In the life of an artist or artisan, this season of gifting inevitably brings with it the choice of giving away your work as gifts to others. This choice should never be made hastily or lightly. The seemingly simple act of giving a handmade gift to someone holds the potential to make dramatic shifts in relationships.
Those of us who create know that our gifts represent an enormous amount of our time and an even greater amount of ourselves. Sometimes gift shopping can be agonizing—perusing the stores looking for just the right thing, then exchanging your hard-earned money for the item. So imagine creating a gift for someone: deciding on just the right thing to represent everything you want it to represent, rounding up the materials, spending hours working on the item—thinking about the person all the while. It is a much more personal, intimate process than choosing a gift from a store.
I read one time that if you are going to make a quilt for your son, no matter his age, you need to be aware that at some point it WILL be used as a dog bed. That has turned out to be true with my son, so thankfully the quilt is the type that gets better with each washing! This brings to mind the idea that when you give a handmade gift to someone, you should give it with no expectations of how it will be used, whether the person will keep it, or even if the relationship with the person will continue. My willingness to meet those conditions is in direct proportion to the amount of time it has taken me to make something, so I give only very small, simple items as gifts most of the time.
On the topic of expecting the relationship to continue—a general rule of thumb is to never make anything very time-consuming or personalized for someone you are dating. It almost always dooms the relationship! It can doom a friendship, also, and can put a lot of strain on a family relationship. It all goes back to the expectations of the giver and to the awareness of the recipient of just what that gift represents in terms of caring and time. The blame should be shared equally if the gift causes or uncovers a problem.
One final thought on this topic—the artist always encounters people who say "make one for me!" Unfortunately, at least half of the people who say this are casual acquaintances or even strangers. People generally have no idea how long it takes to make something or how personal the creative process is—otherwise they wouldn’t ask! I have two responses I usually give in this situation: if I don’t know the person I tell them I will be happy to make something for them at my standard hourly rate plus expenses. If I do know the person well, I usually just say "no." I may later feel inspired to make something for them, but it needs to be my idea, my choice. I will often tell people that I won’t make one for them, but I will teach them how to make one for themselves. I get very few takers on that one. If you want to have a creative friend or relative make something for you, the best practice is to let them know how much you admire their work, then just leave it at that. The creative person will make you something when they want to. Sounds a bit bratty, doesn’t it? Email me at email@example.com