This is just not cricket!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a delightful person wanting to buy some work that his wife had seen on my website.  After a couple of emails he settled on two pieces with a combined value of £1000.  They were for a special wedding anniversary present.

to-my-special-wife-happy-anniversary[1]

He wanted a special present for his wife.

I was over the moon.  No-one had ever spent this much on my work in one go and I was so pleased that they were going to be a special present.  The discussion coincided with my best month since setting up as an artist;  I felt as if the world was alright!

 

A cheque was sent.  But no sooner had he emailed me to say that he had posted my money than he sent me another email to tell me that, due to a misunderstanding, he (well his accounts manager) had made the cheque out for too much.  Please could I cash the cheque when it arrived and repay him the excess.  Sure, I could do that.  No problem.  I nearly sent the money before the cheque arrived.  This man was charming and not only buying a generous present from me but also now out of pocket.

列印

The poor guy was out of pocket and I felt bad.

 

What stopped me?  Prudence – and a strange feeling about the communications.  Before very long I began to be pressurised by daily emails asking if the money had arrived.  I stalled – I wanted the confidence that the cheque had been honoured by the bank.  There were tell tail signs that something wasn’t quite right but I felt really guilty for thinking them.  One should never treat one’s customers with suspicion – right?  Yet I couldn’t help wondering.  Firstly the cheque was in euros but he wanted the repayment in sterling and into a different bank.  Secondly his English was not good – not a crime but when added to other suspicions it seemed to begin to matter.  In addition, he kept talking about visiting his post office to know if I had repaid the money – why would he do that?  Why not call his bank or check online?  Then there was the intensity of the emails which was, by now, beginning to make me feel quite stressed.

Technique_Adverb_AlarmBells-01[1]

Alarm bells were beginning to ring.

I called my bank to ask how soon the money would be available and was told that, because it was in euros, it could take six weeks.  Now I felt really bad.  The poor guy!  Should I pay him his money and send the goods?  What if we missed his anniversary because I was being so cautious and tight?

Eventually I got a letter from the bank.  The cheque had been cleared.  The money was in my account.  But the last part of the letter told me that, until they had checked it fully, I could not be confident that it would remain there.  Really??  Surely now I should give this guy his money.  I didn’t.  Why not?  Because he was now being rather a nuisance in his emails and I decided to make him sweat – whilst also feeling really guilty about it.

Two days later I received another letter from the bank telling me that the funds were no longer in my bank, that they were charging me £15 costs and that the cheque was probably fraudulent.  I wrote to my customer telling him what had happened and asking him to get in touch.  Oddly, the daily emails now came to an abrupt end.  48 hours later I received a call from the fraud department at the bank asking me for details of the transaction.  As a result of the conversation that I had with the bank I contacted the police who are now dealing with it.

It turns out that this scam is currently doing the rounds and that it is directed chiefly at artists and other self employed people with a small turnover.  The charm and the warm fuzzy story at the start are all part of the plan – although if you ask me this guy had to put a lot of effort into getting the £2000 ‘overpayment’ out of me even if I had given it to him.

I am posting this blog because I was so nearly ‘got’ and I would hate for anyone else to fall victim to this scam.  I truly hate people who take others for a ride in this way.  I watched my own dad be destroyed by a (far worse) scam and I think the people who decide that this is a way to make a living are absolutely despicable.  How they sleep at night I would love to know.  I mean to say, who do they think they are tricking honest people out of their hard earned cash like this?

amazon-scams[1]

Its a scam!

Thank goodness this time I wasn’t taken in but, please, if something like this happens to you, be on your guard.  Do not assume that the customer is necessarily right.  Times have  changed, apparently!

