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.
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!
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.
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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