[Rant] Zyzyx gallery

As an artist, I like to go into galleries and see what other artists
are up to. So today, when we went out to the new Trader Joes in
Reistertown (just outside Baltimore) we went into ZyZyx!, a gallery
that carried a lot of the same artists that People’s Pottery did when
I worked there, and that specializes in Jewish art.

We wandered around and looked at the jewelry. There are several
artists that I like that show at Zyzyx!, and I wanted to see what
they had, and if there was anything I wanted to pick up. Nothing that
I hadn’t seen before. Then we reached the Judaic jewelry. Mike’s been
looking for a mezuzah pendant for a while. So we asked to see their
selection. And one in particular caught both of our eyes. It was a
nice silver piece, with gold accents, set with a small cabochon
amethyst. VERY nice. Mike asked a question about the technique, and
the saleswoman asked him if he was an artist. He replied that I was
the artist.

Her response? “Oh, so you’re here to get ideas.” Not a question. A
statement. She assumed that the whole reason I was there was to
steal someone else’s ideas.

?? You’re going to accuse me of stealing ideas? I hit slow boil. Mike
notices, and tries to defuse the situation.

“No, we’ve been looking for something like this.”

The saleswoman’s response? “Oh, well, why doesn’t SHE make one for

At that point, I dragged Mike out of the store. We went to Starbucks
for coffee, and then… Mike went back into Zyzyx!. And asked to
speak to the manager. Who was on lunch. So he got to speak to the
owner. He pointed out the unprofessional attitude of the saleswoman,
and that we were there to shop.

And the owner accused him of theft.

Specifically, of stealing ideas. Since we’d only looked at the
jewelry, and then left, that had to have been what we were doing.
Keep in mind that we left because his saleswoman insulted me.

I have NEVER been so pissed in my life. It was a hard thing to keep
from going back in there and making a scene. The only thing that
stopped me was that when I get that mad, I lose the English Language.

Elizabeth Schechter
RFX Studios
"Imagination is intellect having fun."

Her response? "Oh, so you're here to get ideas." Not a question. A
statement. She assumed that the whole reason I was there was to
steal someone else's ideas.

I am sorry that happened to you, those people displayed really poor
business and people skills. Not an excuse, but it is a fear based
response. Obviously they felt threatened, and the sad fact is, they
did the best behavior they knew to deal with that situation. It was
not about you or who you were. They seemed to be really clear about
what their perception of you was by the way they responded I
understand both sides, as I have a store where we have a lot of
natural stone bead and pearl necklaces that are designed at our
store. Someone comes in and after looking around for a few minutes,
announces that she makes jewelry, “What kind I ask”, “oh, I do
beading too.” Oh thrill, oh joy, this person then spends half hour,
45 minutes perusing our designs.

Time I do not have for wasting in this way. But we are polite, and
we usually tell them we will be back to help them, go in the back,
and wait till they go. If they need help, they will speak up. Usually
it is to sell them a sterling pendant that they add to the necklace
they made. A small sale is better than none. We are never ever rude.

And I do the same thing when someone is on their cell-phone. I step
in the back and leave them to themselves. People seem to have not a
clue how absolutely rude it is for them to waste my time, I am there
to do business, and they are chatting away like it’s social hour, or
they are doing business in a business, precluding me from
communicating with them until they are done. They seem to think they
have a right to do that, because by being in my business, I should
appreciate them as they may, when they are through being important,
buy something. When a parent is talking to their child, it is always
short, and the person appologizes I have, on occasion when those
chatting away talk too loudly fora few minutes, asked the person to
step outside. They don’t seem to mind, they finish and come back in.
And I don’t care who they are or what they want to buy, or what the
weather is. I send them out into the rain or snow.

Richard Hart


I have suffered a similar situation as you experienced by being
accused of stealing ideas by a shop owner, an experience I have never
forgotten. Our town has a very nice handmade clothing store which
also carries some lovely handmade jewelry, mostly in the lower price
range. While looking at both clothing and jewelry and making small
talk with the owner, I disclosed that I made jewelry. Her response
was, “Now don’t steal any ideas from what you see here!” I was
mortified. She then suggested that I make an appointment to show her
my work because she liked to deal with local artists!

Fat chance.

