago and just physically cannot do the packup, load, unload, unpack routine anymore. I sell online or off my body when wearing my pieces. So I rarely have to deal with these comments anymore. I truly sympathize with those who do. We just have to keep trying to educate people!

    1. Unfortunate comments are everywhere, sadly. It's funny that we all have our own least-favorites, and yet we all seem to do it to each other! People are funny.

  8. Reading the blog and all the comments I realize this is something that all artist go through and I am now experiencing this as I decided to do this for my living. I feel better knowing it isn't just me and I now have some ideas as to how to deal with the comments. Thank you for posting I think I will make a sign like the fairy sign and see if that helps


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