At this point I freaked out. The description of the custom order was so incredibly specific, I knew for sure I would never be able to meet T.'s expectations. Nor my own. The way I work in any artistic discipline is that I never really know exactly where I am going. The whole point is to get out of my head and into my hands. Most of my work just happens. And I like it that way.
What I also like is to make money, so to turn down a job because it doesn't feel right is hard for me to do. Part of feeling justified to choose the path of the artist is that I sell some of my work. But I am not just an artist, I am also a financial manager and I am used to assess proposals and judge potential clients. I always use my sixth sense when making quotes and I often get the job. In this case something was telling me I would probably put in a lot of time to make a collage - with a topic not of my choosing - and not get paid in the end.
So this is what I replied:
Thank you for your reply, T.
I am afraid I won't be able to help you. Your request is too specific for me and when it comes to my textile collages, that is not the way I work unfortunately.
I take a feeling, a color, and take my work from there. I kind of let the image come to me as I go.
You've helped me realize I should remove the custom option from my textile collages.
I am really sorry and hope you can find an artist that will meet your needs.
A few days later T. replied - not too happy:
Your email mentioned you needed color size and topic.
I furnished that.
I furnished the details because I thought that is what you
I did not know that you take a feeling, a color and go with it.
Hot dog, instead of removing the custom button just add, psychi fabric collage.
Yes, please remove the custom from your page.
Thank you for taking my joy.
A very, very sad girl.
A psychi fabric collage - Taking my joy - A very, very sad girl... Those words were screaming at me, and my first instinct was to scream right back. But I didn't. I just didn't want to feel like I failed to please a customer and I didn't want to give anyone the power to upset me. So after a day or so I wrote back:
I am very sorry you feel this way, T.
Since you put so much of your heart into your idea, may I suggest you try to make the collage yourself?
I found much inspiration in the work of artists like Cathy Cullis and Viv Hens Teeth. I believe anyone can make art, it's just very difficult to make something that exists in someone else's head.
I wish you a joyful day and thank you again for stopping by in my Etsy store.
Of course I never got a reply and that's okay, I wasn't expecting one. Writing this answer did give me a sense of (self-)respect and relief though. I hope this sad girl is now working on her own collage and discovering a whole new skill.