DEAR MISS MANNERS: When selling one's artwork in a class art sale or open studio, how does one answer the inevitable questions:
1. Where do you get your ideas? (One artist I know used to say that his work was like sausage -- you were better off not knowing.)
2. How long did this (etching, drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) take you to do? (Being a gentleman of a certain age, I am reluctant to answer.)
3. Can I have a discount? ("Yes" is unfair to those patrons who don't ask, and "No" discourages sales.)
I realize that questions 1 and 2 may be friendly attempts at conversation. In response to question 3, it would be rude to inquire whether the potential patron discounts his or her professional billings upon request. How about, "I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable giving discounts"?
I am willing to take the consequences, but I'd like to get across the fact that I and my colleagues work hard, and I, for one, am slightly insulted by this request.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners was hoping for a fourth question, to which she happens to have a snappy answer. That question is "How do I discourage people from looking over my shoulder while I paint outdoors?"
The answer was supplied by an artist of her acquaintance: "I put a hat upside down on the ground next to my easel. It works wonderfully to keep people away, although I have to admit that it's embarrassing if people I know happen to come along."
Please forgive Miss Manners from straying from your questions. The answers are two mysterious smiles and a "No." Far from discouraging buyers, this combination confirms the popular notion that a true artist knows nothing about business, and thus increases the prestige of your work.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a relatively small (15 to 20 employees) office with a men's room and a women's room that are used only by our staff and visitors. The office manager, who is responsible for ordering supplies, has noticed that the hand soap in the men's room has rarely needed replacing, while the soap in the women's room goes quite quickly!
She has deduced that the men are just not using the soap very often.
The women are a bit offended that the men are not giving more thought to their hygiene, but they are stumped on how to change the situation. Should the men be allowed to continue shaking hands with unsuspecting visitors and touching the office equipment (which makes the women want to wash their hands that much more often!), or is there something to be done? Is there any way to tactfully, politely get the men to start washing their hands with the soap?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners does not advise confronting individuals on this issue, such as jumping back from proffered handshakes shouting, "Eeeew!" It would be preferable if management issued a statement expressing appreciation of the effort to save the office money by conserving soap in the men's room, but assuring employees that this is not worth risking the sanitation of the office.
A harder problem is how to discourage those who use the ladies' bathroom from speculating about what is going on in the gentlemen's bathroom.