HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #17 Tears for Fears: What if someone steals my stuff??”

Yeah, I could worry constantly about theft. But I actively try NOT to.

Hah! I TOLD you a series is rarely ever “done”!

Just before our latest county open studio event (LINK), an artist reached out with a terrific question: What if someone were to steal their work?

In this case, it was a portfolio of very small “studies”, their way of experimenting before taking on a large project. These studies could easily be pilfered. Should they be worried?

Yes. No. Maybe?

Unless we make huge stone sculptures that have to be hauled away in a wheelbarrow (or similar), yes, we are all potential victims of theft. And you know who is the MOST vulnerable creative/maker for theft? Jewelers, especially those working in precious metals/gemstones. When they do major shows, they often take down their ENTIRE INVENTORY every night. And set it up all over again the next day. OMG!)

But making that the biggest issue with opening our open studio is a sure-fire way to unconsciously let every single visitor know you do not trust them. And that will destroy the very reason open studios are so powerful:

Our visitors want to know more about our work–and US.

Treating each person as a possible thief, destroys any potential connection. Which defeats the entire purpose of inviting them into our creative space.

How do I know? This happened to me, as a studio visitor.

In this case, the person was open to my previous suggestion, ideas for having samples, tools, etc. that are okay for visitors to touch or hold. People are extremely experienced about being told NOT to touch in so many environments. Providing a display, something they CAN touch, is powerful!

Hence this person’s idea of presenting a portfolio of small studies, which they would hate to lose.

Here were my thoughts. (Be sure to add yours in the comments!)

Fears of having our work stolen cements everybody to the ground, as in, a bad way. We all worry about such things. In my lifetime, I don’t recall a single thing being taken, but I have so much stuff, I probably wouldn’t notice if it were missing 🥴
If the worry about losing your portfolio is giving you nightmares, consider a way to display it so that it’s not a small thing somebody could pocket easily.
I’m not a painter, so I don’t know if you’re talking about individual sketches, first drafts, or illustrations in a notebook, etc. You can send me more details and we can figure out a way to keep your work safe.
Maybe only exhibit a few of the pictures you were experimenting with, or have all of them on display in a case, or hang on the wall.
But what’s more important than that is being comfortable with people in our sacred creative space.
I have not had any (okay, not MANY) issues with people being rude, aggressive, sneaky, etc. and I’ve learned over the years that being afraid of these things create anxiety.  And that anxiety can destroy our ability to connect with other people. Yes I have a story about that! 🥴😄
I visited someone’s studio who was obviously afraid of me stealing something. I loved their work, but their suspicious demeanor and them trailing me around their studio made me very uncomfortable. I finally left as soon as I could.
People meeting us in our studio, seeing our work in person, engaging with us, learning more about our process, our inspiration, our techniques, our story, is the single most powerful way for us to gain an audience.
I don’t want to dismiss your fears as being totally unnecessary, but the chances of someone stealing something major from you are pretty slim.
And your fear of having something stolen will create a barrier between you and the very people you want to connect with.
So for your sake, try to set your fears aside.
Consider some of the suggestions about securing your portfolio so no one can just simply walk off with it.
If you can, it’s always nice to have an assistant available, someone who can take care of processing sales, wrapping and packaging, someone who can keep an eye out and help allay your fears.

Yes, they wrote back to let me know they found this helpful. Yay! In fact, it’s not something that’s been an issue in their own art career. Just something that popped up and got stuck in their head. And they already had a helper lined up, and came up with a display plan that worked for them.

And of course, after talking to them, I began to worry about MY work being stolen! (Fears are an easily-transmissible disease with no vaccine….) (Okay, there IS a vaccine: Embrace it, tell it we know it’s doing its job–keeping us safe–and say “Thank you!” Then tell it to scram until it’s time for dinner….)

Next article: How to prevent visitors from throwing cake at our artwork. (JUST KIDDING!!! I have no idea how to stop people from doing that. Apparently, neither does the Louvre….)

How have YOU secured your valuables, and still provided a comfortable place for visitors to engage with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

9 thoughts on “HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #17 Tears for Fears: What if someone steals my stuff??””

  1. I have pondered the question of theft of my work from a craft fair event. I have come to the conclusion that if someone were to take something from my table and not pay for it – I would hope it brought them what they hoped it would – joy, wonder, treasure it, or maybe gift it to someone who really needed it. But I’ve yet to make work really valuable or treasured to me – so I guess I’ll find out one day. I suspect I’ll feel relief that someone wanted my work that much.

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  2. At a high end jewellery show a few years ago I saw a couple of women who worked in platinum; their display was *entirely* photographs of their work, with a locked case of samples they took with them every time they left the booth…

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    1. (sigh) I can only imagine the disaster that must have triggered that response. And yes, platinum is not quite as expensive as gold, but 50x the price of sterling silver. I think only Prius owners have it harder!

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  3. Theft was one of my concerns, after some experiences as a young teen with Fimo miniatures at a few fairs, but I’ve worked in retail and there one expects a certain amount of pilfering and damage (it varies from store to store – the art shop and card shop both reckoned on close to 20% of their items being damaged / spoiled / lifted) so I expected I’d have to simply factor that loss into the costs for the day. But, I’ve only done very small shows, and the really expensive bangles I display on a stand that means you have to lift the whole bar of them up to remove one to try on.
    I encourge people to pick up and touch my pieces with the phrase ” that means it reffectively self polishes 🙂 ” and that makes them laugh, resulting in them hanging about feeling comfortable to try stuff they were only considering and more often than not, a sale, or a return visit. Only rarely something unpleasant (two women who thought the best way to remove a ring they pushed on was to suck their finger and the ring to remove it. One pre and one post lockdowns. Go figure) Great article as always Luann. Thanks.

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    1. Dawn, excellent perspective, especially the retail store business stories! It’s always good to step back and see the bigger picture, that this isn’t just something happening to us but to all vendors and sellers, no matter the product, situation, etc. You’ve reminded ME today that this is important to be aware of. You’ve also made me very very glad I do not make rings! That story made me cringe and then laugh out loud. And I also love that you let your customers touch and handle your work. Touch is a powerful connection, conversations are powerful connections, and the benefits of letting our visitors / potential collectors know they are welcome and SAFE in our studio space is the basis of all of that. Once again, thank you for sharing your insights and experiences, they are wonderful!

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      1. It made me urge 😂😂. I’ve always had hand sanitizer around and that great for easing off rings. But needs to be washed off to prevent tarnish. Since the second of those women I’ve taken a wet cloth with me so I can sanitise then wipe the rings. I hoped that would make you laugh.

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