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As I have said already, I have been fighting an infection and fatigue for some time now, and at the beginning of last week, I was quite exhausted. I had orders to fill, and did the best I could to get them together, packed safely and shipped out in a timely manner. Unfortunately, I received an email from a customer saying the doll I had sent her had a spot on it. I had seen what I thought was a brushstroke of blue on the back of the head that didn’t blend in well, and I had debated over whether it was disturbing. I decided it was not, but I felt very bad that it obviously was to my customer. I had been more concerned about packing the doll so she would be safe, and padding her skirt so it wouldn’t get wrinkled. It was just one detail of many and I felt I must have underestimated the importance of it.

I apologized and I offered to repaint the spot. I then looked at the photo I had previously taken of the doll to see what needed to be done. There was no spot on the photo I had taken after painting the doll, which indicated to me it was not paint. My mom did some investigating and found the bag the doll had been stored in had some blue print on it that, in all likelihood, had transferred to the doll. It was soluble with soap and water, which I thought was good news, since the spot should come right off. My customer had said she wanted the doll for a gift, if only it had not been for the spot. I told her it might come off and asked her, if she would not mind, to please try washing the spot off, and told her either way, I would still be happy to repaint it. I meant only to save her the inconvenience of returning the doll, but she became angry and told me the doll was coming back to me the next day. She didn’t want a repaint, and she didn’t want to clean the spot off. I apologized again and told her I would refund her money as soon as I received the doll, thinking for some reason she just decided she didn’t want the doll, regardless of the spot.

I was feeling terrible about the whole thing, thinking I must have really missed how disturbing the spot was because I was tired and not feeling well. I am normally very particular and detail-oriented, but I felt I must have slipped. The doll arrived back, and I saw the spot, 1/8 of an inch across, not solid, but a spotty blue-gray color. There was a note complaining about the postage too, saying I overcharged her. The postage included handling: the cost of the packing materials, tissue, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, but I didn’t bother explaining. I just refunded her money and her postage, both to and from.

I had sent the doll carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, with two thick layers over the head, and tissue to pad out the inside of the skirt.

The doll came back to me with the head wrapped in a diaper and some crumpled tissue, and the bubble wrap taped carelessly around the whole.

The handmade hang tag was bent in half, but the worst thing, and the thing I didn’t think initially to check…

was that her neck was cracked from ear to ear at the chin and some of the neck area was chipped as well. I don’t know if this was done before or after she asked me for a refund, but it made sense to us now why she didn’t want to send it to me for the spot to be repaired, and she certainly didn’t want to wipe the spot off. She had just wanted me to agree to the refund.
I wiped the spot right off with a sponge, but the neck damage will require re-sculpting and then repainting. I can do that, but it is hours of work. I don’t really make a profit on my dolls, considering the time it takes to make each one, often two weeks. I put them on our sites as a fun addition to our other artwork, to gain some web traffic, and because people seem to enjoy them. It has been a pleasant experience to share them so far. I can fix the damage. That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the meanness. I am generally understanding, and I try very hard to do the right thing. It genuinely bothers me if I do something that ends up upsetting someone else. I do the best I can with everything I do, and most people appreciate that. I try to be fair even when others are not, and I try to be considerate even when others are not. There is no excuse for damaging my work. Even if the customer had accidentally cracked the doll, I’m sure I would have offered to work out an arrangement for repairing it for her.
Most people have been lovely and appreciative of the dolls they have received from us, and that is wonderful. I wish everyone could understand how much time and effort goes into each one. They are all handmade from start to finish. Our folk art dolls are not meant to be toys, or to mimic factory-made dolls. They are works of art, and they are meant to be treated as any other work of art, displayed and used for decoration, and treated with care. I have recently branched out into making some dolls that can be played with, and they are described this way. I wish I could carefully adopt each doll out to a loving home. I have never been a fan of selling original art, not just my own, but, and even more so, my studio-mates’ as well. Anyone who makes art will know how personal it is. It is not just “stuff” or merchandise, and really, no amount of money would make me want anyone who thinks of it that way to have it.
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