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An online friend of mine made a rather heated post on FaceBook tonight. She’s a sculptor, and she’s pretty fed up with people asking for things for free. I responded, as did several other people. It became quickly apparent that artists and artisans just aren’t getting the respect that they deserve. It’s nothing new, but it’s something that really needs to change. When mass-produced, cheap items became popular, people started having less and less respect for the people who take the time and effort to make quality products.
SF, the sculptor, was getting asked to do things for free, as many artisans have been, and she feels it’s disrespectful. I have to agree. Just because we can make something from the comfort of our home or studio doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost us money for materials plus our time. Many of us are not doing this just for fun, it’s our living. We can’t just take supplies out of our stock and time out of our work day to make things for free for anyone who wants them. If you don’t want to pay for something we can make, you should at least offer to trade us something that will make it worthwhile. Even if you’re family. Actually, if you’re family, you ought to know better and not even ask in the first place.
On the topic of free, I can’t count the number of times that I have taken materials and time to craft wonderful things for friends or family for the holidays. I love making things, and I think it’s nice to give handcrafted items. More often than not though, I get the broad smiles and “ooh”s and “ah”s when I give the item, and later find out that the item was tossed in a drawer or closet, given away or thrown away. There are few things that will make an artisan more hurt than to know that you didn’t appreciate what we did for you and you just tossed it aside like so much trash. If you don’t want handcrafted gifts, be up front about it, or at least take us aside after the festivities and give it back, letting us know that for whatever reason, it wasn’t good enough for you.
Then there’s the kind of crap I found out about today. I signed a contract with a store to have some of my jewelry sold with them. I’ve sold in stores several times before and always either had my own display or had my items placed alongside other artisan wares. Today I found my quality, handcrafted jewelry stuck on a display with a bunch of cheap, Asian-made crap jewelry. There wasn’t even a label to specify mine as handcrafted. Unfortunately, I have to leave the items there or pay a fee to get them back. Needless to say I’ll never do business there again.
People just don’t have enough respect for artists and artisans. Just because you may possibly be able to buy something similar for a lower price that was made in Taiwan or something, doesn’t mean that our work isn’t good. We deserve every penny that we charge for our work. Yes, you may be able to get earrings at Wal*Mart for $5 and mine cost $25, but you’re looking at two or more hours of work, plus materials, plus creativity, not something that came off an assembly line or was slapped together by slave labor. Sure, you can buy a poster for $6 at Hot topic, but a real painting can take many hours of work, creativity and love, plus framing and whatever else. It’s likely worth whatever the artist is charging.
Don’t ask an artist to make you things for free. Don’t give them a hard time because they won’t sell their work at yard sale prices. Don’t treat them like they’re just hobbyists having a good time because they do their craft from home. Don’t disregard any artist or artisan of any kind. Support us. Love us. Respect us. We damn well deserve it! We work hard on our jewelry, sculptures, doll clothes, paintings or whatever it is that we do. Sure, we love it, but that doesn’t make it all fun and games. We should be treated with a fair level of respect and maybe even a little awe. You try making the things that we do and then try to act like it’s playtime. Most people don’t even begin to have the talent, patience or creativity. We bring beauty into the world, and quality too. Being an artist or artisan is not a joke. Don’t take us for granted or treat us with any less respect than you would any other seasoned professional.