Ten Ways To Annoy An Artist (and how to avoid doing so)

(I want to preface this rant by saying that 99.9% of the people I meet as a result of my work are amazing. I've met some of my closest friends through my work, I've gotten emails and messages at random moments that made me cry from gratitude at the kindness of near-strangers, and I have had amazing adventures because my art has introduced me to people who I otherwise would never have met. I promise that I will also write a blog post entitled Ten Ways To Dramatically Improve An Artist's Day. But in the meantime, have some snark. It's been that kind of a week.)

1. "I could do this/my child could do this/anyone could do this."

I completely agree. All you you need are pliers and wire cutters, some beads and pretty rocks, and wire. Oh, and years of study, practice, and experience. By all means, go right ahead and try it if it appeals to you. Just be prepared to spend quite a bit of time angrily flinging tangles of wire across the room. Don't feel bad, though, I still do that myself on a regular basis.

Alternative: "Your work is lovely. I make [type of art] too. I particularly like the way you did [insert distinctive characteristic of work in question].

2. "Does this really cost THAT much? It's just some wire and beads."

Yes, it does. My prices reflect the cost of materials and the time it took to make the piece, plus my experience and reputation, plus the time and expenses involved in running a retail business. There's also a pretty decent chance I'm not even charging as much as I could, because I try to keep my work affordable to everyone.


[if you actually want to purchase something from the artist but can only spend a certain amount of money] "I love this, but I'm afraid this particular piece is out of my budget. Do you have anything in the [insert what you can afford to spend] range?" 

[if you actually want to purchase a particular item from the artist but can't afford it on the spot] "I love this, but I'm afraid can't afford it today. Do you ever do payment plans? Or could you make me something similar in the future when I've saved up for it?"

[if in person and you have no intention of purchasing anything] "Lovely weather we're having today, isn't it?"

[if online and you have no intention of purchasing anything] Say nothing. Go to a different website.

3. "I could buy something like this at Walmart for $5."

If you want to own a mass-produced item that involved unethical labor policies and environmentally harmful manufacturing practices and will probably promptly break and/or give you a rash, yes, you certainly can go right ahead and do that.

Alternative: "Lovely weather we're having today, isn't it?"

4. "It must be nice to not have a real job and just get to make art all day."

It is. I particularly like the part where the only way I get to spend time with friends is if I either lure them into the studio to keep me company while I work or stuff a work kit into my purse. Being perpetually sleep-deprived because I go back into the studio as soon as my child goes to bed and work until at least two hours past my bedtime is also awesome. And what is this "vacation" of which you speak?

Alternative: "I can tell you put a lot of time and effort into your work."

5. "Will you donate something/work for free? It'll be great exposure for you!"

This is a tricky one. I personally do donate items to fundraisers on a fairly regular basis, but it's almost always because I want to support a specific cause but can't afford to do so monetarily. Once in a while it actually does result in people discovering my work, but it's probably the least effective form of marketing I do.

Alternative: "I know you support/have a particular interest in [insert good cause here] and I think a piece of your work would help us raise money for [insert specific fundraiser here]. Would you be willing to donate something for us to sell/raffle/auction? We would be tremendously grateful for anything you can afford to give.”

6. "Can you show me how to do this?"

Maybe. Are you seriously interested in learning the techniques I use in order to become an artist with your own unique style, or are you thinking you can make one exactly like this for free instead of buying it from me?


[if you just want to make it yourself for free] "Lovely weather we're having today, isn't it?"

[if you're seriously interested in becoming an artist in my particular field of expertise] "I've always wanted to learn to do [insert art form here], but I haven't had much luck learning from books/videos. Do you teach lessons, by any chance?"

7. "Would anyone actually WEAR something like this?"

Given that the last time I bothered to do the math, I'd made and sold over 10,000 pieces of jewelry... I'm going to have to say the answer is yes.

Alternative: "Lovely weather we're having today, isn't it?"

8. "I saw a different sort of necklace online that I liked better than yours but the artist wanted way too much money for it. Can you make me one exactly like it but cheaper?"

A) No, because copying someone else's work is unethical and I won't do it; B) I've worked hard to develop my own distinct style, and if that style doesn't appeal to you, that's totally fine and you should feel free to take your business elsewhere; C) chances are pretty good that I'm friends with the other artist or at least know them in passing; D) you seem to have mistaken me for Walmart again.

Alternative: “Lovely weather we're having today, isn't it?”

9. "I saw something exactly like this at that booth over there/on the internet/at the store across town/at some other event."

One of several possibilities exist here. Either you're lumping all artists who work in a particular medium together, or you've encountered my work at one of the stores that carries it or on my website and just don't remember the name of my business, or you've run across somebody who's copying my work and hasn't gotten a cease-and-desist letter yet.

Alternative: "Your work reminds me of something I saw at [insert location/event/website]. Was that you?"

10: Pin a photo of my work to a Pinterest board called "Things To Make."

Don't do this. Seriously, just... DON'T. While Pinterest is a great place to find crafty DIY tutorials of all sorts, not everything that ends up there is a tutorial. Let me repeat that: not everything on Pinterest is a tutorial. I assure you, artists DO see where you've pinned our product photos, and when we see our work on boards called "Things To Make" or something similar, we are not happy about it.

Alternative: Even if you fully intend to copy an artist's original design, please have the good manners to at least name the board something a little more discrete, like "Inspiring Art" or "Really Nifty Techniques" or "Things I Like A Lot."

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