Susan Ronan
Coronado, CA


I’m so sorry that Zyzyx gallery was rude to you.

I worked in a jewelery store that regularly accused others of
stealing their ideas. Nevermind that the store in question routinely
stole ideas from other artists and from publications.

I saw one of the other jewelers make an exact replica of a ring that
was pictured in Professional Jeweler. The store even had the moxie
to name a pair of earrings after the place they stole the idea from.
And after the owner took a trip to the southwest, there were several
designs made that were copies of pieces that person had seen in
galleries and jewelry stores. The only artists that were “safe” were
enamelists and people who do granulation.

The owners of this jewelery store were unbelievably paranoid - to
the point where they wouldn’t put pictures of their jewelry on their
website or in their flyers -except maybe some charms.

It was hard to respect my bosses, and after a huge fiasco I quit the
store and haven’t worked for anyone in the jewelery industry since.
I work for myself- my boss is a tightwad, but at least I can respect

Maybe something like this is why the gallery is so paranoid. My
grandma used to say (in impeccable French) “A man doesn’t check
behind the bedroom door unless he himself has stood there.”

I believe that there is room enough for everyone in this field, and
that truly creative and innovative people have nothing to fear from
copycats, because the imitations won’t match the original flair- and
it will show to be a poor copy.

As for me, I get my ideas from nature, and sometimes I go to the
McNay Art Museum in San Antonio for a fresh perspective. (The second
floor has fabulous Magrittes and Picassos, and also a fine display
of shrines.) But NONE of my pieces are copies. EVER.

Just my two cents,
pregnant since 2004

Thanks for sharing this - As a fellow local, I won’t shop there
again. The sad thing is, they do sell very nice Judaic items and I
have often referred my Jewish friends there…but probably won’t
anymore, I’d be mortified to have someone I sent there treated in
that manner. In fact, I will probably write them a letter. Have you
thought of writing them after you cooled off some?


I will probably write them a letter. Have you thought of writing
them after you cooled off some? 

Considering that the person who treated my husband so badly claimed
to be the owner, I doubt it would do much good.

Elizabeth Schechter
RFX Studios

When you broached the topic of technique you crossed the line
between customer and something else.

Zyzyx gallery has another location where you may find more
professional sales people. It is in Bethesda at Wildwood Center
which is around the corner from Montgomery Mall.

Vicki Embrey

Rather than start my own rant on ZYZYX I will just say that you are
not the only one they have done this to…and the funny thing was I
was actually taking my credit card out to purchase a ring when they
were rude to me…needless to say I walked away without the ring.


I don’t know if I agree with your statement.

When you broached the topic of technique you crossed the line
between customer and something else. 

I managed a retail jewelry store and we would have never had such an
attitude with a customer. Actually, all the staff including the
owner create the jewelry in the store, and we’ve had obvious
designers coming in looking for inspiration? ideas? gifts of other
styles that they don’t create? You just don’t know. And I’ve
personally felt designers looking at my line with the “I really want
to make that” eye. But, I would never imagine saying “are you going
to copy me?” However, I have said, “all the designs in our store are
copyrighted, so if you’re a designer, it’s a good idea to look into
copyright laws to protect yourself.” It’s a little hint that I’ve
only used twice in all of five years and that was because they were
totally inspecting the construction of a piece and one person even
asked how much the castings cost me and who my caster was! To me, the
question about the cost of my materials was not only a red flag, but
that was crossing a line. And, I think the people who are looking to
get ideas are much more sly about what they’re doing.

Just because someone is knowledgeable about technique, construction,
and materials doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential buyer. They could
be a hobbiest who has read books on the subject, or someone who is
an ex-jeweler, or who’s best friend is a jeweler. You would be
surprised at how much my husband knows about jewelry, and he’s never
made a thing in his life. But he takes an interest in jewelry and
enjoys learning about the different processes. When we look at
jewelry together in a store he likes to ask lots of questions because
it fascinates him. That doesn’t mean he (or me) is going to copy
those designs.

In fact, sometimes I will go into a gallery/store and check out the
jewelry to see if mine is a good fit before I approach anyone and
waste the buyer’s time or my time with a conversation about whether
or not they would like to carry my line.

