Crafters/Artists: Should you allow customers to watch you work?

Craft Stores, Creative Life, Flowers

If you are a crafter operating your own business, do you allow your customers to watch how create your pieces? Or do you feel uncomfortable in revealing your secrets or your skills for fear that it would be copied by others?

When people walk by bazaar or craft stores- many would stop to watch the artist or crafter at work. By seeing the artist or crafter really producing the work it would give potential customers the confidence that the item is genuine and not some kind of mass produced items.

I remember when I was young, I use to go to Central Market or otherwise known as Pasar Seni which used to be a place for artists and crafters to sell their work. There are a few painters who would be painting potraits of customers- the customers can choose to either sit there and let him paint or just provide a photograph and then come and collect the painting later. Most customers would just prefer to provide their own photograph rather than to sit still for a few hours for the artist to paint them.

Literally each time I am there I would see the artists busy painting away with some photographs clipped in front of their canvas. And almost each time there would be a crowd of people gathering around each of the artist to watch him, literally transforming a blank canvas to life. The artists did the detailed paintings and not the sketches.

Nowadays it is quite rare to watch an artist literally doing the painting ‘live’. However at Amphawa floating market, there is an artist called Vinit Jittana who was painting live in his art gallery:

Not only that, he placed a notice that mentioned that he allows his paintings to be photographed. Most galleries would have prominent notices that forbid anyone from taking photographs. He sells his artwork but for those who could not afford they could buy small little pictures from his gallery. You can read this post in another blog to view more of his artwork.

Another example is a stall that sells handmade crafted fragrant decoration using soap. The purpose of the soap is to give out fragrance. You can see the person below crafting the shape of a lotus flower out of a blank soap. Later the flower carving would have to be painted.

Soap making display at a store

 

As an artist or crafter you may have the concern that if you display how you make the item, it would be copied by competitor. Granted that may happen. But honestly, if someone wishes to copy or learn your craft, there are already tonnes of detailed tutorials in YouTube teaching us all we need to know.

For example, let’s look at a step by step process that teaches you how to make charms:

A lot of the basics can be learned through watching the free YouTube free videos. Then if a person is really determined to learn, he or she would be able to put in the time to do on his/her own, making mistakes and learning along the way.

And those who show how it is made are often crafters who are selling their items- these videos get like hundreds of thousands or millions of views because so many people are interested in crafts. They are making quite a good living from advertising (through high viewership of their videos) and orders that come from all over the world. It is evident when these crafters also show how they pack and mail off the orders to customers.

Interest is interest. Skill is something that takes time to develop and patience to perfect. Majority of the people who watched the video would not have the patience to invest the tremendous amount of time (as well as money to buy the materials) to learn these skills. They would just rather pay the money to purchase something that they see and they like.

As potential buyers when we see the artist or crafter at work, it would give us confidence that we are not buying some overpriced mass produced items. The carved soap above sells for 200 bath each (and 3 for 500 baht). It is about USD6 which is not considered cheap for Asia standards. But people would be more willing to buy knowing that it handcrafted.

If you are the crafter as well as the business owner, you would be able to save a lot of time by doing your work during off peak time when there are less customers. Your work partner or an employee may help to serve the customer.

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