We recently had this amazing outdoor market open in Jacksonville. Housed under the Fuller Warren Bridge, the Riverside Arts Market is modeled after the Portland Saturday Market and has brought some much needed culture to a still-behind-the-times Jacksonville. Everything has to be home grown or hand made... no plastic bags... street performers welcome. What's not to love?
I first visited the market a few weeks after it opened. I enjoyed the eclectic atmosphere and the people watching potential. There was a band playing on the stage down by the riverfront... the smell of vegan funnel cakes filled the air when the kettle corn wasn't popping. There were organic farmers with fruits and veggies, a guy suspending himself upside down (I don't know why, either.), and various artists selling their wares. I was in love. These were my people. This was my home.
I admit to being one of the Lookie-Loos that week. Artists at the market have nicknamed it the "Jam and Jelly Show", meaning most of their passers by are of the Lookie-Loo variety. Those that do buy apparently don't want to spend much. Is that because of the clientele though (as the artists contend), or the economy? I would hope the thoughtful artist would have considered the latter in planning their inventory. Let's be honest. These are not extravagant times for a lot of us right now. That's one of the big reasons my experiences with purchasing at the market have been so frustrating.
It started that first visit. I happened upon the booth of a woman who makes dog collars, harnesses and leashes. I have three dogs. We have the potential here to do a LOT of business! I wanted a small mesh harness for my chihuahua, Sophie. She didn't happen to have the size I needed in the pattern I wanted, though. Could she make one for me? Sure, came the reply. Out came a pad and pencil to record my desired size/pattern. She asked for my name. All she wrote down was my first name. Would she like my phone number? Nope. That wouldn't be necessary. Would she like for me to pay for it now? No. That wasn't necessary either. How soon would it be ready? She should be able to have it next week.
The next week I couldn't make it out to RAM, but the following week I drove all the way out there (about 45 minutes from where I live), specifically to pick up the harness. I'm here to pick up a harness I ordered from you. What was your name? Christina. It was this pattern but in a small. Oh. I sold that. I had your name on the tag but you didn't come get it. So I sold it. Um. I thought that was the purpose of giving you my name... so you would hold it for me. I missed one week. I even offered to pay for it in advance, but you refused saying you'd have it for me. I can make you another one. I just have so many people ask for special orders and then they never show up to claim them. (writing my order down... again) I guess I should have people pre-pay from now on. That's a great idea.
Believe it or not, I drove all the way out to RAM again the next weekend, again, specifically to pick up my harness. One of my girlfriends happened to be there with her family, so we hung out a bit listening to the band play. After we parted company, I made my way back to the dog supplies lady. I know you'll be shocked to hear that she didn't have the harness. Apparently the conversation we'd had the week before had never taken place. She had the nerve to pull out that pad and pencil again. At that I told her I was going to have to find something else. She then asked if I didn't want one of the other patterns. If I'd wanted one of the other patterns, wouldn't I have bought that to begin with and saved us both all this frustration? I am not going to BEG anyone to take my money. I thought I was more than patient the first time. To be duped again was just downright insulting.
I would like to say that was my only bad experience of late with an artist and a custom order. I would like to say that, but I can't. Another booth at RAM sells customized jewelry. You pick out the components and they stamp whatever inspirational word you desire onto a metal disk, creating a one-of-a-kind piece for you. My request (I thought) was pretty simple. I wanted them to recreate the exact same piece one of the women was wearing, with a different word on it. As I approached to pick up my already-paid-for-piece, I could hear the two of them talking. This is a different sized disk than the one I charged her for. We have two sizes? Yeah. She wanted the bigger one. Also, the asterisks should have been random, not in a line like that. How will she know? I'm ready to get out of here for the day. I was in such shock I took the necklace and walked away. I know I should have spoken up, but I guess I was ready to get out of there for the day, too.
Because I am a glutton for punishment, I also custom ordered a ring from another artist. I went on and on while talking with her at her booth about how much I loved her stuff. She really does make beautiful, unique rings. I pre-paid for my special order and left not just my phone number but my email address as well, in case she needed to contact me. The artist was kind enough to tell me that she wouldn't be at the market the next week, but I could pick my ring up the week following. That's fine, I said, excited about my purchase. Two weeks passed and I realized late in the day that I wasn't going to be able to make it out to RAM. I phoned one of my best friends who has a booth at the market and asked her if she could pick it up for me. Guess what. No ring. Couldn't get it finished in time to bring it with her. Went to my website but I don't have my email address listed (I do.) so she could tell me it wasn't ready yet. I can mail it to you Monday. She did. It was in my mailbox Tuesday, and to say it was a second-rate version of what she had on display at RAM would be kind. Because of the design, it's not even wearable.
How is it that hard? If you make something I love so much that I ask you to create a piece just for me, and you then agree to do so, shouldn't it be the absolute BEST representation of your work?? I mentioned that one of my best friends has a booth at RAM. Actually, several of my friends are out there, and I would like to be, too. It would be my first official forray into selling what I make. The examples I've seen with the artists I've purchased from though, has honestly scared me. I don't know much lately, but I know I don't want to be like them.
This Selling v. Not Selling thing has weighed heavily on my mind lately. I have managed to avoid this debate up until now by simply giving my creations away to those who inquired. I would really like to sell my work though, and this issue was one of the things I planned to figure out during my soul searching down here on the beach. That's when I came across this post on Dude Craft, which I spoke of briefly in my musing on serendipity. I hope you'll read the post and the comments. The exchange between Paul and me in the context of that post cannot be adequately duplicated here.
What it comes down to is that if you put passion first, in whatever it is you endeavor, success will follow.