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Building Inventory For Shows vs. Commission Work


Janel

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I have spent decades preparing for good retail craft/art shows, hoping to find clients to purchase the work I created and held on to until the event. So much risk is assumed with this commitment to creating a body of work for a retail show without a guarantee for even a single sale, though there is always hope. Along the way, I have resisted commission work to be able to be prepared for the sales events.

 

My thoughts are on reserve for now, though I will share them later. This is the The Way forum, so I am encouraging you to share your thoughts about the topic, not the nuts and bolts of doing the business of selling. What I want to know is:

 

What do you do to bring your work to your clients?

 

and

 

Why have you chosen that path?

 

 

Janel

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Jean and I go round and about this issue on a pretty much steady basis. We both decided years ago not to use galleries for my one-of-a-kind work for practical(too much of a take) reasons, but also because I for the most part really enjoy my customers and the interaction with them. I've also met most of my customers either directly at craft shows or through some acquaintence that attended a craft show.

 

I have come to the point of resisting nearly all commission work for a number of reasons. As I mature(ahem...) as an artist, I feel a responsibility to the art form in terms of allowing myself to be a vehicle of expression. Sometimes, that does involve listening to a clients wishes, but mostly it involves paying attention to "The Muse" and where It is directing me.

 

I think earlier in my career commissions were more valuable in giving me the opportunity to get a lot of work under my belt. As time went on I found they worked less and less well, to the point where I had a couple of uncomfortable transactions: not disasters, but just not as fulfilling for me or the customer as I was used to.

 

The stress involved in spending massive amounts of time working on a piece or two without knowing when they might sell is considerable. However, I have come to have more faith in the process of working to my inner Muse and am fortunate that the commercial process seems, one way or the other to resolve.

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This is an excellent subject, and one that has given me some headaches over the years. It's always a dilema as to whether I try to make knives for upcoming shows, or try to fill orders. My method for taking comissions is to not do anything I wouldn't already have done on my own. If a potential customer tries to control the project too much, I just wont take the job. I'm always trying to get work done for upcoming shows, and it's difficult to fit comissions in, but I try. A freind of mine who is a jeweler, and does a large number of craft shows told me he will do a peice for an order, bring it to a show, and if he sells it, he just does another one for his comission. I've tried it, and it seems to work. I still have difficulty filling both comissions and getting work done for shows, but I guess that's the nature of the business. Bob :)

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I don’t know how appropriate or relevant my comments are since I come from a different perspective than many of the people in this forum who are professional artists. I have never had to totally rely on my art as a means of support. I taught art in a high school for my entire working career. That job gave me a salary and health benefits. However, I have raised two sons alone on that single salary. Therefore, being an artist and selling my art has been an important part of my income. I have worked as a freelance artist for the Franklin Mint and produced prototypes for toy companies. I also owned and ran a bronze foundry. I guess that makes me an artist whore to some extant but one does what one must do. Sorry to ramble but my comments would be worthless without some frame of reference. That said, I have also produced and am producing a great deal of non commercial work. I did art / craft shows at one point but found that I could get my work seen best by displaying it in juried museum and gallery shows. This allows my sculpture to be in many different venues throughout the United States and in other countries. I list the pieces “not for sale†which eliminates paying a costly percentage of the selling price. These juried shows lead to many commissions both public and private which are very satisfying. The nice thing about commissions is having a contract, “upfront†money and knowing the client is legally obligated to completing the transaction. The client also knows I must meet my obligation to finish the sculpture. I have the opportunity to do many different kinds of sculpture so I am always interested in what I am creating. That makes it fun and keeps the spark alive.

Dick

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"The nice thing about commissions is having a contract, “upfront” money and knowing the client is legally obligated to completing the transaction. The client also knows I must meet my obligation to finish the sculpture."

 

This would make a very good topic in the Doing Business Forum. I will go do that now and hope that those who do use contracts when working on a commissioned piece will write about the subject in detail.

 

Thanks Dick, thumb.gif

 

Please keep this topic, Building Inventory for Shows vs. Commission Work, in motion members. It is very interesting reading. We each have different experiences to write about.

 

Janel

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I guess it it probably different for each craft & each craft niche, but I'm the sole proprietor, no employees, living off my income. I've come to the conclusion that commissions are more trouble than they're worth, at least as far as income goes. They can also be rewarding experiences, and I do take one now and then if it sounds fun, but my official stance is not to take them anymore. The main problem actually boils down to simply keeping track of them. Eliminating paperwork for deposits & schedules greatly increased the time & energy I have for creative endeavors. Another big issue was customers who wanted too much input after I had taken a deposit... and an inability to simply hand them back their money when it became clear they were going to become a PITA. This has been resolved by not being in any way dependent on commission work for predicatable income, and not taking deposits.

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