Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Gourmet Breadstick of Anger

I almost forgot to tell you guys about my favorite story of the year! Any of you who know me well or have even met me for 10 minutes while I bellow out lightweight mormon expletives and lace you into a corset will KNOW that I am emotional about my corsets. I turn into a forlorn fritter of a woman when anyone says the slightest negative statement to me about my cherished corset children. Now, I HAVE been endeavoring to discipline myself and my unruly tongue when customers come into my booth at renaissance festivals. After all, these ARE the dames who make my financial existence palpable. Just because a small gaggle of patrons haven't been tutored in the art of tact DOES NOT mean that I can run them out of my booth with the rolling pin of indignity when they peer at my price tags and wrinkle up their faces like ignorant prunes while spewing forth the injustice of non-Wal-Mart prices.

I totally get it. There is a huge disconnect between buyers, sellers, and manufacturers that DIDN'T use to exist. I, too, reluctantly admit to blindly purchasing cheaply composed goods that support heinous business practices, weak mindsets, and loose morals. When I'm laying down $69+ for a pair of glitter encrusted, metal studded, pre-beaten jeans, I might deprecate the overall quality and lament the fact that no one manufactures "muffin" banishing trousers, BUT no one at Express is going to run into the back room sobbing when they hear these disgruntled denim damnations. The woman who put the jeans together is thousands of miles away living in a cardboard box, for all I know. I don't know who she is, what motivates her, what her passions are.....it's a rare thing to actually have a connection to the maker.

I think this is why women will come into my booth and utter things that they would NEVER DREAM of saying if they knew that the girl who put her heart and soul into the wares is standing right before them. However, this was the rampant behavior of an unseemly amount of women at one of the festivals I vended at this year. I undertook to suppress my violent inner monologues as little handfuls of women would recklessly fondle my corsets and then loudly whisper to each other that "the ones at the other booth were cheaper!". Now, just a side note, the "other" corsets are ones that are manufactured in China with the cheapest metal boning and satin possible and there is a website that sells these same corsets for about $46 to the public and $30 if you buy them in bulk. The booth that was selling them had purchased hundreds of them and then marked them up to $150. I know all of this because....well, there are loose tongues and bitter women in the renaissance festival circuit.

Friends, I DO want you to remember that I admire and applaud women with opinions, and if a lady chooses to buy a cheaper corset because she likes it and it's what she can afford, I actually DO NOT MIND! We live in a wonderful free country with numerous buying options and lots of different business minds, and just because I make my own wares doesn't make me better than this other company. (Well, actually it freaking does, but I'm trying to be fair and balanced. ) This GREAT fallacy here is that manners, politeness, and social graces are going the way of the blue-footed booby! (you know...the endangered species bird?) It's just plain tacky to blatantly demean handmade items when the maker is within earshot. Now, the second you are out of my view, you can call me all of the profanities you want, insult my womanhood, and vociferate violent vilifications against me!

Which brings me to the gourmet flax seed & parmesan breadstick incident. A lovely curvy lady had entered my booth and politely inquired as to whether she might be able to don one of my corsets. I graciously found her size, told her how much I liked her thick wavy hair, and started lacing her into the bodice. When she was squeezed tight, I showed her the full length mirror and saw her literally light up, because generally women with her shape are at the mercy of mindless block-shaped sheaths. I LOVE curvy women in my booth, and I YEARN to make them feel sensual and proud of their forms! As the woman stood admiring, in walked the demon...oh....uh...I mean, the uh......trying to think of a nicer word.....never mind. Demon!

This woman was her sister-in-law, and she took one look at that happy visage in the mirror and exclaimed, "I DON'T LIKE IT. It's like...weird. It doesn't look good on you. The other ones were cheaper. I just really don't like these ones." I was so startled at the unrefined and coarse words that I said, "Hey...um....I actually thought she looked sensational in this. I might be biased, because I'm the one who designed and sewed all of these and I've put my whole heart and soul into them, but I sort of thought they were awesome....." She looked quickly embarassed and disgruntled and started stumbling around words, gingerly fingering the nearest corset and saying "Oh...they're neat." in the most insipid tones possible.

