Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Handmade: Customer Service, Part 2

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Photo by Kerry Hawkins
Recently I discussed tips on providing customer service asprofessional artists. As promised, this week I am going to talk a little bit about being the customer buying the art. With these tips, it will be easier for us to serve you as the customer in a way that everyone is satisfied.

An artist selling their work wants the customer to be pleased with their purchase. They do not want to sell you something faulty or something you do not really want. They put a lot of time and effort into their product, and they want it to find a great home.

Ask questions. You have the right to know what you are purchasing. Often times art can be expensive and you should be clear about what you have. It can be frustrating for an artist when a customer asks “Did you really make all of this?” However, an artist selling their work is usually looking forward to sharing details of their process with a customer. Find a piece or two that you find intriguing and ask questions specifically regarding it. How was it made? What is it made of? What inspired you to make it? It is likely to start a lively conversation and you will learn more about something you may decide to buy.

Lady Dye Fiber Arts; Photo by Jessica Burko

It is all right to provide constructive criticism. An artist is trying to gauge her audience, and she can only do so with feedback. Maybe you like a piece but you wish it was sized differently, or it was a different color. Maybe it is a price that you cannot afford today. If multiple people like something but they have slight alterations, the artist can take that information back to her workshop and create variations on a popular piece. An artist cannot please everyone, but they will listen. In some instances, they may be able to even make that variation for you as a special order, or even right there on the spot.

Many forms of art have care instructions. Some ceramics are not dishwasher safe. Some metals are damaged in certain chemicals. Not all fabrics are washable. The artist selling to you should be familiar with the care needs of their product. Make sure you heed those directions so that you can best enjoy your new acquisition. It is the artist’s responsibility to provide you with a well made product and make certain you are aware of the care needed. It is not their responsibility to replace the item if those directions are ignored!

When buying online from sites such as Etsy, keep in mind that while the product should closely resemble the photo the artist provided, that there can be some discrepancies due to the quality of the photograph provided, the browser you are using, and differences in computer monitors. If you require an exact color match, you may be better served purchasing something in person. Read the artist’s policies and do not be shy contacting the artist through the convo function. 
Some artists will do custom orders. Be clear and concise regarding what you are looking for. Be prepared to make a significant down payment. A custom order should be treated as a professional transaction with a contract with both parties agreeing to each step of the process. You would not be surprised that a contractor remodeling your house would require down payments, contracts, and confirmation regarding what you are looking for. A custom order is no different when working with a professional artist.

Do not assume the artist is willing to haggle. There are some artists who are open to and even enjoy haggling, and they will let you know. However, artists have special skills and work very hard at their craft. More often than not they are trying to put a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table. Also, artists are notorious for underpricing their work in the first place, and requesting a discount can be asking them to lose money on the transaction. If you feel you can get what you want cheaper mass produced from a department store, you certainly can do so. If the artist is worth the space they are taking, they are most likely offering a more unique well put together product.

Parrish Relics; Photo by Jessica Burko

One of the hardest parts of finding a gem at a craft fair, is a feeling you need to act now, or you will never find the artist again. This is not true most of the time! Ask if the artist has a mailing list. This can be the easiest way to stay in contact with an artist who’s work interested you, even if you did not purchase immediately. Artists typically have business cards. Bring a writing implement so you can write on the back of the card what interested you. If they have a Facebook page, gather information regarding how to find it, and then “Like” it when you get home. You can obtain all sorts of great updates including new work produced by the artist, and where they will be showing their work next!

Stitch House; Photo by Jessica Burko

The most important thing is, have fun shopping! Shopping for unique art is fun and a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. Who knows what treasure you may find!

1 comment :

  1. I'm enjoying this series Lynn, though I have one differing opinion - - I;d say NEVER "haggle" with an artist on price. IMO this is never appropriate. Artists and craftspeople carefully price their work based on a variety of calculated costs and factors. They are not selling their work at a yard sale, and therefore the price is as stated on each hand crafted piece.


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