CRAFT EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR THE REST OF US Part 2: “Show Organizers Messed Up!”

My show booth! (A very edited-down version…)

Second story from an article originally published in The Crafts Report (now known as Handmade Business) in July 2010. Backstory now included!

(Phone rings)

(Operator): Craft 911, what is the nature of your craft emergency?”

(Caller #2): “#*@!?(@*!!%!”

(Operator): “Sir, that kind of language is not helpful. Please state the nature of your craft emergency.”

(Caller #2): “Oh, sorry. I’m just SO MAD!! I set up my booth at this high-end indoor fine craft show, and there’s half an empty space on each side, and somebody says I’m in their space! The show floor is laid out wrong! These show organizers are brainless, stupid, #*?@*!!$#!!”

(Operator): “Seriously, buster, knock off the foul language. Okay, I think I know what your problem is. I want you to lift the corner of your booth carpeting and see if you see some lines of tape on the floor underneath. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

(Caller #2): Yes, there are tape marks under my booth.”

(Operater): “Sir, by any chance are those marks running down the middle of your booth, from front to back? Right down the center?”

(Caller #2): “Why….yes! How did you know??”

(Operater): “Just an educated guess. Sir, you need to enlist the help of some sturdy people. I’m sure the show organizers would be happy to shut you…er…help you out. Have them grab your entire booth frame and carpet, and shift it halfway to either the left or right. Heck, there might even be a little marker on the floor with your real booth number to guide you.”

(Caller #2): “You’re right! I found my booth number! Thank you!!”

(Operator): “It’s what we do sir. Have a great show.”

Backstory: This is a true story!

Back in the day, I did several major fine craft shows, retail and wholesale. At one I did every year (sometimes twice a year!) for awhile, I got to meet many other creatives, and some became good friends. (Thanks to social media, it’s easier to stay in touch, too.)

I also got to know many of the show organizers/employees, and grew to appreciate their wisdom, their integrity, their skills, and their support.

And one year, an exhibitor did this exact thing. Set up their booth halfway in their space, halfway into their neighbor’s space. And then they complained loudly and often to everyone within site and range, especially the show managment. (They had been a pretty cool person before this incident, so we were all kind shocked at the awful things this exhibitor said about the show personnel.)

Especially when, later that day, from the staff that it was NOT the show peeps’ fault. The exhibitor had set up their booth in the middle of TWO booth spaces, despite the very-easy-to-see tape markings outlining their booth space.

The show staff handled it with kindness and efficiancy. They didn’t even tell the exhibitor that the EXHIBITOR had messed up their set-up, not the booth layout team. They just got the booth moved to one side, and reassured the exhibitor that they were always there to help.

Later, I learned more about the exhibitor’s personal backstory, and complicated family matters, and had empathy for them. But it still changed everything about how I viewed them as a professional creative, and as a grown-up.

Yes, there are jerks in every organization, every group, etc. But most show organizers DO want you to have a GREAT show! Most professional service providers are pretty good at their job. And obviously, in this case, they set aside the unfair attack against them, and simply fixed this person’s problem without adding to that person’s stress.

I thought that was pretty amazing! Still do.

What I learned:

It’s okay to be (understandably) frustrated when things go wrong. We all mess up, other people sometimes mess up, etc.

But making assumptions without exploring the “why” behind what happened, asserting blame without knowing the whole story, and telling complaining loud and long to everyone and everybody, is not okay.

And that person never owned their own goof. I asked the staff later, and no, that person never apologized, or even admitted to others that it actually wasn’t the staff’s fault.Either the person never realized that THEY had goofed up, or it wasn’t part of their nature to accept responsibility for their errors.

The temper tantrum was really, really hard to forget, too.

That totally changed my opinion about them and all the “professionalism” they claimed to bring to their career.

Short story: We all make mistakes.

But it’s never okay to blame others for ours. And being the only booth out of hundreds of booths, to be out of alignment? Shoulda been a clue….

Coming soon! Part 3!

 

 

CRAFT EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR THE REST OF US Part 1: Why Didn’t I Get Into That Show??