It's good to remember that I had had a LONG day, and I was perhaps slightly lacking in compassion at the time. Either way, I replied, "No! Apparently they're NOT neat and they don't look good" at which point I took one of my gourmet parmesan flax seed breadsticks out of their little pretentious plastic ribbon-adorned bag AND CHUCKED IT AT HER HEAD! She started laughing, because I do admit that I sounded sarcastic when I growled this sentence, but when she saw my stern eyebrows, her smile vanished and she started trying to dislodge the breadstick from her unruly hair. She yelled, "Come on! We're going!" to her poor teenage daughter that had been lurking behind the racks, and they shuffled out in a cloud of digust.

Did I behave properly? Hell no! It was completely immature, overly emotional, and irrational, BUT I would imagine that the next time she attends a craft show, she might stop and reflect upon this unfortunate spectacle in which she wounded an artist's ego and mortified herself AND her sweet sister in law. I definitely regret overreacting, but I think that the true abomination was the unfortunate loss of a quality morsel of bread.


  1. *Claps* Proud of you! Just sayin. Sometimes lack of control is appropriate.

  2. Michelle; that's great! I so wish I could've seen action like that at the Ren Fest I used to work at!!! LOL You're right and you had ever reason to lose your lunch to this woman. I absolutely love you stuff and always get compliments or looks of jealousy when wearing your corsets! I love how they make me feel!!!

  3. Michelle,

    I think more hand-made shop owners should be like you. What America is missing (among other things, but we'll leave my opinions about this out) is the old world charm of shop owners who know what they are worth and wont allow people to treat them poorly. Like the old French patisserie owner who kicks out the rude patron with a flurry of vulgarities.

    We've become a country where rudeness is accepted. We really need to take back our balls and quit acquiescing to the demands of the uncouth and unworthy pieces of human garbage. We need to make it not okay again.

  4. Wow...I worked for someone at MDRF who does bone, antler, and ivory carving (he travels around, you might've seen him at some point? Pretty sure he makes it out to Arizona and Colorado at least). ANYWAY....

    I was always amused at the people who would look at these beautiful works of art he'd spent literally dozens, if not hundreds of hours on and be like, "I could get some antler and a Dremel and do that."

    Luckily, so was he. :)

  5. Fea! You sound like a real woman! We should grab some rolling pins and bust some heads. Analise, I relate on SUCH a real level here! ;)

  6. I feel very proud to have witnessed this moment. Also, thank you for using "forlorn fritter" in a blog. I think you are simply the best.

  7. Michelle your corsets are beautiful. Your corsets hold much more than a cheap, China imported plastic boning corset. Which is why I love your corsets. Besides, helping out a local US corset mistress helps out the economy here right!

    You're fabulous, your corsets are fabulous and I just absolutely love them.

  8. Y'know, sometimes people really just *need* to have baked goods thrown at them. I can't help but wonder if we'd live in a more civilized society if, every once in a while, rudeness would be addressed in a form that calls it out clearly and concisely.

    Michelle, you seriously rock.

  9. Oh my.. if it had been me it wouldn't have been just ONE breadstick in the air. I'm super emotional about my stuff and I would have chased her out while foaming at the mouth. :X I really can't stand people who act that way.. it's such a waste of energy. Clearly she was jealous that her sister in law was looking smoking and so felt inferior. I hope she learned a big lesson and that *I* never run into her. XP <3

  10. If I pay you double and let you chuck foo foo carbohydrates at my head will you please please please someday come to the east coast? I love your stuff, adore you and need to buy a corset in person and give you a hug :) ( breadstick optional)

  11. Michelle, I just wanted to acknowledge your fabulous use of aliteration throughout this post (and pictures! Pictures are the best!). Also, I want to say that I feel your prices are very fair. I know there are corsets out there that are less expensive, but they don't have the craftsmanship of yours, nor do they have all the fun options and fabric choices. If it takes a few sacrificial gourmet breadsticks to teach people the difference between quality and crap, then so be it.

