Friday, May 29, 2009

Couterfeiting Money

Those of us in the art print business don't like to mention it out loud but selling prints is like counterfeiting money; I sell pieces of paper that have an arbitrary, perceived value but really are only worth the paper they are printed on. When I travel I often buy local art in the form of prints and have even purchased limited editions which have an even higher perceived value because, theoretically, there are a limited number. I noticed in our local market that if a print edition ran out we would see a number of "artists proofs" as if the artist slaved over the digital printer making manual color corrections. Then there will be some "remarques" on which the artist has made some kind of mark to distinguish this print from the regular run. While at the printer the other day I ran into a colleague who after running out of all the options was just printing more anyway. What the hell? I started with limited editions because of the cache but I have found that most people buy a picture because they like it and don't care about the pretension of limited editions. Exactly; if you like a picture (oh please) buy it. Of course the high end guys really buy into this as their prints can go as high as a couple of grand. They are geniuses of course, guys like David Blackwood (google him and you will find the spirit of this place) who still pull their own prints instead of making a glorified photocopy; still, I sell my happy little glorified photocopies for $14.95 and make a modest living doing what I like. I am a counterfeiter. It is completely legal and by the way, I do accept counterfeit money in the store. I spend it at Walmart on the way home.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Speaking of old jobs

I built a sandwich board sign for the store about 5 years ago. I wanted to let people know we were open from a distance and to advertise new stock and specials. The sign gets put out everyday. It is bright yellow. It is completely blank. I never got around to finishing it. What amazes me is not one person has ever commented on our blank sign. They stop and look at it and come in the store anyway thanks to our windows, which do get some attention. I am also amazed that we have put the silly thing out everyday for five years. Rain, snow or shine I haul it out and it weighs a ton, the weight protecting it from blowing away in the strong winds we often have. This is a windy place at the best of times and I often have to wedge the sandwich board behind a parking meter to keep it in place. Well hurricane season is here and the other day I discovered the real advantage of a blank sign. A 100K gust peeled the sign from behind the parking meter and it tumbled into the street, whacking into the door of a rented car that was toddling down the street. It made a noticeable dent. The guy got out of the car outraged. I watched from the safety of the store as he examined the sign and looked around. WTF. A blank sign. He kicked it not realizing it weighs 50 pounds, yelped and limped back into the car. I waited a few seconds and snuck out to get it. I left it in the stockroom for a few days but now I put it out everyday, blank. And that's the way it's going to stay. It slows down the shoppers anyway and any future accidents will cost us nothing in liability. I hope that guy never reads this blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Service is everything

What can you say to a customer that walks in the door and says they ordered an item two years ago and they never received it; you can't say wow, it took you two years to mention it, snooze you lose. Why is it that some jobs fall through the cracks. My service is excellent (contrary to the above) but once in a while an order just gets forgotten. The woman was very forgiving, as I was supposed to call when the item was done to receive payment, she was not out of pocket which can make even the mildest folks nasty. I never take deposits. I make what I want with a few suggestions and if the customer does not like it they do not have to buy it and we can still be friends. Often when people ask me if I take orders I respond by saying if I could take orders I'd probably be able to have a job. When people can take control they often do with a vengeance and make my life miserable with their petty demands, so I only take orders from the kind of people who show up two years later cheerful and ready to try again. After all, a little folk art is hardly worth getting the blood pumping. I am working on the customer's piece right now, red painted fingers typing this blog. I think I'll finish it this time.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Japanese Tourists

One night I caught out of the corner of my eye one of the local shoplifters running out the front door with a large framed print. I gave chase as he headed up the stairs in the alley beside the store. He was having difficulty running with the big frame and my violent threats as I gained ground caused him to toss the painting. It actually landed without damage, glass and all but I wasn't done. I called the worst expletives you can imagine after him as he disappeared out the other end of the alley. Satisfied I picked up the print and turned around. There was a group of Japanese tourists at the bottom of the alley who immediately began to chatter and take pictures. At least I haven't seen it on utube yet. I was speaking the universal language, understood around the world. My Mom would be very upset.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some one elses shoes

