September 13, 2013

My Philosopy on Commisioned Work: Less Money, But Better Work

Recently, I received the email below.  Every few months I get a request like this.  I feet bad telling someone, "No, I can't do this for you (even though I know it would make you very happy and you are willing to pay)."   I always explain why.  Some people understand, others don't.

I stopped doing commissions years ago.  Some artists think I'm crazy, but I don't think I make less money.  I was always stressed working with (usually very nice) patrons and I didn't like deadlines.  I ALWAYS spent more time on commissioned works and NEVER received the true cost of the work in return Partly, this is due to the way I work (largely assembly line), but also because I had to go back and make changes. I realized I'm far better off doing what is most efficient and what makes me happy.  So, I have to write responses like the one below:


Alana
I am the happy owner of two of your pieces --- a rabbit and a coyote both purchased from a local gallery...  I raise (and love) goats ! Have you ever done a goat and would consider doing one for me ?  Look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks, X


Hi X,

Thanks for your kind words about my work....  As for your question about a goat, well, it's tricky.  The inspiration for my artwork is derived from my previous work as a biologist.  I worked in AZ and NM, and grew up in those two states.  I actually travel to NM every 6 weeks or so to stay at my house in the Gila.  All of the figures I make are based on real species native to the Sonoran or Chihuahuan Deserts.  There are quite a few that have larger distributions, and so there are many figures that are recognizable to people here in the midwest. 

One of my goals is to increase awareness of natives other than wolves, ravens and bears.  Long ago, I made a few small figures of domesticated dogs and cats, but those didn't sell well.  Since then, I haven't done any domesticated animals.  So, goats... the only species native to the West is the Mountain Goat, but since they aren't in AZ or NM, I haven't made one.  I do regularly make bighorn sheep (males) but they look pretty different from goats!

In the past, I did commissions for people, but I discovered something important about the way I create.  When I was working on a project where someone wanted this color, or fabric, or size, I became grumpy.  I realized after many discussions with my patient patrons, that my mental image of the work was competing with theirs.  I felt that I should work hard to produce the artwork he or she wanted, but I realized my mind wasn't in it, and I wasn't ever happy with the final product.  Every single time I've made a figure that someone said that I should ("You really should make a insert name!"), that figure hung around and never sold.  In contrast, all the figures I make where the ideas pop into my head at odd moments, those seem to reach out and touch the public - and sell.  I do my best work, when the ideas and inspirations are mine alone. 

That's a long answer to your question, but I think you deserve a complete answer.  I am honored when someone buys one of my figures.  I realize it's quite a chunk of money to spend on a collection of fabrics, thread and maybe some beads.  Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Alana,
    Very well put. It helped me understand inspiration and to trust my own insticts.
    YP

    ReplyDelete