Christmas is looming so here’s a little game to play that’ll hopefully be more fun than reviving the annual bicker about a) who fed the cat/dog the most inappropriate treats and is now responsible for the subsequent fallout b) why all the hard/soft centres have vanished from the bottom layer of the chocolate box before the top one was empty c) whether a brisk post-lunch walk/drinks with the neighbours is a seasonal highlight/to be avoided at all costs.
For the game, you each choose three things from around the house that you have bought over the years and that have a special meaning for you. I’d love them to be pieces of art, but it’s not really that important. You could choose a soap dish, or maybe a wooden spoon. Or choose both and a piece of art, since I did say three things. Then each person gets to tell the stories behind their choices. Prizes for the best stories are optional and awards go to any object chosen by more than one member of the family. This should go well unless you choose the distressed leather recliner you bought at a car boot sale and have reclined in it throughout the clearing up post-dinner.
Gifts and inheritances aside, objects we buy that mean a lot to us tend to come with a story and, more often than not, it is about the moment when the object is found and bought. You’ll have just proved that with your warm and witty stories.
As an artist, I have a head start over the sellers of soap dishes and wooden spoons since people are buying my work as a pleasurable luxury. But it’s still in my power to make or break the experience. The trick for success is really simple and it’s to take the time to listen and respond to the customer with genuine interest and kindness. Customers when coaxed to tell, come with the first part of the story; the why of the purchase. Then I fill in the middle where they get to learn about the who, what and how. By the time the artwork gets home, it’s a purchase bound up with empathy plus a deeper understanding, and the whole experience becomes more than the sum of its parts. It may even become a winner in a Christmas game one day.
This week on the Ask an Artist podcast we are interviewing gallery owner and art dealer Nick Bentley about his gallery Bils and Rye and his customer and artist relationships. Listen out for his bittersweet story about a piece of jewellery and a special customer he’ll always remember.