Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Importance of Kindness

In my life, I've been witness to a host of teaching styles, from those oh-so-excited to share their craft, to a humorous and dry-humored approach, to motivation from fear. And while I am certainly opposed to the last on that list, this post is actually about something a little different.  Its about what might be
underlying in some of those fear-driven cases.  It might be insecurities, or defensive-ness, or just the belief that if someone isn't toughened up, then they'll never make it in the world.  I hate this.  Yes, I've been through experiences that were of the "if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger" variety, and yes if I hadn't struggled under a weighty load of work I might not have known I could accomplish so much at once.  This isn't about that.  In fact while writing this I think its becoming about two different things that are both similar but different in a lot of ways.  Maybe I will save the "teaching by fear" issue for another day.

What I originally wanted to talk about was being open to sharing your experiences as a business owner, and building up those just starting out.  This is not so much about teachers as it is existing members in the community (not related to education).  I don't understand the purpose of putting people down when they're just starting out.  It's a little silly, but this is coming from an actual experience I had about three years ago when I was first starting this blog.  I still remember it.  And it's not that it totally crushed me, in fact I guess I really took something away from it, that I vowed to not repeat the actions that I observed in my later life.  

Basically, I was just out of college, swimming in the abyss that is trying to figure out what direction to go in life, and as an artist, taking interest in other artists and trying to keep up my interests while living at home with my parents, searching for the right job, and growing poorer by the day whilst being all-too-aware of impending student loan debt.  So, in a nutshell I was pretty insecure at that point, but aside from that I went to an art fair with my grandma, thought it would be a fun Sunday thing, get out of the house, etc.  I had just started this blog and I loved art fairs because I liked finding new vendors with exciting products and sharing it with whoever wanted to read it.  I did and still do like doing this, finding cool things and putting it out there. 

I haven't been doing this as of late, but in college I used to make hats.  Little buckram hats out of fabric scraps and fun trinkets. I didn't follow any instructions, and I wasn't taught officially or anything, but I liked it because it was creative and fun and out of the ordinary, and it's not a widely done thing anymore.  So imagine how thrilled I was to find not one, but two hat makers at this art fair.  How cool it was to find someone out there in the world that liked and made hats!  The first milliner I encountered was Gwen Bennet.  She is a wonderful woman from Arkansas who makes beautiful feather mask art and also hats featuring exquisite feathers.  Her work was beautiful and I talked to her for a while about how she sources her feathers and crafts her wonderful masks.  She was a joy to talk to and gave me her card if I had any more questions.  I took some photographs of her work and wrote a post about her on this blog.  It was really exciting to find her and share her work with even just the few people that read my blog. 

Further on at the fair I came across another milliner.  What?  Another hat maker?  How awesome!  There were some people sitting at the tent, and the whole thing was decorated with awesome hats that had creative detailing and just on the whole really beautifully put together.  Well you can't judge a book by its cover.  I asked the people sitting in the tent if they were the makers of the hats on display and they said no, but the owner would be back shortly if I wanted to talk to her.  I waited patiently for about  30 minutes, taking in her beautiful hats.  It was way above my skill level (obviously, I had never had any formal training, and honestly I think I knew even then that I wasn't going to become a full time hat maker, or even actually sell a single one), but I thought they were cool and I thought it would be awesome, again, to share it on my blog for people to read and though they were expensive, maybe I could buy one of them in the future or turn on readers to her creations.  The owner came back to the tent after a while and the people who had been sitting there directed her over to me.  I introduced myself and told her I loved her hats and that I had made some hats too.  It was awkward and I guess telling her that put her on edge.   She tried to talk me into taking classes from her, and I declined (because I was flat broke).  I wasn't trying to 'steal all her secrets' or take all her business away, I just was excited to meet someone who did this weird thing that I did, who clearly had experience.  Up until that day I think I had met maybe one person who knew anything about hat making.  I would probably have been a customer if it weren't for the way she treated me.  I told her I wrote a blog online, and that I'd love to show some pictures of her creations and write about her shop and she instantly shut me down. "NO! You can't take pictures of my hats!" it was as if she thought I was going to take pictures and copy all of her designs and set up shop right next to her or something.  I instantly left her tent.  I didn't write a blog about it (until now I guess), and I didn't and won't tell anyone about her shop, even though I liked her hats.  

And I guess what still bothers me about this is why she wouldn't be open to someone who liked the same thing she did.  All she wanted out of me was money.  Which, if she had been nice to me, I probably would have ended up investing in one of her hats once I got myself an income, etc.  If I had written about her it might have sparked others' interest in her merchandise, or I could have given her the photos for her to use for marketing.  It would have been free PR for her presence at the art fair.  All I wanted to do was share her story with others.   This incident left a bad taste in my mouth and we went home afterwards.  I still think about it from time to time, and it frustrates me that someone so clearly creative would be so closed off and cold to someone who loved what they did. 

But I take solace in the fact that I certainly learned something from it.  I don't think it was necessary to have encountered her, because I really learned the most from Gwen that day.  Being open and kind to others and just sharing a passion for life and art spreads positivity.  Being closed off and rude won't gain you any friends or followers.  If I had gone home and blasted her by name on social media, that wouldn't have benefitted me at all.  It would have made me more upset and guilty, and it wouldn't have made me any better than her.  So instead I continue to look for wonderful, exciting things in the world and share them with others, remembering to be aware that how I treat people affects them and myself in turn.  I am probably not perfect, in fact far from it, but I strive everyday to act in the vein of kindness and foster the growth of others.  There is no need to be secretive or hide what I love about the world.  I am my own special snowflake, and I will continue to sparkle as such.  Haters gonna hate. 

- The Lovely Red Fox

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