In Elizabeth’s case, her and her husband were potential customers.
They were in fact intending on purchasing a piece from the gallery
and that intention was stated to the sales person. Just because she’s
a designer/jeweler, doesn’t mean she doesn’t warrant the same respect
and attention that any other person would. I believe that Elizabeth
has every right to be annoyed at the gallery for her mistreatment. It
was not only unprofessional, but it was insulting.

Don’t mean to start an on-line argument, but after years of treating
customers with kindness and respect and enforcing that amongst my
staff it really gets my goat when I experience or hear about poor
customer service.


When you broached the topic of technique you crossed the line
between customer and something else. 

With respect Mr. Kelly, I must disagree completely with this
statement. There is no line between the customer and “something
else”. The customer is, first and always, your guest.

Although I am myself a jeweler, enamelist, and metalsmith, I am also
a collector of fine metalwork, as is my husband. We buy pieces
precisely because of their technical merits, quirks, quality, and
diversity. We are especially drawn to pieces where the artist has
made a clear effort to explain what they’ve done, either with an
accompanying statement or by educating the staff of the gallery where
the work is shown.

I believe that not only is it entirely within the rights of the
customer [metalsmith or not] to ask technical questions, it is very
much in the interest of the gallery owner to provide that
freely and enthusiastically. The entire point of
purchasing a unique or limited production piece is that it holds
within it the touch of the maker’s hand and mind, the interplay
between the materials and that person’s particular vision, including
the way the maker copes with serendipity. In cases where the
materials themselves are not especially precious [enamel is just
glass, after all] it is the technique itself that creates the value
and richness of the piece. Often those techniques have interesting
histories, or are on the cutting edge, both things that can attract
and hold the attention of a potential purchaser. I teach my students
that they should educate their customers as thoroughly as possible
because it makes them willing to spend more once they understand the
intricacies of the process and realize that it takes time, practice,
courage, and insight to develop these skills. The customer is not
just purchasing the piece, they are purchasing the story of it, the
process of its creation. Knowing these technical details encourages a
more intimate interaction with the work, and often sets a customer on
the road to being a true collector of that particular artist or style
of work.

I believe the staff at the gallery described by Michael David
Sturlin in his post understood this extremely well, and it has repaid
them handsomely not only in the quality of their clientele, but also
in the quality of work they can attract. Another gallery I can
recommend in this regard is the one owned by Matthew Feldmen in
Cambridge [just down the block from Mobilia, yet another generous and
forthcoming gallery]. Cynthia Eid, Betty Helen Longhi, and I wandered
into Matthew’s store one afternoon and were immediately flabbergasted
by the sheer magic of his machined, cold-joined jewelry work and
leather goods [i.e. belts and handbags with exquisite metal fittings]. He happily pulled out piece after piece for us, enjoying
our delight in the way the objects moved or draped, and we spent over
an hour up to our eyeballs in masterful technique. The reason he came
over to say hello to us was that he heard me say “cold join” while
discussing a belt buckle with Betty, and he realized that we were
kindred spirits. I will never forget his warmth and hospitality, and
I will take a class from him as soon as he offers one somewhere
convenient to me. I will also add him to the list of people we will
one day own in our collection.

Finally, the issue comes down to one of pure hospitality. Yes, this
is commerce, and yes, it’s a fierce business environment out there.
But alienating a customer, regardless of their level of knowledge, is
extremely short-sighted and potentially foolish. Remember the lesson
of Greek mythology [“The Magic Pitcher” as told by Nathaniel
Hawthorne is a good example]: you never know if the stranger at your
door is a god, a king in disguise, or a person just like yourself.
They are all due equal respect, and the effort is one of the simplest
investments you can make in the future of your business.

Anne Hollerbach

I will probably write them a letter. Have you thought of writing
them after you cooled off some?

Considering that the person who treated my husband so badly
claimed to be the owner, I doubt it would do much good. 

Don’t underestimate the power of the written word. When someone
receives a complaint from someone else who took the time and effort
to write down their thoughts and put them in mail, it may pack a more
solid punch.



 When you broached the topic of technique you crossed the line
between customer and something else. 

I have to dissagree. I have had customers over the years who have a
genuine interest in technique and other aspects of how a piece is
made. I appreciate their interest and try to provide them with as
much as possible. It is part of educating the customer.


