In my previous incarnation as a practicing anthropologist, I used to be involved in many folk art and craft presentations. Through these programs, I was exposed to some truly wonderful people who were masters of what they did: Ukrainian and Polish Easter Egg makers, boatbuilders, blacksmiths, textile artists, and musicians. But, of course, the critical part of having these presentations was the artist’s interaction with the public.
People attending the festival or demonstration would have an opportunity to interact personally with the artist or craftsperson, hopefully to the benefit of both.
So it was not a real surprise that when I departed from that portion of my professional life and entered the world of the craftsperson, I took those presentation techniques with me. For the first six months of doing craft and boat shows, I traveled with a kit of tools and a portable workbench that I could deploy in my booth.
I soon discovered that the general public was not knowledgeable about sharp blades. Interestingly the most capricious was not the children, who were respectful and politely asked if they could touch. No, it was the supposedly mature adults who’d grab a tool from the bench and ask, “how sharp is this?”
I adapted my placement of the workbench to places in the booth that made it harder for incidents to happen, but that dampened interaction. Eventually, I discussed the situation with my insurance agent, who told me to stop immediately or lose my coverage. But, being the stubborn individual I am, I did a quick survey and found that most insurance agents considered my demonstrations too risky, so the tools and workbench stayed home.
I discovered that some people hadn’t spoken to me while I was carving because they didn’t want to interrupt me. As a result of leaving the bench and tools at home, I had more time to interact with customers and sold more. It shows that sometimes what you think is a great idea doesn’t have the results you expected and has others you hadn’t thought of.