Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Compliments

Compliments are hard. I don't know what to say when I get complimented; it was not at all part of my upbringing.

I used to answer compliments with paragraphs and chapters on how things went wrong, and would point out the mistakes even though I had taken pains to hide them. Then Kate from my writers' group told me to "just smile and say, 'Thank you.'" I've stuck to that since, (hence, no wine at openings.)

Peg lead me to this blog post on the subject by textile artist Rayna, and reading comments posted there lead me to Tall Girl Carol Larson, whose few posts I scanned are hilarious.

So what do you do when someone exclaims they love your work?

Sometimes I wonder if it's flattery, or a nice way of acknowledging the artist. Sometimes I feel starting up a conversation from that point appears as if I'm asking for more compliments, or if I'll appear to be gloating. (I can do that, too, you know.) Sometimes I just say "Thank you", but put on a sad piglet look to get details. I've heard Kiwi weavers respond by crediting the fiber or the piece, e.g. "Yes, that one worked well." I've tried this, but it sounded disingenuous unless I sincerely felt that way about that particular piece. Sometimes I wonder why they are not compliment that successful piece instead.

And I can't help wondering if they are testing me if they happen to compliment my "never again" pieces.

I totally agree with Tall Girl who wrote; "It is a polite way of validation without any expense! I usually interpret it as they like the work but can't afford it." Or they don't like it enough to buy it, and I don't think we're being particularly cynical.

I am lucky I have friends who are weavers, artists in other disciplines, art historians, museum curators, gallerists and arts marketers who are able to explain succinctly what pleases or displeases them and can point to artists/places I may want to look up, just for the asking. And their opinions count, even when I disagree, because by telling me what they think, they are expressing something less vague than their undying love for me.

Compliments make me giddy for the moment, and then sometimes I start to speculate why they said it. Sometimes I should stop at at the giddiness.

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