“Don’t touch!” hissed the mom of the two little boys who were reaching for one of my enamels at my last show of this year. I’d heard her utter the same admonition all the way down my aisle. Adults freely touch works of fine craft; I believe children should be afforded a similar show experience. If they are dragged along with a parent, they should have some take-away, other than being told to keep their hands to themselves.
Smiling at the mom, I immediately took down one of my enamels, got down on one knee – eyeball height to my young visitors – and said, “Would you like to touch this? It is made of metal coated with glass.” The boys each very gently touched the piece. They then asked about one of my more elaborate works, which I explained was very fragile. I removed the work from the booth wall and, as one reached out a single finger, he said, “This is valuable!”
As if that comment did not just knock my socks off, a few steps out of my booth, the older boy, who looked to be about five, turned to me and said, “I thought this was going to be boring, but it’s really COOL!” I felt like I’d won a prize. Actually, I did. By taking a minute to talk with those children and to let them experience my work on a level they could understand, I was rewarded with genuine interest and happy smiles from two little boys.
Parents, please teach your children how to handle fragile, valuable objects – your home decorating options will increase the more your little ones understand about the beautiful objects around them. Seek out opportunities for them to interact with artisans and artists about handmade works.
Artists, please be sure to have some work (or tool or raw material within your easy reach to share (let them handle) with children who visit your booth at shows. We want people to appreciate the fine quality and craftsmanship of our work – that means we need to let folks touch stuff. Children will learn to love art and craft if they are engaged and respected by us. Reach out and (let them) touch.