  12. I can't believe she said that!!! That's super rude...
    She's lucky you just threw a breadstick at her. If it were me...well, lets just say there is a reason all my weapons are peace-tied at all times...

  13. We were just having a discussion in the forums on Etsy about the things people (customers and competition) say at festivals and shows! The amount of people who will say things like "I could make that" or "It's cheaper at the other booth" are only one in a handful of the things we have been discussing. To be honest, you are a woman after my own heart with your reaction. I have always been brutally honest with everyone! My Papa says it's my best feature because if someone truly wants an honest opinion, they never have to hesitate to ask me. I would probably have reacted worse. And I remember seeing you at so many faires (I hope to buy a corset this year as I may actually have the money since my sales have been up) and your presence can be felt! You are a strong woman and that sort of thing causes a slight amount of an intimidating aura. I am positive you pushed that aura in her general direction along with your breadstick and I visual it with a smile on my face.

  14. The poor poor breadstick... wasted in someones hair... That breadstick didn't deserve to be thrown at her! now your shoe on the other hand.... :P

    No one appreciates fine art and skilled craftsmanship anymore :(

  15. Wow, that was an amusing story!

    I hate all this 'customer's always right' crud we have been wal-marted into believing these days.

    You need a sign in your booth saying something to the extent of: "All who enter will be subject to stunning corsetry; and also, a creator/designer/artist/shop-owner who takes pride in her work. Be nice. Kindly take general negativity elsewhere."

    Your prices are well within range for your product (in fact, after having had my first damsel corset for a few months, I'm certain they should be worth more than what you're selling them for..)

    You are awesome. Never stop being awesome.

    I love that you don't let people walk all over you. LOVE it.

    I'm going to start doing that with my own artwork too. You're inspiring!

    Yeaaaah, maybe the breadstick thing was a tad overboard. But the mental image of the whole scene is pure hilarity! Maybe just shorten that sign to "Beware of the artist-designer-seamstress-shopkeep's wrath".

  16. I can totaly relate and I don't even make the Mary Kay Cosmetics I sell. But I do love them and I do put my heart into making women look good and feel good. I know my products are superior quality and it totally kills me when someone pulls their random dollar lip gloss out of their purse at my party and starts talking about how cheap it is--as if cheap is the only thing that matters.

    Will Walmart drive an hour to your house to deliver your foundation at 10pm at night when you just realized you are out and are leaving on a cruise the next morning? NO-but I will.

    Will Walmart give you free stuff for bringing your friends? No, but I will.

    Will Walmart let you try 15 different lipsticks until you find the perfect one? Nope, but I will.

    I could go on and on. But the bottom line is that I am there for the women who want quality and recognize it when they see it. And I try to forget about the rest.

  17. If it makes you feel any better, as much as I want a corset in my very small budget, I won't even look at the cheap ones since I discovered your beautiful work. I'm saving up and fully planning on buying a few from you soonish.

    And the sign idea could be cool, but I kinda enjoy hearing about the poor saps that don't realize you're the creator.

  18. Trust me, I've had a breadstick thrown at me and it's no big deal ;D I recovered quite quickly!

  19. While your reaction was a bit over the top, I can understand your frustration... I used to do faires years ago, but the circuit in Florida has unfortunately taken the wal-mart route. One year I didn't even sell enough to cover my rental fee because people kept complaining about my prices. Some people just don't understand how much time and effort go into hand-made items. I am not a sweatshop, I do not have employees, I am a single person trying to make a living. In past years, i did wonderfully, but this economy has brought out the worst in people. People who want to go to the faires and admire but never buy, and then when they do want to buy, act like you are a pawn shop and try to bring you down. I sympathize with you and definitely understand your frustrations... and yes, there are cheaper corsets out there, but not better made ones. I STILL have one of your corsets from about 5 years ago, have put on a little wait since then, and yet it still holds me in nicely and is put together wonderfully. My sister buys the cheap corsets and has ripped and torn her fair share. I would much rather pay the higher price for better quality... and PS - I bought up loads during your black friday sale and just can't wait to show them off at this years faire (where I will, unfortunately, be a patron, not a participant). But I have my business cards as well as your ready to had out :)