Just for something completely different and because I can I'm fixing up a Ford pick up. I need a truck and my mechanic has graciously allowed me to work at his place of business. I'm not one to slag mechanics as mine is honest and excellent and I have gained even more respect for him not just because he patiently answers my stupid questions but because his day is nothing but a constant barrage of stupid questions. I thought the gift industry held the papers on stupid questions but automobile users are even more uneducated about the nuts and bolts they use to haul their carcass from A to B than they are about tastes of their loved ones. And they expect an even better deal from a guy who actually works for a living slogging in the gunk that is your car than they do from me, picking my nails behind a counter. Oh well, we pay the people that fix our toilets a hell of a lot more than people who take care of our kids so why should we want to pay for our cars; after all, in so many ways our lives depend on them. ( I'm not saying plumbers should make less but childcare workers should get paid more) Any endeavour in which you take money and people really don't understand what's going on will bring out the worst in a few of us, over reacting to a lack of knowledge with bombastic ignorance. It's been interesting doing something so outside my regular routine and seeing it's not so far outside after all.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Do I look like a gravy train?

Business owners everywhere are used to people parading into their stores looking for donations for their particular cause. It's difficult because often the cause is very worthy, helping a family with a sick child or a benefit for someone who is ill. Last year we were solicited over 600 times for donations for causes as lame as new jackets for a hockey team or a junior high basketball trip. Any cause involving healthy youngsters should include a little work and not just begging for cash, but it's a modern world and not once have I been offered something in return for my donation. If I only gave a twenty dollar item 600 times that's about 12 grand worth of retail product a year. But a good store is a good community supporter and we often give. I have finally figured out how to decide which causes to support. I ask the person for a receipt for a purchase from any store in the downtown area in the past month. Because most of these idiots shop at the mall ( it is so hard to type that word as mall is a four letter word to a downtowner) and the mall does not allow soliciting so they venture downtown for their free bucks. They usually have a stunned look in response. Some of them, even after I explain my position, do not understand. I have a nice looking store and I guess it looks like I have money. Governments and utilities seem to think so as they charge more for business services. My business phone, exactly like my home phone costs five times more per month. Why? Because I must have money, I'm in business. How about the donation seekers go to some government offices and walk around the cubicles asking for free money. I'm sure this happens to some extent within an office but it is usually because the cause is associated with a person who works there, there is a connection. We are always willing to help the causes of our regulars. But shouldn't our governments be helping people in real need. Call me a socialist but shouldn't my taxes go to helping my fellow citizens, to ease their suffering. Until then I guess I'll keep giving a little because I make up for it by ranting at the lazy dolts who expect free money for their bowling team.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Did you make that?

For a time we did what I call guerrilla retail: manning an outdoor booth at some kind of festival or event. The atmosphere is festive and sleazy and the crowds generally are happy-go-lucky with a few drunken fools thrown in for flavour. At a few of the more low rent events we have even slept in the street to guard our wares ( they never have outdoor classical music festivals do they and you probably wouldn't sell too many bongs) On one of these glorious weekends we hooked up with some old friends and sat in lawn chairs all night long solving the problems of the world and enjoying the stars. Consequently I was a little tired the following day, the big sales day, and a little less likely to nod and smile when confronted with an obvious moron. This fellow was very interested in a mask we were selling. Back in the day we did the good old Asian import thing, when these things still seemed exotic and not tawdry and did not remind everyone of child labour. The mask clearly, as required by law, said made Indonesia on the back. The fellow looked at it, looked me in the eye and asked. "did you make that?" Of course, I told him. I jumped on a plane, hewed down a tree, carved out the mask. shipped it back here just so I could sell it to you. He bought it. That was the true start of my sales career. I've never looked back. Now I create and sell my own art and proudly say I made it but can't shake the niggling feeling that I am a fraud, that I'm pulling the wool over every body's eyes. Of course some people, like the aforementioned gentleman, come with their eyes prewooled and would buy poop wrapped in cellophane if you told them the right story. God bless them all. Tonight we eat.