Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Classism in the Hobby

My very first performance entry

     The other day I was listening to Mares In Black #50, which is about classism in the hobby. I have now tried to write this post 4 or 5 times and I can't seem to find the words to make it work. 
     In the above photo I have an OF Stone Performance horse (may have been $40 when I bought him... may have been less) who is wearing a western saddle I made from a Rio Rondo kit. I made the saddle pad and the doll. The wall is a piece of foam board with printed out "ads" on it. The footing is a piece of ultrasuede I got on sale at Joann's. This was not a particularly expensive entry to set up. At the time I did it, it was expensive to me. 
     We have never been impoverished. We never had to make a choice between putting food on the table or paying the bills. Sometimes the food was the cheapest of the cheap (did you know you can make a "meal" from hot dogs that cost less than $1 a package and mac n cheese that costs 25 cents a box?) but there was always something to eat. I understand being poor. I understand looking at the cost of a $40 (at the time) NIB Breyer and saying it was just way too expensive. I get that. I have lived that. I have also learned to be really good at being poor. 
     What does it mean to be good at being poor? Part of it is not saying you are too good for something. We are not too good to live in a trailer, but we have a lot of people who are struggling to get by who say they are. Being good at being poor is saying that you don't need to have cable TV, to eat out, to eat premade ("easy") foods. Being poor is switching electric companies because you find one with a slightly better rate and you figure out how much you can save in a year (even if it's $20). There are other things as well. So, to me, being good at being poor is finding ways to live on the cheap and then choosing that one thing that is your luxury. And then you go without a lot of other things. 
     Model horses are my luxury. I have a nice collection. I don't have an amazing, out of this world collection, but it is nice. I don't have a large collection, which is how it is as nice as it is. When I started out in the hobby I had a handful of old Breyer horses from my childhood. I also had the phrase "I will never be able to afford that". I don't say that anymore. Some things still fall into the category of I-will-likely-never-be-willing-to-pay-that-much-for-that. That doesn't mean that the thing, whatever it is, is not worth the money, it just means I know that it is not an amount of money that I could spend, personally on a hobby item. That is part of my definition of being good at being poor. Being able to say I can't afford that, without saying that is too expensive. Those are very different phrases to me. 
      And now I have arrived at the part of the post where I have trouble continuing. This portion has been in different spots, at different times. So let me just push forward and we will see what we get...
     There is definitely a difference between the haves and have-nots in the hobby. There are people who can spend $20,000 on a model horse and there are a good chunk of us who can not. That costs a lot more than my car. I personally could not afford to do that and would not be comfortable spending that much on a model. But no one has a right to tell me how to spend my money and I don't have the right to tell them how to spend their money. Maybe they saved up all year to bid on those rare breyer horses. Maybe they just have a lot of money, some people do. I think maybe some of the problem with classism in the hobby is that there is no easy solution. It is not fair or right to tell the people with a lot of money (or really good saving skills) to stop buying expensive items. On the other hand, it shouldn't just be the expensive things that always win. 
     I personally think that performance showing is the great equalizer. You can have the most expensive models, tack and props and you can still F@#$ it all up when you put your entry on the table. My bargain entry above didn't win the class, but it was my very first show, it would have been a miracle if it had. It is possible to start small. Maybe borrow some tack and try out performance showing and see if you like it. I know that some people don't really know anyone in the hobby, which makes that harder. I am not really sure what the solution to that would be. 
     In February of 2013 I wrote a post about showing on a budget. The same day I posted another about budget showing with a twist. Some of the stuff from those posts I still have and I still use. Yes, if you get all of the things all at once it can be quite an investment. But a nice collection usually doesn't happen overnight. For a long time I had just OF horses and not high end OF horses. I had western tack that I made myself. My first English saddle cost $100 and I prepped a lot of horses to work for it. When I first saw it I said "I will never be able to afford that". I would make things myself or trade dolls for things. In some ways I am very lucky. I have a tradeable skill. I also have worked really hard to develop that skill, it didn't just happen overnight. 
    So what is the solution to the classism problem? I don't have one. I know we can't just say to spend the money on the nicer stuff. If you don't have the money, there is just no way around it. But start small. Maybe try your hand at painting or tack making. Or prepping. A lot of people hate prepping but will pay for someone to prep for them. Maybe see if you can borrow some things to try out performance showing. Start small. Get what you can afford or what you can afford to make and work up from there. That is how I started. I made stuff and I bought the lower end stuff. When I could trade for higher end stuff I would. I have sold things to help pay for nicer things. I have slowly built my small, but nice collection over the last 13 years. And it is small. I currently have 6 traditional scale resins and 2 custom horses that I show. One of the resins I painted myself, 2 were painted by artists that either were having sales or were still fairly unknown and had really low commission prices. 2 were painted by a friend as gifts. One I am almost sure I partially traded for. My newest custom was expensive. To me. I have seen customs go for a lot more. But I wanted her badly. So I traded some dolls and saddlebags for her and made up the difference in cash. She was definitely expensive for me, but trading helped her to be within reach. She was also the only hobby purchase I had made (other than really low priced props) in years. And then I ordered a saddle for her from Mandy Claussen, who is a new tack maker, but her work is not at new tack maker level. Her prices are VERY reasonable. I also ordered a bridle from Danielle Hart. Did I spend a bunch of money on a new horse and tack? I sure did. But I have also been just saving for a long time. 
      So again, I have no solution to the problem. People with a lot of money can much more easily get the high end horses and other items. People without a lot of money just can't. And it is hard to be at the bottom of things. It's hard to see the things that you want and know that you may never have them. It takes years to develop the skills to make tack well, paint or sculpt well, or to make incredibly realistic dolls. I have not had the patience to learn to paint to the level that I want. Same with tack making. I CAN make tack, but I don't have the patience to learn to be a really good tack maker. If I had no other choice maybe I would have learned. But I can make dolls and I worked hard at developing that skill. And I can trade those for the things I want. Not always, but enough. So maybe the answer is we all need to learn a little patience. If you are new, don't expect to win everything (or anything) or to have an amazing collection right away. Learn, grow as a shower, grow your collection. These things take time. If you are a long-time shower and have an amazing collection and/or a lot of money, remember that once upon a time you were new. And be kind and welcoming. Not everyone can spend a lot on the hobby. But the hobby can still be fun for everyone if we all remember that we have the same love of tiny plastic horses. 
My Newest performance entry


