Years later, I have talked to my mom (who now works the booths alongside me, in a beautiful, ironic circle of life) about this. She told me something the other day that I had never heard before. She explained that, at one of the craft shows, she kept seeing this lady who made adorable little fimo clay animals (like the ones below) and though she adored them, she didn't ever feel that she could afford them. If I remember correctly, this lady was charging something around $10-$25, depending on the intricacies of the little guys. Mom said that she decided one day that she REALLY would just "go home and make them herself." She bought a pile of clay, pulled up her best memories and mental sketches (this was in the day before people would just snap a picture with their cell phone. Some artists and crafters are very offended by this. In my booth, I welcome it. Sure, guys, try it yourself. ), and then went to work sculpting, poking and prodding. After hours, she had one single animal done that WASN'T completely wrong and ugly....this coming from someone who, once again, is very talented. She proudly put it into the oven and baked it. When she pulled it out and let it cool, its head fell off and there were tiny cracks all over his body. Hmm....
I've heard vendors talking to each other, absolutely LIVID at all of the rude things that customers and patrons say to them. Most recently, a friend of mine who makes these gloriously full, vivacious steampunk bustles had a customer standing there turning the piece over, snapping pictures with her cell phone, and examining every detail. She turned to my friend and said, "How did you do this part? I am going to go home and make one of these, and I can't figure out how you did this." Now, I know exactly what was happening in both brains.
My friend: "You dirty #$#^* F-ing !@^&%. How DARE you??? Of course I'm not going to tell you! I do this for a living, and put my heart and soul into this!!!! The reason you don't understand how I did something is because I've developed the talents and skills to do it, because of my blood, sweat, and tears put into this technique over years of frustrating mistakes and failures!"
The Lady: "This is really amazing how this woman has done this! I'm really impressed with this work and it must have taken her years to figure out how to do this properly. I really can't afford this, but I bet with some effort, I could make my own. I wonder if she'll be kind enough to tell me how it's done, so I don't have to go through the painful learning process."
I know this, because I came from the family who couldn't afford anything. I heard the "we'll make it at home line" on a constant basis. That was really just my mom's way of saying, "Holy crap, I don't even know how we're going to afford milk for the family this week, let alone buy you a freaking little clay animal!" I appreciate my mom not guilt-tripping and criticizing me for wanting fripperies. I find myself getting really frustrated with my own kids, for wanting the normal, well-packaged and marketed things that every single kid wants at the store. My mother is much more graceful and patient than I am, alas!
Anyway, back to the different points of view. I'm ashamed to say that I don't always take a moment to imagine what the person looking at my items might be thinking. If any of you have ever met me, you know very well that I am not a traditional salesperson in a booth. It bores me to tears, and I don't want to ever come off like someone who is so desperate for money that they'll resort to any slimy sales tactic. Plus, I believe that if you have a good product, it sells itself, and when it doesn't, someone truly PASSIONATE about the product can help educate and encourage a sale, as long as they don't awkwardly push it. With that being said, I'm also woefully unprofessional. Some of you may remember the shameful tale of me throwing a gourmet breadstick at a woman's head when she said something I thought was horrifyingly rude. I shouldn't have made the story so funny, and I know that I got some comments on the blog from people who seemed to think that there wasn't a punishment harsh enough for my unprofessional attitude. *sigh* The people commenting had a good point. It was completely INSANE to throw something at a customer's head. I should be like everyone else, and rant, rave, and moan in the comfort of my own home, after I was away from where the woman could hear me. But, I guess there's the strange "double standard"...or at least that's how I would imagine vendors view the phenomenon. We can't be rude and point out that someone is being ignorant and offensive....because that would be RUDE to THEM. Well, friends, like it or not. It's true. As the business owner, employee, crafter, artist, customer service personnel, sign-holder, and any MANNER of worker, it IS better for your company to sit back and take the abuse. I'm still not good at it. Let me demonstrate with the story below.
It's a sweltering hot day, and I'm at a renaissance festival where I've driven 16 hours, taken 8 hours JUST to set up my booth, and I'm beyond exhausted. Running on very little sleep, I was standing in the back of my booth, or rather, leaning on our sales podium, eating a granola bar, and feeling sorry for myself in the un-prognosticated 100 degree weather. The show hadn't even officially started, and I was taking a few quite moments to collect my thoughts, breathe deeply, and remember what the goal of my company is-to try my hardest to make women fall in love with their bodies again! In walked the very first family of the day, and with them was a slouchy, sneering, pubescent teenage kid. He walked over to the corset rack, pulled up one of the tags, and said, in a sarcastic, disrespectful tone, "What??? A hundred dollars for THIS? That's f-ing stupid! Who would even pay that??"
I did the only thing I knew how to do. I picked up a long metal coiled spring that we had been using to hold part of our tent together, and I chucked it at his head, trying to knock off his side-cocked, flat-brimmed baseball cap. I didn't knock his hat off. Also, the metal spring didn't hit him. I'm a terrible shot. There's a reason that, in gym, when we had to split up in teams and get picked by team captains, it ALWAYS came down to me and the stinky kid...and he usually got picked before me. Anyhow, the current "stinky" kid looked up at me in surprise, muttered a few profanities, and walked off.
Do you know what it is? There is a deep human yearning in all of us to be appreciated and understood. I was just exhibiting my immature need for the exact same thing that this kid needed from the people around HIM! He was trying to figure out the world around him, wanted to feel cool and "better" than these odd people dressing up at this festival that he clearly didn't want to attend. Had I been the best version of myself, I could have said something like, "Hey, I really like your pants. How do you get them to stay on while wearing the waistband that low? Absolutely fascinating!" (I really have always wondered this...however, reading this sentence out loud makes me sound sarcastic, which can still be biting and mean. I HONESTLY was impressed by the gravity-defying behavior of his jeans.)
When people say things that I consider "rude", I ought to think of all of the wretched, ignorant things I've said, even sometimes within earshot of the people it could hurt the most. Obviously, we can't all go through life with a constant filter on our brains and mouths, because ANYTHING can offend ANYONE if they wanted to be offended badly enough. However, endeavoring to keep your words and thoughts full of praise, gratitude, and kindness cannot be a bad goal! Any old fool can be nice to the people who are nice to them, but it takes a really incredible soul to show kindness and warmth to someone who has deeply hurt them.
After all, perhaps the customer who is in my booth telling her daughter "No, you cannot get this corset! It is WAY TOO expensive" is really just a woman with a huge family, struggling to make ends meet. She most likely desperately, fervently wishes that she COULD give her daughter all of the fineries that she's been denied. And maybe that freckly faced little 8-year-old, annoyed by the unfairness of the world and how poverty of her parents, will TRULY "go home and make it herself" one day. There is a reason why I have my own company making fine things. I've wanted beautiful, feminine, historical clothing since I can remember. Granted, the pain and suffering of learning the process of creation and running a business hasn't been easy, which is why I GLADLY purchase costume pieces, jewelry, hats, tights, and accessories from people who are clearly doing it better than me. I also am able to acknowledge that I truly don't have the time or skills that these people possess, though I wish I did. But, it's only because of the generosity of my amazing customers that I'm vaguely able to afford anything. The rich experiences I get from this profession have blessed my life in countless ways. Those blessings are certainly something that I could never EVER "go home and make myself."