As an art fair outsider, I aspire to be an insider someday soon. I create designs that are screen printed on t-shirts, magnets and stickers and cater to mostly pet lovers. I’ve been doing this full-time for 10 years. I’m resigned to the fact that my business is relatively microscopic to the marketplace and it’s certainly not changing anyone’s life. But I spoke to a customer the other day that made me re-think what I do…
An older woman, Nancy had left a message on voice mail frantically looking for two of my stickers, an Akita and Golden Retriever. She said she spent the better part of her Sunday looking for me. She just totaled her van days prior and had to replace the stickers immediately! She even located two of my retail store customers in Michigan and was going to have her husband stop at one. Unfortunately neither store carried my stickers.
I was puzzled. Bewildered as to why in the world would someone go to all that trouble to buy two of my dog stickers especially after being in a serious car accident? Go to any pet boutique. You can find something similar most anywhere. Admittedly, I didn’t have my ‘customer service’ hat on. I had my ‘this lady must be crazy!’ hat on.
So I call her back and find out she just loves the designs and hasn’t seen anything else like it. That’s flattering I thought but doesn’t explain the urgency. So she goes on to explain the two designs represent her love for the two dog breeds she’s ever owned. And when she walks out to a parking lot looking at the sea of cars and sees those stickers on the rear window, she knows she’s found her car.
Now that she’s going to be driving a new vehicle and after going through the trauma of last week’s accident, she’s just trying to get some normalcy back… so that’s why she needed those stickers. Dumbfounded, I clumsily took her order and got off the phone.
I sat and pondered about my phone call. Sometimes because we get into a routine, things become insignificant to us. We start to push aside some of our work as mundane or less than worthy, things become less about art and meaning and more about business. We forget why people buy our art, maybe it’s not just decorative, maybe there’s some connection, some meaning and they make a purchase because of some relationship to our art that we could never begin to know. But often especially with the low dollar items, we just see it as something we printed on paper, on canvas or to hang on a wall. We forget that art can be about relationships. And we all need relationships.