(This is one of my favorite articles I wrote for The Crafts Report, now known as Handmade Business, back in July 2010. (I split it into three parts, so stay tuned! And now I can add the backstory behind each ’emergency’, too.)

You probably all know about CERF, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, an organization that aids craftspeople who have lost their studio or equipment to disaster.

It’s a great organization, and deserves our support. But I can’t help thinking we need a smaller, more immediate, more…intimate…emergency resource for artists and craftspeople. Maybe something that looks like this?

(Phone rings)

(Operator): “Craft 911, what is the nature of your creative emergency?”

(Caller #1): “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

(Operator): “Please stater the nature of your emergency.” (More wailing in the background.) “HEY! Knock it off!!

(Caller #1): “Sorry, sorry….I’m just so upset!”

(Operator): “Ma’am, please calm down. Tell me what’s going on.”

(Caller #1): “I didn’t gent into that juried exhibit I applied to. My work is perfect, and they didn’t choose me! It hurrrrrts!

(Operator): “Okay, ma’am, calmdown. Are your really injured, physically? Or are just your feelings hurt?”

(Caller #1): “I guess….just my feelings? OH, and my pride.”

(Operator): “Well, fortunately, injuried feelings and pride are rarely fatal. You know that hundreds, maybe thousands of artists applied to that exhibit. And the curator has to put together a cohesive show out of those entries. Maybe it has nothing to do with the quality of your work. Maybe it just didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the entries that were submitted.”

(Caller #1): “Oh. Oh, yeah…. I guess I didn’t think of that. You’re right. It’s nothing to get all worked up over. Thanks!”

(Operator): “Happy to be of service, ma’am. Now go finish that new series of pots!”

Now for the backstory. 

I created a little artist support group decades ago in New Hampshire, and one of the women was an amazing, wise woman, Bobbye Sansing. (You can read a little more about her and her work here.)

This actually happened to her. She submitted her pottery to a highly-respected ceramics show, and was rejected. She was upset by that, as any of us would be.

But she decided to go see the show, to see if she could figure out why her work wasn’t accepted. And because she had the gumption, and the courage, to do this, I have another valuable life lesson in my backpack.

All the pottery on exhibit was white. 

Bobbye realized she wasn’t rejected for not being “good enough”. It was because the curator was a) obviously limited and limned by the venue’s space; b) had to put together a cohesive exhibit of the works submitted; and c) had gone with the white work because that’s what worked for them.

Her work didn’t fit in to that particular aesthetic. Her pottery work is pit-fired pinched pots, in dark shades of brown and black. (She added white to her repertoire after this, though!)

And yet, I’m always amazed at the number of people who don’t understand 100% that judging/evaluating/nominating is about who the judge is, and how that person feels about our work. Not necessarily how good our work is, how famous we are, etc.

Another example of how this works: An extremely talented artist griped to me a few years ago that a highly-respected open studio tour had rejected their application. They were offended, angry, obviously deeply hurt.

In this case, I knew a little backstory: Though there was a regular team that reviewed the artwork, there was also an “outside judge”–a curator, or a gallery owner, or an art critic, etc.–who was invited to the review process, every year.

And that the judge, (and even some members of the committee) were different every year.

“So one person’s opinion might have struck you out,” I said to them. “But there will be a different person every year. Why not just try again next year?”

They did.

And they got in, hands down.

Another story: I served on the steering committee of a major annual craft show in New Hampshire. The craft org had several awards at its annual fair, including one for best booth. Again, a different outside judge was added to the mix every year. One year, a lot of people got very low booth scores, and no one could figure out why. Until one exibitor overhead that judge exclaim loudly, “What’s with all the black booths?! I HATE BLACK BOOTHS!!” And they gave really low scores to all the people who had black panels, black displays, black carpeting, etc. in their booth set-up.

The moral of this story?

Do your best. Persevere. And don’t let the opinions of others keep you from making the work of your heart. 

I am forever grateful to Bobbye for her wisdom and insights, and her courge to set aside anger and disappointment in favor of learning more and doing more.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Bobbye Sansing’s beautiful handformed, pit-fired pottery vessels.

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