Braymere said...

This is a great post and very timely. Thank you!

Lynn Isenbarger said...

This is an excellent post with a lot of wisdom shared throughout. Thank you.

Wyoming Artwork said...

Wow. How did you know all about my collection? This sounds exactly like me! (My collection is still only relatively nice OFs, one BHR resin and a PS Arab). I always have my eyes open like a hawk for horses that are generally expensive but this or that particular person is selling for cheap. I'm just waiting for that perfect AR Arab to come along some year!

timaru star ii said...

Well put.
You may think you can't find the words, but I'm convinced otherwise. :)

Mary Ann Snyder said...

So very well said! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Anne.

Mini Hoofbeats Studio said...

It's always nice to find other people who do the same thing. When I really dove into the hobby, I knew right away that I couldn't afford a high end resin or custom. In turn, I figured why not make it myself? I can do that! (That last phrase is the very reason why I am not only a mixed media fine artist, but also do various other forms in the home arts as well).

FlashObsessed said...

This post is so well written and thought out. I have experienced alot of what you wrote!

Side note: Do you have any contact or Studio info for Mandy Claussen? I'd love to check her out!

Field of Dolls Studio said...

SaS said...

Great post! This can apply to real horse showing as well.

Anonymous said...

I love performance! I make my own props most of the time. I have had my John Henry ELCR model with a $40 saddle fet reserve champion. Horse was $25. The saddle was listed as "a second quality" in the ad I purchased it from. That was the only reason I could afford it. Props I made myself.

I buy what horses I like and can afford. I go to shows for fun and to be around people who enjoy models like I do. I am always thrilled to have a horse place. If there were no more shows, I would still collect.