The Bummer of Being a Commissioned Artist

   Posted by: Joy Alyssa Day in creation
Barrios Awards Sketch and Finish

In the previous blog post I wrote about the custom commission I was designing and creating for a company - their 30-year service award, to be given to two of their employees.

A risk involved with creating custom pieces is that the client may get the piece and decide that they just don't like it. When you sell a work in a gallery, the new owner sees it, knows what they're getting and pretty much is a done deal. When commissioned, the client has faith in you, that you'll produce something wonderful, but isn't locked into completely owning it if it comes out not to their liking.

Much of the problem lies with that the client and the artist are speaking nearly a different language when the client describes what they want and the artist describes what they can make. Sometimes these two things mesh, sometimes they don't. This is especially the case when the client doesn't really know what they want and the artist is mostly flying blind, creating into the wind. The artist can describe the process and what the piece will be like, even supplying sketches like I did in the post up above, but the truth is that the client often has a hard time understanding and visualizing what a sculpture will look like given just a rough sketch and descriptions.

This happened with the awards. I created the color sketch, and thought I got pretty darned close with the finished pieces, but when the awards were actually in the hands of the client, they decided they didn't like them, or the design.

Barrios Awards Sketch and Finish

I offered to change the design, color, texture and the process (from molded glass to pipe-blown glass, which would make the base heavier, more substantial feeling). For whatever reason, they didn't want to continue and give me another try. Who wouldn't want to have another piece made for them if the first one didn't turn out right? I would have thought just about anyone would say "Of course!" but this client didn't. Instead, they paid the kill fee and are sending back the awards. They're out, I'm out, there are no "winners".

I really wanted to make it right by them. I could have redone the awards, given what they say they didn't like about the first ones, and probably created something they'd love, but I won't get the chance, and I find that really sad. Yes, I also won't get the full price, but it's more about that I wanted a happy client, and I was willing to go the distance to give them what they wanted.

It's a bummer, but happens on occasion. I certainly don't like it though. I think I'll go have some more chocolate to console my bummed little artist soul.

Peace, Joy

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One Response to: The Bummer of Being a Commissioned Artist

  • Lisa Stewart Says:

    It is disappointing when a custom order doesn't meet the expectations of the client -I do know how that feels. The underwhelming emotions that are disappointments best friends.

    Perhaps you can create a glossary of terms that you use and a separate one that your customers use and then match them. Maybe then you'll find definitions that harmonize and eventually exceed expectations?

    I'm betting that you can sell the pieces that were sent back -I'm sure one of your customers will love it. Always seems to work out that way. 😉

    Feel better. It's an object lesson we all have to go through.



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