Joel Schwalb

Hi Susannah,

Truly creative and innovative people have nothing to fear from
copycats, because the imitations won't match the original
flair-and it will show to be a poor copy. 

I appreciate your sentiments, and wish this were true.

In our experience, creating a commercially popular design is like
waving a red flag in front of a bull. The response is as predictable
as is the sun rising in the morning.

There is no wakeup call like finding thousands of copies of your work
in perfect, or near perfect facsimiles at retailers throughout the
United States.

One good design can be worth many millions of dollars in sales. This
fact is well known to manufacturers and marketers throughout the
world. The ethical ones will license designs. The unscrupulous (and,
unfortunately there seem to be many more of these) will simpy take the
work and reproduce it without permission.

We have found that the best remedy is to register copyrights for the
work that we create, and to have good intellectual property attorneys
at the ready.

After thirty two years in the business I have come to accept that
galleries who unjustly accuse others of trying to steal ideas are
simply a permanent eyesore on the landscape of the industry. As a
consolation, it is rare that these enterprises ever last more than a
few years.

I can also assure you that nothing cuts through the small time
sniping and back biting like a well written and sincere ‘cease and
desist letter’ backed by registered copyrights.

With best regards and wishes,

Michael Rogers
M. M. Rogers Design
Albuquerque NM, USA

Considering that the person who treated my husband so badly
claimed> to be the owner, I doubt it would do much good. 

That may be true, but I’d do it anyway. In fact, I did. Via emial
from their website. It may do no good, but it made me feel better and
the more people who speak up…well, you never know. They may learn
a lesson. In any event, I appreciate your sharing. Janice

When you broached the topic of technique you crossed the line
between customer and something else. 

I purchase artisan made jewelry all the time, I always ask about the
technique used to create the piece…its simply good to
know, I cant even count the number of times someone has seen a piece
Im wearing and gone “I wonder how they made that”. I have never once
copied one of the pieces I have bought, and wanting to know a little
bit more about the artist and their technique has absolutely nothing
to do with wanting to copy a piece or “crossing the line”.

When you broached the topic of technique you crossed the line
between customer and something else. 

Actually, Kevin, I really disagree with your comment. I used to work
in a gallery (assistant manager), and we were encouraged by the owner
to know how the work was made. Being able to tell a customer about
how the piece was made increased the perceived value, and made the
sale more of a certainty.

Elizabeth Schechter
RFX Studios

Just because someone is knowledgeable about technique,
construction, and materials doesn't mean they aren't a potential

And because someone asks a question about what technique was used
does not mean that the person asking would have the skill or knowledge
to use that technique to make something…

I tell my customers what techniques I use, cuttlebone casting,
reticulation, making waxes, casting, ect.

The occasional jeweler or student asks more technical questions, and
I am quite sure my answers do not provide a short cut for them to
start doing what I do. There is a learning curve. Sometimes after I
explain someone will say that they had learned about reticulation,
granulation and they wanted to try it but did not have the time.

I don’t have the time, I make the time.

I worked hard for many years to learn what I know, I and worked hard
to incorporate what I know into a marketable product. An explanation
of how I did something will not create competition. Some people who
know something about what I do have respect for my ability using the
technique, because they tried doing some aspect of jewelry making,
and they know that it is not so easy.

The people who are rude, are not rude because of what someone asked,
they are rude because they are rude. Please do not attribute bad
behaviorto having an excuse. There is no excuse.

When we do it, it is a choice of behavior.

Business is really about product and relationship. You have to have
both to do business.

My personal opinion is, the better you are at relating, the better
your business will do. It is a learned skill.

Richard Hart

I actually wound up sending them a letter in absentia…

A friend of mine sent them a link to my blog (where I posted the
same letter that I wrote here). She also sent it to the artist who
made the mezuzah’s that we were looking at. We’ve heard from the

Elizabeth Schechter
RFX Studios

I am always pleased when a client asks technical questions. It
demonstrates interest and gives me an opportunity to start a
dialogue. In my experience, most people don’t seem to care.

With generations X, Y & Z it seems they are more interested in
instant gratification and don’t seem to care about “hand made” or
“one off”.

I came into this conversation late. I can’t immagine anyone refusing
to give a client about the construction of a piece.

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