On attending needlework shows
This blog post will be a bit of a rant. Blog readers possibly don't like that. I deliberated for a long time. Should I write the truth or should I make up a candy story just to keep my readers happy? I decided to write my truth as my experiences are bothering me greatly. So, if you suspect you don't like my truth, that's ok. I suggest you scroll to the bottom of this post and read the happy part.
Over the past few years, I've attended a couple of needlework shows in the Netherlands and Germany. People from the needlework community always urge me to have a stand at these shows. For various reasons. They think it is a great way to make money and reach new costumers. And for them it is a great way to see the supplies I sell before they buy them. Buying online has, after all, its disadvantages. Well, let me tell you what really happens at these shows.
They are a lot, and I mean A LOT of work. Preparing the kits for the workshops I offer usually takes up a whole working week. Then there is a day of preparing the stand and a day to sort everything back into the studio and to update the webshop. For the Allgäuer Nadelstiche, I counted 111 man hours. With the small profit we made, it means we worked for €2,46 per hour before taxes. Myth busted. I don't make a good profit at these shows. In fact, I usually make a loss.
But this is NOT about the money or the hard work. Although it is my dream to earn, one day, the legal minimum wage with my embroidery (which currently stands at €8,50 per hour in Germany), I know how to come by till that day has come. No, this post is about how the visiting people treat us at a typical needlework show. There is a major lack of respect, politeness and positive vibe. It is best compared with a 'live' facebook experience. People seem to think that it is ok to say just about anything nasty to us and behave badly. Below follows an account of the most popular harsh remarks and bad behavior.
"Just wait a couple of years and you won't be able to see your stitching. Just like me." What a horrible thing to say, don't you think. I feel genuinely sorry for her that she can't stitch anymore because of her eye problem. But wishing me the same is just disgusting. By the way, this has proven to be a very popular remark...
Another one from the top ten: "Did you make this? No way! Not you."
"Is this a sheltered workshop, your hobby, or (laugh) your business."
"You will never be able to make a living with this, anyway." This one is often followed by suggestions that I could lower my prices somewhat so that I would at least be able to sell some of my products. I find this a very schizophrenic remark. On the one hand, women in general complain that in most countries they don't get equal pay for the same work duties as a man. On the other hand, men like Kaffe Fassett, Arne & Carlos and the Myboshi boys can make a living. And that's because women buy their products and are prepared to pay the price. Then why are most women not prepared to pay the price when the product is made by a woman? Getting equal pay is, in this case, in our own hands!
One woman walked up to my workshop ladies and said: "This is prison work and you are all mad that you are taking part. What! You even paid for it?" My workshop ladies were shocked.
"Where is your business based? Oh no, that's over an hour's drive. It is better you come to me." I always offer to do that and charge for my extra time and gasoline. Strangely, my opponent is never amused.
And then there was the thingy with the booked workshops. One of my workshops was fully booked and I had to turn further bookings made at my stand down. All 'before the show' bookings were taken by the organization and I had no influence on their marketing. The organization only put the workshop name, its price and my name on their website. However, I had a detailed description on my website with pictures. Prospective participants could have googled my name or asked the organization for more information. It turned out, they hadn't. And of course, it wasn't their fault, but mine. Upon arriving for the workshop, four of the six pre-booked ladies didn't want to attend the workshop. It was too expensive and not to their taste. Two simply walked away with no excuses or anything. They left it to their friend to apologize. Nice friendship by the way. Fellow standholders were aghast by such bad behavior.
Onlookers at workshops are most welcome. No problem at all. I enjoy teaching and passing on my knowledge. However, there are limits to what I would call 'acceptable behavior'. It isn't ok to snatch my teaching instructions from the table (or indeed my hands!) and to start to read them intently from cover to cover. Or to take a picture with your mobile phone. That's theft. Upon politely suggesting that they are more than happy to attend the workshop and pay the workshop fee, these people bluntly tell me that they 'only wanted to see how it's done as they are avid needleworkers and don't need a workshop'.
And then there are the many, many people coming up to our stand dour faced. They grab a product and lovelessly throw it back into the container. Why?! My heart blood is in there.
Was it all bad? No. A hand full of people were genuinely happy that we were there. They thanked me for the wonderful workshop they just attended. They complemented me on the detailed pictures and the superb technical drawings in my instructions. I greatly enjoyed interacting with these lovely fellow humans. They helped me not to start crying. And maybe this is just all my own fault. I don't have a thick skin. Over the years, it just won't grow much. And I believe, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It means I can easily move and reach out to those who are less fortunate in whatever aspect than I am. It meant that I could patiently listen to the old lady who wanted to tell about her grandchildren but couldn't remember how many she had.
In the near future, me and my husband won't attend needlework shows anymore. They are just not for us. I hope, after reading the above, you'll understand.
