As an artist, I love hearing how much someone admires, enjoys, and appreciates my work. As an artist, I can also say I never enjoy the addition of validation that some feel is necessary for explaining why they aren't a customer. The most important takeaway of this article is this - Support doesn't equal customer. I don't care if you forget all the other things I say, just remember that support doesn't equal customer. Let's break that down.
Support can be shown in a number of ways. Offering an honest compliment to the artist. Telling your friends about the work of the artist you've been admiring. Sharing the artist's work on social media. Recommending the artist to others in search of the art said artist creates. You do not have to be a customer to support anyone. Support is being kind.
The flip side is that as a customer, you are supporting an artist. You're putting your money into the backing of the work that an artist does, whether that be in cards, coffee tables, or even food. Customer does equal support.
Now that we're clear on that part, let's talk about the things that should not be said to those building a business and creating an income with their handcrafted goods.
The justifier - "Your cards are so cute, but I don't send cards." This is by the far the most frequent backhanded compliment I get as a card artist. Stop putting the but after the compliment. I don't need anyone to justify not purchasing from me and I will never look down on anyone for not buying what I make. Not everyone is my customer. To be quite frank, the addition of the justification just makes everyone feel awkward. Support is being kind, not justified.
The cheapskate - "These cards are so cute, but they're overpriced." If someone feels this way, they are not my customer. My prices are based on my talent, experience, and value, not someone else's budget. I understand that my work does not fit everyone's budget.
Then there is the advisor - "You know you really should (insert any idea they have here)." Granted I do often ask for customer input, very often in a poll on Instagram or my newsletter, but if I didn't ask pleases don't offer. My favorite part of the advisor is they think they know better than you, or that perhaps you just won't have as brilliant of an idea on your own. Feedback is always good, unsolicited advice, not so much.
And who could forget the jerk - "How cute, I could totally make these." This is most frequently heard in a bazaar or farmer's market setting. Let's be fair, yes I've thought that any number of times, but I have not said it out loud while looking at someone's work in their booth or shop. We all glean ideas from others, but it should never be expressed blatantly in front of the person the idea is being gleaned from.
Kind things to say that are supportive:
"Your work is so cute"
"I just love your work"
"I really admire what you create"
"I need to tell my friend about your stuff it's right up their alley"
"Do you have a business card? I'd love to share your work with others."
Remember, support does not equal customer. Support is being kind. Be supportive and say the compliment but leave off the justifiers, don't share the advice that isn't asked for, keep your budget to yourself, and don't be a jerk.