  20. Chucking a breadstick maybe kind of childish but apparently this woman was completely clueless. I don't understand how someone can complain about the prices of your corsets. I can totally understand not being able to afford one, but your corsets are really well priced. I have seen off-the rack corsets (cut short at the hip bones, small medium and large generic sizes, mass produced) at upwards of $300 and they were nothing compared to your corsets. Cheaper corsets tend not to be corsets but bodices with cheap plastic (string sounds more accurate than boning) in them that doesn't even keep them flat. Hell a good quality bodice with no boning still costs a pretty penny.

    I finally splurged on one for Halloween (Monster love) after drooling over them for years. I'm not skinny, I'm a curvy woman. And holy momma I looked HOT!!! Thank you! I am not a busty girl but between the corset sucking me in and the bra plumping me out I was curves to the MAX. Totally worth it. I just can't wait till I can afford a vixen! (you just had to have the sail on the tailed vixen corsets when I couldn't afford it didn't you?)

  21. Oh that is totally awesome. You are my hero. i can't wait to get my new stuff. Am on pins and needles.

  22. Michelle -

    Happy Birthday! I have only been able to meet you a few times, but each time I have walked away in awe and admiration. I am amazed at your talent and vision. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us. You are very inspiring and have helped me to be okay with stepping out of my comfort zone to try new things. Your example helps me to be a better person.

    Thank you! I hope your day is just as great as you are.

  23. YES!!!!! I love you!


  24. LOL So sorry that this happened to you :) not everyone knows how to give complements especially when they don't feel good about them selves which it sounds like your unfortunate un - customer was but hey we can't all be as fabulous as others among us :) I absolutely love the new corset that I purchased from you and my boyfriend loves it even more :) You did a fabulous job of helping me feel comfortable and fabulous in this garment :D Totally thrilled of the prospect of finding more awesome pieces to mix in with it total fan of all your pieces I saw and your mag is adorable love love love your shop, style, and attitude... Thanx so much You Rock :)

  25. I personally have seen Michelle's adverse reactions to these silly kinds of women's comments. It isn't pretty. She puts so much heart and soul in what she does and even if you aren't a fan of what she does that in and of itself is something to have respect for. I have considered myself blessed since the day i found Michelle in Ebay.
    Thank you for being such an amazing woman!!

  26. Wow, that sounds completely awful of you.

    I know the joys of working fairs and retail - I sell antiques and work estate sales, and I am continually having people tell me to my face that the items we have are overpriced or shoddy, but I know how to be polite and turn someone away with a modicum of human decency.

    The woman expressed an opinion. She has a right to do. I understand it's upsetting as an artist, but those are the things you have to deal with if you're going to sell your work to the public. This woman even tried to show you some kindness with a compliment even if your work wasn't to her taste. And you throw something at her? Wow. That is INCREDIBLY rude. One of the most awful things I've heard from anyone in your position. You could have rebuked the woman, easily, while still acting like a decent person and holding your own integrity. Simply asking her to leave your booth if she didn't appreciate your wares would have sufficed. And finally, mentioning your love of dressing curvy women but choosing to draw your target in a fashion that clearly exaggerates and mocks her figure? I believe that says a lot.

    I've lost a lot of respect for you as a human being. If I were ever provoked into acting in such a way, I would have been ashamed of my behavior, not posting about it on the internet for others to applaud.

    1. I've worked next door to Michelle at a certain Renaissance Festival, and I can say without a doubt that she, and her family, are some of the most decent people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

      Michelle has been open and forthright regarding her recent experience, and she herself has expressed regret at her behavior. For you to come here with guns drawn is INCREDIBLY rude, Tinn. We've all had bad days, and those of us who pour our hearts and souls into out livelihoods/art must deal with criticism almost on a daily basis - and for the most part we handle it well. It's the unnecessarily rude people that, to me, are bothersome.

