The Schoolyard Bully Grows Up and Goes to the Art Market
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
It happened. It finally happened to me. I've been hearing about this legendary figure for years. I've read about and heard a dozen different theories in the best way to respond to them. I sympathized and empathized with the people that had it happen to them. How could a stranger be so confrontational and rude?
Now, I've finally had it happen to me.
I was sitting at my booth on a slow overcast Sunday and an older gentleman strolled up, nicely dressed. He walked over to my basket of drawstring bags and poked at them for a moment before looking over at me and stating, "These aren't worth $25."
I walked to him and the basket and explained my process, trying not to sound defensive. I went through what creating one of the bags entails: creating the art, laying out the design parameters on my computer, uploading the layout, ordering the material, and then cutting out the patterns and finally sewing the bag. I finished, firmly stating, "A lot of time and work goes into making these bags."
"Maybe," he shrugged, "but what are they good for?"
I explained that they are drawstring bags. You keep things in them. Their initial creation was as a side project to my Tarot deck, but people seem to like them for a variety of storage purposes. I even had a woman buy several to store shoes in.
He harrumphed and declared, "If they didn't have your art on them, they'd only be worth $1."
They are generous sized bags so the cost of the material alone is a lot more than a dollar per bag, discounting the time and labor that goes into them. I asked him if he knew how much velvet costs a yard?
He shook his head as I explained that velvet is $36 a yard. The bags could not be made for only $1.
I tried to walk him through my point of view and to try to understand his. "Your issue with the cost is that the artwork is on velvet, but you're ok with the artwork being printed on paper costing $25?"
He responded that he wouldn't spend $25 on artwork either.
I asked him what sort of artwork he had hanging on his walls.
He muttered that he hadn't intended to disparage my art and then hurried off, leaving me feeling very dissatisfied.
Maybe I would have been better off ignoring his comments. I know my work has value. I know my prices are reasonable. I've sold out on those "over priced" and "useless" bags on a few different occasions so why did I even bother engaging with that man, especially as he didn't seem willing to hear me out.
I don't really understand why he felt the need to confront me. He can say he wasn't trying to disparage my work, but he absolutely was. Was he trying to be funny or provocative? Was it some sort of leftover behavior pattern from days of being a schoolyard bully? I don't understand the motivation or the mentality. His intent seemed to be to make me feel bad and to make me question the value of my work.
If you don't like my work, fine. I know it doesn't appeal to everyone. Victorian surrealism is inevitably going to be a niche market, but I am out here, doing what I do and sharing who I am with the world.
Until he can demonstrate that sort of bravery and vulnerability, I don't think he needs to share his point of view with others. I'm not a small child. Schoolyard bullying tactics don't work on me any longer. Maybe evolve beyond that stage and work at being someone who lifts others up instead of trying to put them down. It might make you feel better than you expected. I imagine the high from bullying others might be temporarily intoxicating but I expect it leaves a very unpleasant aftertaste.