When a Customer Criticizes Your Handmade Jewelry

by Rena Klingenberg.

When a Customer Criticizes Your Handmade Jewelry, by Rena Klingenberg, Jewelry Making Journal

Most jewelry customers are supportive of what we do (and sometimes they purchase our jewelry too)! 🙂

Of course, not everyone will like the jewelry we make, and that’s to be expected.

But even when the jewelry isn’t to their taste, most people are tactful about it.

However, there are some shoppers who are less tactful – and may even bluntly criticize your jewelry.

Why Do People Criticize?

  • Some people who criticize aren’t intending to be mean.
    They simply blurt out exactly what they’re thinking – even if it’s “That is one ugly necklace!”
    They have no idea that their outspoken opinions can cause hurt feelings.
  • Some people are insecure or jealous.
    They’re always comparing themselves to other people, and finding themselves lacking.
    So they try to feel better by cutting down the things other people make and do.
  • Some people are having a bad day.
    Their own problems may be casting a dark cloud over what they see – and what they say.
  • Some people are genuinely trying to help.
    They often give their candid advice and opinions to people, regardless of whether anyone asked for them.
  • They may be right.

    Although it’s not fun to receive criticism, the customer may have a good point about something you can improve.

Responding to Negative Criticism
About Your Jewelry

If the remark was spoken to someone else and you overheard it, there’s no need to reply.

If it was spoken to you, smile and thank the person kindly for their honest feedback.

That helps in four ways:

  • It makes you feel better because you’ve channeled some positive energy to chase out any bad feelings that were caused by the criticism.
  • If the person meant no harm but is simply plain-spoken, you haven’t replied in a way that would damage your customer relationship with them (or with any bystanders).
  • If the customer has a good point about something you can improve, they deserve your appreciation – even if it wasn’t fun to receive the criticism.
  • If the person was intentionally mean and hurtful, they’re often surprised and embarrassed at your polite response to their rude comment – and they sometimes backpedal, coming back with a nicer remark or even apologizing.

Stay polite and professional in the face of criticism about your jewelry.

Consider the Criticism Objectively

The customer’s remark may or may not be valid.

But be sure to examine it to see if it can actually help you improve your jewelry or your business in some way.

For example, what if a woman walked into your booth announced scornfully, “Heck, my kids could make this jewelry!”

Although her words were rude, you might look at your pieces objectively and consider whether you should start creating more complex or unique designs.

Turn a Negative into a Positive

When someone makes a negative remark about something we’ve created, it can be very hard not to take it to heart and feel crushed.

But instead of just feeling bad about it, you can channel your feelings about the criticism into creativity.

Pour that energy into creating some new jewelry pieces.

Strong emotions can result in amazing artistry.

And the act of creating is powerful therapy for negative feelings.

Recovering from Criticism

Don’t take criticism personally – and don’t let it keep you from doing what you love.

Take whatever lesson there may be in it, make improvements or channel it into something better, and move on.

And never stop creating your art and sharing it with the world!

Have you had a customer criticize your jewelry – and if so, what did you do?

Older Comments:

Lisa says:

Another option is to also ask the person what is it about your jewelry they do not like. Explain to them that you are always looking create jewelry that appeal to more people and you would appreciate their feedback. If you do it in a polite way, you may get some information that will improve your jewelry line. Usually if there is at least one person that verbalizes their complaint, there are several other people who thought it but never said anything.

Tanya Mireles says:

Genius! That’s a great idea! Learning so much from all of you!!!

Stef says:

My response to “My kids could make that!” is (with a smile) “You must be very proud of your extremely talented kids!” If the comment is “I could make that”, my response is to either tell them about the 1-of-a-kind stone, or to tell them that after purchasing the materials and tools required to make that piece, they’ll have spent more time and energy than it would take to just buy the piece, and isn’t their time and energy worth more to them than the cost of a piece? (Other times I’m less politic, and straight up ask – but why would you copy my work when the original is so readily available?)

Sarah R says:

I had a man stop by my table one day and start asking about the stones I used. Pointing at one pendant and another. I told him that one was amethyst and those were jasper. He responds that he is a geologist and that these are all glass! He spoke to me as if he were above me in every way. Very condescending and it wasn’t very nice to be on the receiving end when I had other customers at my table. I tried to be very nice to him and I responded that yes I do use other materials besides stones but that the stones I use are genuine. I also added that many stones have different trade names so it may not be a name he is familiar with.

It was not fun but I got through this man stopping at my table at not one, but two shows. It’s not fun to encounter a negative person like him but in the end that is only his opinion and I choose to respond with kindness and not let it get me down.

