Monday, September 19, 2011

Language Barriers and the Double Wedding Ring Quilt

"To have another language is to possess a second soul."

Last month I tried doing a new project every day but got totally sidetracked when a custom order for a Double Wedding Ring Quilt came in from Australia.  When the first inquiry was made there was a bit of a language barrier issue as my customer requested a "throw rug" be made as a custom order.

As I read her request I was totally taken aback at the thought of someone using one of my quilts as a rug to walk on, because to me a throw rug is something that you place on the floor.  I could not imagine having someone put their dirty shoes on a quilt that I had worked on so painstakingly, it broke my heart just to think about it much less imagine what that would look like.  I explained, in the most diplomatic way I could, that I did not believe the fabrics would hold up over time if someone were walking on them and that it would be slippery creating a safety hazard so I would not be able, in all good conscious, to work on this requested project.  I was bummed because I really enjoy working with customers to create their vision and a custom order would mean a nice sale after a very slow year and it would have been nice to get back on the right track.

My customer contacted me and explained that there was an obvious misunderstanding of terminology, because in Australia a lap quilt and a throw rug were the same thing.  We both had a good chuckle and the order process began, this really raised my spirits to have a new custom order to work on.  She wanted an extra large lap quilt and asked for a particular color scheme to coordinate with her furniture upholstery.  After doing a bit of shopping at a local quilt shop I found the perfect combination of colors and work began.  I used an Eleanor Burns pattern from her book "Egg Money Quilts"  for this double wedding ring design and got it finished and ready for mailing.

I am happy to say that it has been mailed to the owner and I am anxiously waiting to hear if it has arrived safely and that my customer is happy with her purchase.

Language can bring us together or keep us apart, sometimes the differences can be amusing and have totally different meanings even when we believe we are speaking the same language.  Being Hispanic I have known this all my life but it never occurred to me to request clarification from my customer, who I believed was also speaking English, and this has taught me a good lesson for future inquiries.

Has this ever happened to you?  How did you react and how did you clarify your needs or those of a customer?    If you stop by please leave a comment, I would love to know about your language barriers and hear what others have been through and what lessons there are to learn.

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