And if you have been the victim of a crime like this, or you think you might have been, and you live in UK contact the police using this link

 

 

The Highs and Lows of it all

Oh what a week!  I love Open Studios.  I enjoy all the meetings, I like talking about myself and my work and I love selling but it all seems to take a great toll on my energy levels.  First comes the build up with all the making involved – have I made enough?  Have I made the right things?  Is the quality up to scratch?  Then two days or so before the actual opening I begin to worry about layout  – how much gallery versus how much studio.

img_20161108_111837

Gallery or studio?

People like the idea that this is where I work and yet they also seem to like a well presented gallery space and so getting the balance right is quite difficult.  Then comes the event itself – 4 days of talking to whoever comes in.  What do they want to know?  How much do they want to engage and how much do they want to be left to look and think.  I don’t find this at all easy.

 

This time I decided that I would make a piece throughout the show and yet this is also fraught with difficulties –

20161111_153800_007

I am always covered by mud!

I am permanently covered in mud when I make and this is not always a good look when trying to engage with a gallery owner.  Not to mention the mess that it makes all over my phone as I try and keep up with Instagram and facebook and use my phone for my credit card sales.

 

The aftermath of the show often heralds the most almighty emotional crash.  I am exhausted and the room is a mess; there is half a packet of pop-corn and some stale wine lying in the corner but nothing nourishing to eat and I have lived on hastily shovelled pasts salads for 4 days. I am elated by the sales and possible openings but drained by the prospect of getting it all back to normal and beginning to make once more.  I am unsure what the future holds and which opportunities to chase and how hard to chase them.

Probably the most useful thing to do with the few days after the show would be to take 3 full duvet days but I am not very good at that and so I was in bright and early on the Monday morning trying to get back to normal.  It was mighty quiet I have to say!

One thing is clear though.  These Open Studio events at Wimbeldon benefit enormously from the fact that we have a dedicated co-ordinator who’s job it is to get the shows up and running.  She has found us some great sponsors and some fantastic opportunities, she has ensured the smooth running of the event, she has greeted many of the 4500 visitors personally and has probably had little to eat and very little sleep for days.  So Julie, this blog is largely for you.  Your tireless hard work and cheerful attitude to everything we throw at you is incredible.  I am a great many other artists really appreciate what you do on behalf of the studios – it won’t be the same without you.

More News About My Third Lung

Biologically impossible, I know, but my Dad has always called Richmond Park his third lung.  If you live close to London and spend much of your time struggling with the volume of people, the traffic, the fumes and all the other things that living near a big city involves – as well as all the great bonuses such as galleries, events, courses and so on – then having Richmond Park on your doorstep is a truly wonderful plus point.  I treasure it so much and its conservation is of considerable importance to me.

20161004_114908

The inside of this vessel is decorated with images which remind me of the life in and around the brook.

It was with that thought in mind that I arranged with the park manager to make a few pieces using material from the park and selling them for its benefit: 50% of all sales proceeds is donated to the Friends of Richmond Park for their use in conservation projects.  Having sold the first one at Kew Gardens during Handmade it was with great pleasure that I presented the Friends with a cheque for £300.  In response they posted a link to my website in their newsletter and on Facebook.  The result has been dramatic!  I am enjoying peak viewings on my website and have had a number of requests for similar vessels.  Given that I am short of work ready to sell during the Open Studios, which starts in less than a week, I had already decided that I would keep my space as more studio than gallery and would make Beverley Brook vessels throughout the weekend, as a kind of ongoing demonstration.  It seems that this is a good plan because, if activity and enquiries are anything to go by, I am going to need a couple!

beverley-brook-vessel-2

A new Beverley Brook vessel is already under construction.

At the moment I have one, slightly smaller one which is half finished so it looks as though I am going to be a bit busy before, during and after the show and that the coffers of the Friends of Richmond Park are in for a boost.

 

 

A Punting We Will Go . . .

