I had some work on show recently. The venue was small, busy and some of the pieces were delicate. While talking to someone I heard a woman say ‘No, you can’t do that.’ As I turned to see what was happening I saw another, well-dressed older woman, vigorously spinning a wooden vessel with a particularly fragile rim. In the moment I turned, I watched her hand grab the rim to stop it spinning, causing part of it to break away.
A silence stilled the room. The woman who had broken the vessel tried to put the pieces back on to the rim and said in a clipped voice, ‘It doesn’t say don’t touch.’ Another person said, ‘If you were my child I would have to pay for that.’ Without another word the woman moved swiftly from the room and was gone. There were several people present. Some continued to look at the work on display and ask questions, while others expressed their disbelief at what had just happened. I tried to mask my disappointment and said something about there being loss and gain in the making process. I took a lighter from my pocket and burned the newly broken edge.