Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nature or Nature?

We were recently in Montreal for my family reunion. Lots of laughs, wonderful old stories, great old family recipes. Lots of remembering those not there.

On the way home we decided to drive up Mont Royal. In case you've never been to Montreal, there is a mountain in the middle of the city. From the top, at the lookout, there are breathtaking views of the city itself, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Olympic Stadium, and even Old Montreal (if you squint).

We were doing our usual "oohs" and "aahs" and snapping photos when I was poked to look down at my feet. And there, less than a foot away from my sandal shod feet was a baby Raccoon. He (I'm guessing it was a he - I decided to name him Harry) sat there looking at me totally expecting lunch. Now I live in a city where Raccoons are only thought of as those annoying critters that destroy your garbage cans and toss your recycle across the neighborhood. I chose not to feed him. When he figured out there was no free lunch he waddled off. I went back to taking photos of the city, though it suddenly didn't hold the same thrill.

Cars continued to arrive and their occupants all seemed to head to the ice cream truck. Being nosy, and a bit of an ice cream addict, I wandered over there - figuring it must be the best ice cream in the world based on the crowd.

Well, it wasn't the ice cream drawing the crowd, it was Harry and his two brothers or sisters and his Momma. They were coming right up to the crowd, mooching lunch. The all-knowing ice cream dude said they come out every day at the same time and will eat out of your hand. Mama was the head mooch. She gets up on her back legs, reaches out her paws and takes a granola bar from one person. The kids got her leftovers. Someone ran and got a banana and Harry took big pieces of that. The crowd just kept building and the Raccoons continued to eat.

Oh, and did I mention the sign?

Here we were in this gorgeous spot, with lots of people around us, and 85% of them were looking down. Struck me as so strange. No one was looking a the city or the Seaway or the flowers. I felt bad for a busload of tourists who had driven to the bus parking spot and never saw the live entertainment. They had to settle for the amazing view. We had entertainment.

So the question is - gorgeous rocks and water views and natural nature - or a family of Raccoons mooching for food, furry nature?

Furry won for us....


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Silver Plate vs. Sterling Silver - What to Do?

Was at a show a couple of weeks ago where there were wonderful pieces of gorgeous jewelry made by true artisans. In the midst of all these talented artists was a guy selling decent looking jewelry who was out in the aisle hawking his wares like he was at a carnival. I kept expecting a teeny car full of clowns to be following him.

His main pitch to prospective buyers was that his jewelry was silver plate rather than sterling silver. His jewelry wouldn't tarnish and was much stronger than sterling. Now you need to know he wasn't charging more for his superior product though - he was willing to sell this advanced product at a price equivalent to the vendors selling sterling just so people would buy his stuff, and once they bought his stuff they would never buy sterling again.

Now this is happening at a time when sterling silver prices are through the roof and I've had to adjust how much silver I can use in pieces to try and keep my jewelry affordable. I have tried working with other metals, but they do not compare to the look and feel of sterling for me.

Now my first reaction was to whip him in the head with something - but I resisted because that's not who I am. My second urge was to stand next to him and yell "Liar Liar Pants on Fire" - but I resisted that too. He wasn't really lying - silver plate doesn't tarnish. He was being a politician - telling a half truth - and "Half Liar, Half Liar" doesn't have the same ring to it. Urge number three was to stand idly by and try to ignore him. That wasn't working for me at all. As the show went on, I noticed that other artists were having a negative reaction to him as well. It was so helpful to not feel alone. We talked about things we could do, but in the end we didn't do anything. The plotting was fun though.

I guess part of my issue is that there should be some courtesy and respect among artists. Last year at a show in New Hampshire I caught another vendor whispering to customers who were looking at my jewelry that they should go to her booth and buy from her. So maybe respect among artists is a lot to ask for. (I did go to her booth later and tell her that she needed to stop or I would report her to the show promoters).

Now this guy wasn't a buy/sell guy. He actually did make some nice jewelry -- but where was his ethical sense? Do we want to sacrifice our loyalty to other crafts people to make a sale? I guess he did. But that's not who I am. And I'm figuring most of you aren't either.

I have had many many wonderful experiences participating in craft fairs and even though there is an abundance of jewelry artists, most of the time we get along very well, helping each other out when we can, especially if someone is working alone and needs a break. I believe customers will come to my booth if they are drawn to it. My openness and desire to communicate and offer great customer service is based on a love of what I do. It matters to me that I am honest in describing the components of the jewelry. That's all I can do, and it works!