Cherie Elksong says:

Good post & good advice on taking in criticism, even when it’s presented in a less than graceful way!
One of my best (tho, it certainly didn’t seem so at the time) experiences of my jewelry career was about 20 years ago, when the owner of a fancy-pantsy gallery in Sedona, AZ (that I’d sent photos to, applying to have work there) slammed me, referring to my photos as “examples to his students of commonality & mundane design, to encourage them to work with unique designs, handmade components, etc.”
So, even when it can be hurtful when people are “mean”, take up the challenge & use it as a tool to better your work! 🙂

Karen says:

Sarah – I feel your pain! I had someone like your “Geologist” show up at a few shows. I started to feel like he was stalking me! Then finally one day I started talking before he had a chance – I told him how happy I was to see him and I was hoping he would show up because I really needed an experts opinion….. Then I pulled out a random stone out of my stash and told him I didn’t know what it was & could he please help? Well, he just puffed up with pleasure and started telling me all about the stone! I think he even bought a set of earrings for his daughter.

I guess he just needed to feel needed

CoraNation says:

One woman emailed about a novel I’d written that she “couldn’t get through it.” I responded, “Boy, you must be even busier than I am.” She probably didn’t like the book, but heck, it’s beach reading, not Tolstoy. Everyone is not going to like your art. As long as you love it, someone else will too. Your passion is bound to be appreciated more than you trying to conform in order to satisfy the masses. CM Miller- author, Dead Broke

Elayne says:

The other thing to realize, is that people are not used to shopping for items in front of the person who actually makes them. So they are used to being able to say whatever they want.

Coral says:

Sorry, this is rather long!
This is a difficult thing to have to deal with. As Elayne says, most people – even when there’s a sign up saying that it’s hand made jewellery – aren’t used to the fact that you’re probably the person that makes it, and they often just don’t think about what they’re saying.
I’ve made and sold all manner of craft items over the years, and learned to smile sweetly at people who are sometimes criticising what I’ve produced. It’s not happened often, and you don’t always get the chance to respond, but I always do talk to them if I get the opportunity, saying that I understand that not everything will appeal to everyone.
I had a gentleman who asked me last year if I made the jewellery I was selling, when I said yes, he then started asking if I made all the charms I used – no, I don’t – then announced that all I did was assemble things then, I didn’t really make it!
I pointed out (very politely!) that although with some of my items of jewellery, I did indeed buy components and assemble them, I buy individual items that appeal to me, not kits, didn’t follow anyone else’s instructions or patterns, what I made was all my own idea and completely original.
I also took the time to show him items which had been totally hand made using wire, wrapped beads, links, hand made chain, fastenings etc. and explained that many of the people who come here on holiday (a small island off the west coast of Scotland) want to buy something original and different from anyone else’s, but can’t afford to buy an item which is totally hand made. I have to tailor my pieces to the clientele that I have.
After that he was much more understanding of the processes involved, and even bought a pair of earrings for one of his granddaughters!
Sometimes people’s comments arise through ignorance of the work involved, the item just doesn’t appeal to them, or they’re just not thinking about what they’re saying.
Rena is right, don’t take it personally, but do think about whether or not what they’re saying is useful to you, and also whether or not you need to have better descriptions on your products or signeage.

Jack Maxwell says:

This is such an excellent resource! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us….

Chloe Petit says:

I think a lot come down to confidence; I have only just started making jewellery and am still blown away by how much people are liking what I have made. However it is hard not to notice when they don’t react with enthusiasm but a muted response, showing that the piece is clearly not their cup of tea. You just have to take the rough with the smooth and not take these things personally I guess. Brilliant blog, Chloë

Deborah C. Blake says:

Thanks for this advise, I was afraid I would come to tears if someone criticized my work. Now I realize that not everyone is going to like my work. My Dad used to say “You can’t please everyone, so just please yourself and do your best”. I am excited about trying to sell my jewelry and hope it will help my income since I am disabled. My problem will be buying new stock to make more items. I have been collecting my beads, findings and wire.. for several years. If I can’t sell, not sure if I can afford to pay for booths and such too many times. My daughter is a military wife of a disabled vet and will need extra money as well to raise her young children. Any advice I am getting is so much appreciated.

Tyronda says:

Very helpful!

Beth says:

As a novice, people’s reactions to my pieces have so far been very positive, but I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes, which helps me through all kinds of challenging situations… “I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect.” – Edward Gibbon
If someone is deliberately nasty or provocative (I work in a call centre, you can imagine), it reminds me to not buy in to confrontation and arguments 🙂

Sue says:

My sister-in-law paints miniatures and uses extremely fine brush bristles. They look like pen and ink. A man asked her if she was sure she had used watercolors and not pen and ink. Seriously, yes I do.

Maria Delgado-Pontani says:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If someone doesn’t care for my work it’s ok…someone else will. For those that say they could make a piece themselves, I always have some spare cabs, wire, and tools. I offer them a spot at my table where they can (try to) make the piece themselves. I’ve yet to have anyone take me up on that offer.

Anne Mulligan says:

The times I’ve had to bite my tongue often have to do with pricing. When a woman comes into my booth with a wristfull of Alex and Ani bracelets (no slam against them – they’re US-made, but they are manufactured) and sniffs at a bracelet that I have priced at $25, it can be a challenge to stay friendly and polite.

