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.

4 Replies to “QED”

  1. My mother would have an art booth at fairs when my sister and I were little. She would do pencil drawings for money. We would have to be her shills, and pose to get people to come watch. They would watch her draw us and then someone might pay for a drawing. She said the worst was families with three kids of different ages, who all look very similar. The middle kid would complain that HIS portrait looked more like the younger brother! This would have been in the late 60s early 70s, in upstate New York, at things like county fairs.

  2. I hadn’t read “QED” in a long time, loved the title! The story is so interesting; I never would have thought of it, but after reading your experience, I guess in hindsight, yes, from expositions I have attended, I can think of many in which, when there was a demonstrator, there was also a second person answering questions and doing the sales.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: