Behind the Scenes of a Commissioned Work

Anklet with Jet Beads ©2013, Patricia C Vener

Anklet with Jet Beads ©2013, Patricia C Vener

A lot of artists won’t take commissions. Some see commissions as being too restrictive of the artist’s freedom of expression. There is a fear that the client might impose too great restrictions or make unreasonable requests (seen as demands). So far I’ve been lucky because I’ve not only had happy collectors but I’ve been able to use my creativity to make unique and beautiful works of art.

The artists who complain about the expense and complexities have a point, however, and I am going to show you what can go on behind the scenes from the point of contact through to the finishing of the work.

It started when the client asked for two anklets similar to ones I already had for sale. These are shaped right angle weave with accent beads and toggle clasps. My client uses minerals for medicinal purposes and she wanted one of the anklets in blue with pyrite beads and the other using bauxite beads with warm colors similar to the bauxite colors. We exchanged emails discussing how to size the anklets and about the use of Argentium sterling silver toggle clasps.

Next, I went searching for nice looking pyrite and bauxite beads in the right size. Bauxite turned out to be a bit of a challenge because there are other common names for bauxite and similar materials that are, nonetheless, not bauxite. I found what I liked, in the right size and cleared them with the client (the pyrites are round faceted beads; the bauxite thick cylinders (heishe shape). I made the purchases from two different sources and when they arrived I started matching seed bead colors to choose the best combinations for both pieces.

Normally, I use two colors of beads for this anklet design but once I had the pyrites, I decided I wanted use three blues for a more interesting monochromatic statement. I scanned the beads in their packets and sent them to the client for her input. She loved my choices and the idea. I did the same with the two colors I chose for the bauxite anklet. Once I had her approval, I started the actual weaving, making sure to adapt my process to reach the length I needed.

Finished Pyrite and Bauxite Anklets

Finished Pyrite and Bauxite Anklets

When the anklets were both finished I took snapshots and sent them on to the client saying that I was ready to ship them. She loved them and asked me to make a third anklet, this time using jet. Jet was once a popular mineraloid for jewelry and other decorative arts but has been superseded by other gems (onyx, for example) and colored lead crystal. Jet is the gem variety of coal and when polished has an almost metallic sheen. It wasn’t easy to find jet in the size and quality I wanted but I managed. I would have loved to find faceted jet but there was none in the 4 millimeter diameter I needed, so I bought spherical beads; “A” grade and gorgeous.

As you can see, there is some room for spontaneity, but there is also a dialogue between artist and collector that not everyone is comfortable engaging in. Artists who like the challenge of including a different perspective are more likely to enjoy doing commissioned work.

4 Responses to “Behind the Scenes of a Commissioned Work”

  1. Janet Vanderhoof Says:

    Yes, the dialogue is really important and also important to be a good listener. Great blog, thanks for sharing!

  2. Patricia C Says:

    Janet, thank you so much for commenting. You make a terrific point about listening. This is definitely a skill worth encouraging.

  3. Judith Glover Says:

    Patricia and I worked together on her creation of a necklace and earrings that were part of a collaboration. That was somewhat similar to commissioning Patricia to create the jewelry. The goal of our collaboration was to create an arty-looking outfit for me to wear to art galleries on opening nights. Her part is finished, and although I haven’t finished the garment to wear with the jewelry. I have purchased an outfit that is working for now. I am definitely please with Patricia’s part of the collaboration and she was great to work with.

  4. Patricia C Says:

    Thank you, Judy. I enjoyed our collaboration as well and am excited to see the final result of our two works together.