Cambridge_-_Punting_in_Cambridge_-_1690[1]Cambridge, a summers day, sunlight filtering through willow trees – get the picture?  Well what else would one do but take a punt and go up the river to Grantchester for a picnic in the meadows?  It simply has to be done.  And so we did it.  Despite the cross wind, which made the punting awkward even for hardy boating types, we got to the meadows and settled down to share our feast.  The punt was tethered by its pole but not tethered enough it would seem as, only a few olives into the hors d’oeuvres it gently drifted from its resting place and took off across the river.

Enter the nephew – a strapping young lad – who leaped to his feet, plunged into the river and recovered our (un)trusty vessel.  Everyone was full of praise. delighted that our return trip to the city was no longer in jeopardy and handing him an extra piece of sausage for his troubles.  I, on the other hand, was staring at his legs.  He was covered in the most exquisitely smooth looking clay!  muddy feet 2[1]

In a flash the cheese had been removed from the safety of its sandwich bag and I was down on all fours in front of my nephew’s feet.  The next thing I knew, his father took pity on him and, in order to prevent the embarrassment of having your aunt scraping the mud off your legs with a butter knife, said father grabbed the bag and hot-footed it down to the river bank returning with a deliciously glutinous mass; cold to the touch and wonderfully squashy.

I am reliably told that in the Cambridge University Engineering Department, the mathematical models for soil are categorised from gravel to sand to silt to clay.  At the two ends of the spectrum they decided to develop mathematical behaviours for ‘Granta Gravel’ and ‘Cam Clay’.  To be honest, this may be of huge importance to the world of soil mechanics but as far as I am concerned I am simply agog to know how it is going to behave in my kiln.

Journey to the Northern Quarter

Manchester craft and design

A wonderful space where maker and customer can interact easily

Last week end found me travelling to Manchester.  Before I went my impression of the place was that it is in the North West so it rains a lot and – they have trams, right?

What a vibrant city!  I walked out of Piccadilly Station into a buzzing lively world.  Yes, the pavements were a bit damp; yes, I have to use my umbrella more that I would chose to; yes, I was almost run down by a couple of trains running down the road.  But look beyond that and you see a city which is a microcosm of exciting, interesting regeneration of old industrial England at its very best.  It is not quite Venice but there are a considerable number of canals and the redevelopment of some of the wharfs along the waterways are wonderful.  There is everything from old Victorian warehouse conversion to brand new build and for ideas on affordable housing, look no further than Islington Wharf where a company supplies slot-together units in which a family has considerable choice about internal layout whilst costs are attractively low because of the simple base unit construct and mass production – clever!

So what about the art?  On Friday I found myself in Caslefield Gallery.  Run by artists this is one of Northern England’s most active and successful organisations for developing emerging contemporary artists and practice.  Their current exhibition, Real Painting, explores the material components of painting and reminded me a bit of some of the exploratory work which I did with Ruth Franklin on a fabulous course a few years ago at City Lit.  It features works by a group of artists which includes  Angela de la Cruz, who lives and works in London and is represented by the Lisson Gallery, Jo McGonical  from Manchester who is currently undertaking a PhD at Leeds University and  David Goerk  who works in New York and is represented by Howard Scott Gallery, New York and Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.  the impression I had was of a gallery which has a real interest in promoting lively contemporary work from a wide range of people and places and this was magnified by the friendliness of the staff who went out of their way to make a stranger to the city feel welcome.

Later I visited the Northern Quarter and discovered the gem which is the Mancester craft and Design Centre.  Housed in an old fish market this space is both studio and gallery for about 30 makers.  Each artist has their own space the back of which is a studio and the front a shop.  Many of the spaces are shared which means that they can be open every day of the week without individual artists having to be present every day.  It represents a fabulous model of a place where the artists can interact easily with their customers on a regular basis.  An arrangement from which all sides benefit.  The café is pretty amazing too!

I was not in Manchester for long and whilst there I had an awful lot to accomplish but I shall return.  I have yet to see the Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery, John Rylands Library, the Lowry Centre or the People’s History Museum – treats in store for a rainy day!