Prior to being a jewelry artist, I was primarily a music teacher and performing artist. I still teach. It is part of my purpose and I enjoy it. All that to say I was in the service industry. I was working full time to help students meet an intrinsic goal. Seeing people overcome their fears, insecurities and build skills, with me as a guide, over several months and years is an extremely fulfilling activity.
Now I'm in retail. I'm still very much an artist. I sell tangible, handmade, and unique, wearable art. This is very different from selling someone a vision, a theory or an idea of their future self. In a classroom you meet some students with hesitation, fear, anxiety for days and weeks on end. Then one day something happens and that person is different because of something they discovered, performed, understood or were inspired by. Although retail is different in that my interactions with people are brief one-offs I still encounter the insecurities of many female shoppers. I found it so surprising at first that I often didn't know how to respond when hearing a woman pick apart everything from their neck up. It usually goes something like this:
Customer: I love these earrings!
Me: Feel free to try anything on or pick anything up!
Customer: Oh I don't know, my ear lobes are so fat
Customer: This necklace is gorgeous
(people like my work)
Me: Feel free to try anything on or pick anything up! Everything is Nickel free Sterling silver
I'm an introvert...canned responses help for initial responses
Customer: Hmmm...i don't know. My neck is fat now.
Customer: I love these rings
Me: Thank you. and if you see style you like, I can create a similar texture and customize the size for you.
Customer: Yeah my fingers are so skinny (or...fat). I never find rings my size.
And then the hair is a whole other beast. Too curly, long short, red, gray...whatever. Sheesh...We out here looking at earlobes?! I had never experienced that. So subtle and very raw. When I first started selling at art shows and markets, these comments from customers would catch me off guard. I'd either have no response (usually just a dead stare, because my mind was like "Whaaaaaat?") or fumble around for something nice to say. And it would usually be an empty response.
The simple fact that women have been trained to scrutinize every part of ourselves down to our ear lobes and neck length is tragic. The fear of earrings or a necklace make you look...bad?...is so strong for some that they won't even make an attempt to try something on. Why waste you time when disappointment is imminent?
What I find to interesting, is that these shoppers completely forget that a human being made all these items. As far as jewelry, it is made to be worn by whoever believes they should be the owner. I always thought earrings were one size fits anyway. And then beyond that it it's just style, color or size preference. I'm learning some do NOT believe that is the case.
There is not a single thing too big, small, skinny, fat, flat, mishappen on anyone's body. The thing that needs to be changed, is the handmade thing. There seems to be a disconnect between some women saying they LOVE something, and also feeling empowered enough to request a change. "I need the chain longer", "Can you make the same style, a little smaller?", "I would actually like a different ear wire because shorter posts don't fit my ear".
Does every woman blame herself for not being able to have the thing? Of course not! Yet, it is often enough that I have figured out how to politely nudge them to try "it" on or just hold it up in the mirror. My reminders that always break down the wall:
- Shopping is fun
- Trying on is FREE
- I can customize anything
- I can make bespoke pieces
Most times, they are pleasantly surprised with how something compliments them. Sometimes it ends in a purchase. And those are the best moments.
Not because I made money, although that's a bonus!
It's going back to the experience of witnessing someone, although briefly, see themself differently. And the smile that spreads across their face, or the sound in their voice when they say "yeeeeah", means there was a connection. I be would really presumptuous of me to say I know the root cause of the self-scrutinizing comments, so I just enjoy getting to witness their change of heart. Neither of us were even expecting it. They had been telling themselves tiny lies, over and over again, for so long.
My _____ isn't ____ enough.
This _____ isn't_____ enough for me. I need _________.
You and every part of your body is enough! Try the thing on, get it customized, make it perfect for YOU. The best part is that it will mean even more to you. It becomes something that was altered to meet your lines, curves and beauty. You Go GIRL!
Pictured: Mini-oyster necklace. Custom order. My original design for sale was too big.