As a result of the many unsold workshops at the Allgäuer Nadelstiche, I offer the kits at a discount. To make room on my studio shelves, I am also selling off other embroidery supplies. You can find these under Sale-Abverkauf in my webshop.
Aww....this makes me sad. But I know it to be true in the US as well. It is hard work to have a stand. I have volunteered to work a friend's stand a couple of times. For free. Just for the love of it. And you are so right with the comments. It is sad that egos seem to have no feelings for another ego. 😢 So sorry.
Thank you very much for your comment, Karen! It was a big relief to just write it down. Sleep over it, ammend it a bit and then publish. I suspect quite a few of us have made the same bad experience, but keep mainly silent on it. It is after all not what people want to hear in a world that's in such turmoil.
I have to say, none of this surprises me. I no longer attend needlework events of any kind, and I used to go to every quilt, embroidery, and knitting show I could find.
Thanks very much for your comment, Liz! Luckily, each time I attended, I did meet lovely people. And I know that these lovely people will find me and are prepared to travel for it. Take care.
Me and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed the workshops we attended last year and we really love your kits that are well prepared and worth every penny. It's such a shame that most people don't appreciate all the hard work and preparation that goes not only into the shows but especially into the designing of a new kit and the instructions which in your case are really well explained and documented. One day we will hopefully be able to attend another workshop of yours 😀. Thanks again for a lovely time at the Nadel and Faden
Dear Martina, thank youso very much for your lovely comments! I do remember the two of you and it was a pleasure to teach you. And I hope we will meet up again some day. Take care.
I agree with my mother =) I really enjoyed myself and am now, thanks to your wonderful instruction, working on a large piece for my grandmother's 75th birthday. Thank you so much, and don't listen to those who have no idea how much work and time goes into this beautiful hobby. Thank you for your time and hard work, and for a wonderful day at the Nadel und Faden!
Thanks so much for sharing such an open and honest experience. I am no where close to your level of expertise and have only ever attended shows as a 'spectator'. I do however appreciate that many vendors will only make a loss from the show, and find it appalling that people would ever be anything but respectful and appreciate the hard work that has gone into each and every single item they are seeing. As a 'crafter' they really should know better, as it takes all of us time to do whatever we work on. I'm so glad there were some happy appreciative people there for you.
Thank you so much Catherine! It really is heart warming to read all the messages of support. There are nice people out there :). By the way, I love following your elephant. So many stitches, threads and shapes. Thanks for sharing your needelwork journey with us!
Hallo Jessica, ik heb een paar keer een workshop bij jou gevolgd in Nederland en heb het altijd erg naar mijn zin gehad en veel geleerd. Jouw nieuwsbrief lees is altijd en klik dan door naar je blog. Jammer dat het op de beurzen zo tegenvalt, het kan een leuke manier zijn om collega's, klanten en nieuwe klanten te ontmoeten. Ik snap niet waarom mensen ronduit onbeschoft moeten zijn tegen zo'n aardig mens als jij bent, dat doet me echt verdriet. Ik hoop dat de zaken verder goed gaan en wens je veel succes met alles wat je onderneemt.
I don't know what to say except that I'm shocked at the behaviour of some. I hope this doesn't discourage you. I would love to go to needlework shows like this. Where I live we don't have any and I have to travel to get to one. To think that there are people who behave like that is unthinkable. I also agree with you about equal pay for men and women. Women tend to bring themselves down when it comes to work.
Thank you very much for your support Dima! I've just added your lovely blog to my feedly feed. I love your idea for a name tag. Some day, I should make one too!
Thanks, Lena! I hope so too.
Thank you for your kind words Sue! It has been heart warming to read all the supportive messages on this blog post and in my mail box.
How horrible! I love to attend shows as a customer, i take workshops whenever i can and i love to see the vendors stitching away. I have nothing but awe for designers like you and don't have any problem paying the prices you ask for kits - if i can afford it at the time of course. So much work goes into making a kit and you should be making a profit! Your work is beautiful, ignore the haters
Thank you for your support, Wendy!
Herkenbaar Jessica, klinkt hetzelfde als op de Handwerkbeurs in Nederland. Mensen willen wel alles bestuderen, maar een workshop volgen is ze te duur of dan roepen ze dat ze alles al weten. Heb ook ervaring met jouw goed gedocumenteerde kits en mooie ontwerpen, zeker waard aan te schaffen. Misschien is er in de toekomst een mogelijkheid tot het geven van on-line courses..... Ben benieuwd nasr je nieuwe goud project, ziet er veelbelovend uit!
Ach Jessica! Das ist wirklich schrecklich! I'm so embarrassed for these horrible people. And I thought needlework was such a gentle and ladylike art.
Thank you for your kind words, Janet!
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