Deborah says:

Well I had my first bigger festival and it was a flop. I’m disheartened. How do you decide when to give up trying to sell? Although the majority of people around us said they didn’t make anything much either it was upsetting. Plus on what was normally the biggest day it rained and stormed. Any suggestions?

Valarie says:

I don’t get a lot of criticism about my jewelry anymore, but I do get it about my prices from time to time, especially if I show them in the wrong market (high school gyms, flea markets, etc.) Yes, I have heard “I have a friend that does that for a lot less…” and I usually respond with “does she have a website? I would like to see her work”. No one has ever been brave enough to give me the friend’s name. Asking them if they have any suggestions for you usually diffuses the situation.

Kerrie Venner says:

I’m quite shy about my work. I entered some pieces of polymer clay I was very ‘in love’ with at the local Arts and Crafts annual show, and they were awarded ‘work of especial merit’ (happy face) and one of the comments was ‘ to perhaps pay more attention to the finishing’. Now the pendants in question were meant to have a quirky finish…. but after bristling with indignation, I considered the judge’s point of view. I took from this that for selling versions, I need to be less quirky, but that for my own creative unique work I need to create the quirks with greater intent. A very useful reflective experience I think. My pride survived and my professionalism as a maker went up (I hope) another notch.

Rena Klingenberg says:

Kerrie, I really like how you bounced back quickly and found a useful lesson in the feedback you got. Thanks for sharing that experience. Sometimes criticism is actually a valuable gift, once we recover from the initial sting of it. 🙂

Dianne says:

Everyone has a bad day and I remember about 40 years ago in my first customer service job my boss saying ” You never know the story, (of rude customers) perhaps his mother just died.” Whoa!
However, consistently rude customers are a whole different story…
I own an art gallery and this comment came from a customer about one of the artist’s work…”Wow, $700.00! I could do that”, and she was really loud and obnoxious about it. I had enough of her attitude coming in for a year, and constantly criticizing the artwork and jewelry. I walked up to her, smiled my sweetest smile and replied “Then why don’t you?” She left, and happily I have not seen her since. I would not suggest this and normally would never area of saying anything like that. That person, that moment? I am not sorry.

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  • Jeannie says:

    This is sort of long. But full of suggestions to achieve higher sales.

    Hello, just reading through the comments made regarding difficult situations.
    I began developing my style and after many shows since 1990, I find the more expensive pieces sell first. I market to the high end buyer. They are more likely to purchase the more highly priced items because they have the attitude that wearing a special one of a kind piece that they can proudly wear and brag about the designer and exclusivity of the piece. These ladies don’t want to attempt to copy hand crafted artisan designs for themselves. Their lives are far too busy to even think they could make it themselves.
    On the other hand I also present jewelry pieces priced for the budget minded customer. These buyers also like to brag to their friends about this exclusive designer piece they were able to purchase at a price within their budgeted disposable income.
    I did have a booth full at one show when a woman was passing by and I heard her say to her friend that the expensive faceted Dichroic pieces were “just that friendly plastic crap”. A customer heard it as well and asked what that meant. It gave me an opportunity to explain what the passer by was referring to, pointing out the difference and that I do not work with that product. This customer happily left with a $850.00 package full of one of a kind exclusive jewelry and commissioned a $2000.00 order.
    I do keep a customer list to notify my buying customers of the next venue.
    I also do a once per year private boutique in my home for my high end customers. I cater finger foods and drinks. Children are not invited as they tend to distract my buyers. 75% purchase as well as setting up a one on one where I go to their home. We go to their closet and I suggest certain colors and styles for commissioned pieces. I never offer discounts or have SALES. To me, that implies I’m desperate for more sales.
    I find that if I treat my customers to special treatment and show them how much I value them as a client but also as a friend.
    I don’t concern myself with people who are not polite. I’m far too busy to give their comments any attention.
    When I first started out, I was afraid to price my work too high. I did sell at lower prices. But as my experience and working with high end materials escalated, I did raise prices. My intention is to sell fewer pieces at a higher price. My lower priced pieces would have to make more sales to even get close to the sales I require for that show just to cover overhead. I do not have a website or any social networks as some items are susceptible to duplication. I do not allow photography in my both either. I have had Chinese tourists take photos and have discovered they took some of my designs back home to be duplicated in their sweat shops only to find their way into mass marketplaces. Which, of course hurts my business.
    I tell you these things to show beginners to strive for higher sales at higher prices. This can be accomplished by defining your upscale style and designs. Practice to produce only the best of your unique style.
    This level of selling takes time to establish. But to have a successful jewelry business, you need to cater to the high end customers. Treat them as the jewels that they are. Eventually you will get there. It takes time, be patient but work as hard as you can to create your own style and be the best you can be. Your original style will set your designs apart from the crowd.

  • Jeannie, thank you for your insightful post! That’s very much how I operate too, focusing on the higher end pieces and customers. In addition to being more profitable, I find that my favorite way to work with customers is one-on-one, designing and providing unique pieces for people who are enthusiastic about what I do. 🙂

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