Monday, October 31, 2016

Criticizing my Baby

       
My husband and I have been doing craft and trade shows now for one whole year.  It came about because of several things.  One, we started on this huge “downsizing” kick.  We wanted to see if we could live with half the stuff we have collected over the years, so I went room to room in the house and cut our belongings by half, but he had to do the same in his wood shop outside.  He has stacks and stacks of lumber castoffs from the preschool furniture he builds for a living that he cannot bring himself to throw away.  Two, he has greatly reduced his “day job” over the last few years and wants to transition into something to keep him busy and active when he retires.  Thirdly, he loves being creative, making things for our five kids, their spouses, and our nine grandkids, so he decided to turn his hobby and his skill and his scraps of wood castoffs into a new business.
          For the first six months, I helped him organize and work the once-a-month craft shows.  We were learning the business.  I am good at organization; he is good at making wood products.  One day, I too got the itch, and decided to revive my old hobby of sewing for fun.  I pulled out a yellowed doll pattern I kept since my children were children, and made a dozen dolls to sell.  None sold the first two months, but they have slowly started to garner interest.
In the last six months, I have made and sold over 100 dolls.  They are simple, small, five-inch and twelve-inch cloth dolls; all made from two patterns I morphed from others. It surprises me that people want to buy them, and it gives me pleasure to make them and find folks who like them. They are my labor of love, my babies.
So, it hurts when people criticize them.
With each batch I make, I correct and improve the patterns.  I know the latest dozen is much better than the first dozen I made six months ago. I have learned what sells and what doesn’t.  I price them fairly, only making a small profit over the cost of materials.  My labor is free, so when someone picks one up, inspects it, and complains about it, I want to respond defensively. Instead I smile and keep silent. I listen.
“I want this doll’s dress but that doll’s hair.” 
“Why don’t you make it in X football team’s colors?  I would buy it if you had used X football material.”
“Don’t you make boy dolls?”
“You call this a doll?” And spikes it back into the bin.
“You mean this isn’t the five-dollar doll?” Looks at the smaller doll I show her.  “That’s not a doll.  It isn’t worth five dollars.”
I try not to let the complaints get to me though they are insulting my work. My babies. Do they want a discount because it was not what they wanted?  Do they think I am Build a Bear and can undress this doll and that one so we can match that dress with this hair? The dolls are not made to be undressed.  My favorite is the person who blatantly tells me she could have done it better.  I want to tell them to go ahead and try, except these are my patterns, my ideas, my time, my talent, my tenacity. I would love to see them make it for the money I am selling the doll.
Writing fiction is my other love.
Lots of my friends are published authors.  Their work is their baby too.  They bring out Junior or Sissy, and all they hear is: 
“The main character was not very likeable.”
“If the ending were different, it would have been more relevant and believable.”
“Why don’t you write Amish?”
“You call this fiction?”
“This book was a total waste of my money.”

Unless a person has attempted to create something with their hands and mind, labored over it and fashioned it, and offered it to public scrutiny, then they would understand that a critique can be helpful; a criticism is not. 

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