      My tankards are more expensive than most, and I've heard the same responses Michelle described in her post. "I can go down to the other end and get a tankard for $25." My response, "You get what you pay for." $150 compared to $25 is a very big deal to some people, but that doesn't give them the right to become rude and irritating.

      Michelle, you're a wonderful person to work near, and if I had a choice I'd pick you to set up next to every time. I wouldn't give another thought to your past transgressions - just remember: some people are armed and aren't afraid to retaliate. ;)

  27. Wow, Tinn. If only Michelle were as perfect as you! She'd be a passionless, simpering slave to rude customers. One so dull that throwing a breadstick into someone's hair would be deemed "one of the most awful things" she could possibly imagine.

    But alas, Michelle is not as perfect as you. Michelle has passion and pride and feelings. Maybe it's because she has put her life's blood into every stitch of what she sells as opposed to simply pricing and selling objects that someone ELSE slaved over. And unlike you, when she acts up she doesn't hide it from everyone like you do, she admits to it and puts it out there in an act of transparency.

    And can I just say that even though your comment contains ten times more venom than the situation described in Michelle's post, I would never say that I've "lost a lot of respect for you as a human being". It takes a lot more than that for me to say something so hateful to someone.

  28. Tinn! You're totally right! I let my mouth get away all the time! I wish you knew that I was making fun of MYSELF in this blog, because I'm truly disgraceful when it comes to dealing with customers! I really wish I had your self discipline, and I can assure you that I'm working on it! Heck, I lost respect for myself as a human being just WRITING the dang blog, let alone reading the comments! Thank you for helping keep me humble! That's what customers are for, as you well know!

  29. OH, Knikki, by the way, thanks for being a buddy, although Tinn had some really good points. I think she must have been having a really bad day, just like I had on the day mentioned in the blog. Her telling me that she had "lost respect for me as a human being" was essentially her breadstick.

  30. Selling clothes and antiques are two totally different venues. As someone who sells clothing and jewelry on the Ren Faire circuit full time I know how personal the selection process is when working with someone. Well the clothes that I sell I don't make myself, we get people in all of the time that make the similar snarky remarks when someone they are with is trying on. I've wanted to throw a breadstick or two at a rude customer, but I haven't had one on hand. Was the action over the top? Perhaps, but as a booth owner/operator I think you're entitled to it... maybe just once. Personally I'd love to work for an artist as passionate as you are about your product!

  31. Thanks, Kristin! I HAVE found that my very favorite people in the world are all slightly crazy, full of personality, and prone to a-hole moments.

  32. You have more tact than I in regards to a poster here. Tinn I think was being awfully rude. I see that you state that she was right, but she actually isn't.

    You cannot lose respect for a 'human being' over a blog post about someone laying out their flaws that they state multiple times they are working on.

    If you do, then you will have a difficult time in life. Being judgemental and ignorant is not a route to happiness or ... rationality.

    While throwing the breadstick may not have been the BEST solution, the fact that you even felt bad about it after she clearly insulted you makes you the bigger person. We all have flaws. The fact that you state you are working on them, acknowledge them, then share them so we can all learn from them. You use self-deprecating humor to show us that flaws, inside and out, make us who we are.

    I'm actually appalled at Tinn's response - in a way that I cannot explain. I'm enraged.

    That's my flaw - pointing out the jerks in the world.

    Michelle - you've done nothing but show the world that we can be beautiful. You've done nothing but be uplifting. And the actions of the patron's relative was appalling and rude. I appreciate your self-deprecating humor, the fact that you even said that you are working on the words that came out of your mouth is something to be proud of. I don't accept rudeness, especially because I'm a business owner myself. Breadsticks may not be the most impactful (or respectful) tool, but this wasn't about you bragging about it. It was about you relaying something that im8pacted you, what yo uwant to do about it, and the fact that she didn't see that ENRAGES me.

    For someone who is so kind, so warm-hearted and so full of love for her customers and her product I apologize. No amount of explaining will correct what Tinn said, there IS no excuse. Bad day or not.

  33. Boobies are actually a species of least concern. :) This woman was clearly a rude beast. We all have our moments of failure in customer service- don't let it get you too down.