Sunday, May 27, 2012

Special Work....

Custom work is not my favorite thing to do. Especially for relatives and acquaintances. I'm not sure what it is about it that makes me extremely anxious. It has been my experience, in doing commissioned pieces be they art or jewelry, that many folks think because you paint or make jewelry, you are comfortable working in whatever style they wish the piece to be. What starts out as someone expressing interest in a custom piece, can quickly turn into someone asking for materials, styles, or techniques that you don't even use.

Recently, I was asked by a family friend and member of the church that I went to growing up, if I would consider making a bracelet for his wife, to celebrate their 40th anniversary. He was also the leader of our youth group and my Sunday School teacher for many years. Part of me cringed inside, because I knew I didn't have the heart to say,  "No."

I had little direction and what direction I did have, was followed by, "I know she'll love whatever you make."

No pressure, right?

I wanted something to infer the relevance of the gift, since it was their 40th anniversary but I didn't want to put both dates or "40th anniversary" That seemed too overt.

So, after much thought, I decided to put the date in Roman Numerals on the front and he provided a special quote for the back, from their favorite song.



Time was of the essence as part of the time that I would have to work on it, I expected to be out of town, so it was a very quick turnaround. Even now, as I write this, I haven't heard whether he is fond of what I made.


I included a line from a song that was important to them.


I cut and pieced the handle of a sterling souvenir spoon from the state where they live. I'd been saving this spoon for something very special and it worked out perfectly! It also enables the wearer to wear it this side out since it functions much as a cuff.

How do you feel about doing custom work?


Is it something that brings you much anxiety or do you handle it with ease?



18 comments:

Artisan Beads Plus said...

I love it Barbara! How sweet. It sounds like he was very open to whatever you came up with. My thoughts on custom work are that I really do not like it. I have a hard enough time envisioning what "imaginary people" will think of each piece I make, let alone real people. With that said, most of my experiences with it have been good, but those few that back out after you put in all kinds of effort are a complete turn off. I discourage it today. :o(
MaryAnn

Kalaya Steede said...

Beautiful Barbara! I like how you used Roman numerals and incorporated that silver spoon handle. Nice touch.

I have tremendous anxiety when doing custom work. Once I did exactly what a client wanted and he didn't like it at all! So I let him off the hook. After that experience I said, "Never Again!". There's that word again..."Never". Ha! But that was only once. All my other experiences with clients turned out pretty cool. My latest commission was a success.

Bueno!

Kalaya

KJ said...

I do not like custom or repair work and group them together. Mostly because of the limits on the creative process but secondly because of time pressures.

Julie Holmes said...

I love the bracelet! So sweet and what a thoughtful husband! I have done custom work that turned out great as both parties were happy..however after my last one I'm considering refusing all future requests. I made the "Jaganath triad" for an Indian man. The piece took over 30 hours. I told him if he didn't like it, no obligation. I offered it to him at a price WAY less than the time involved. He LOVED it...but was expecting his parents to pay for it (which he hadn't told me). They said no and now I'm stuck with a piece that is so specialized it won't appeal to the mainstream and I will probably never be able to sell it. If I do custom work again it will be with a non-refundable deposit that will cover materials and 8 hours of labor...and I will cherry-pick when I say yes and no. Lesson learned.

Spirited Earth said...

that was a lovely and thoughtful piece you created..
In the past I have accepted custom orders but end up really stressing.
it turns out that trying to create what is in someone else's mind is really challanging for me...
the fun part about making jewelry components is being free to follow my own heart and vision.

Spirited Earth said...

that was a lovely and thoughtful piece you created..
In the past I have accepted custom orders but end up really stressing.
it turns out that trying to create what is in someone else's mind is really challanging for me...
the fun part about making jewelry components is being free to follow my own heart and vision.

Stacie said...

Actually, I love doing custom work...but I am pretty careful about setting up the perimeters of what to expect. I just did some custom work where the customer wanted 8 pieces. I do require payment up front, and my policy is that it is non-refundable. However, I photograph the process as it occurs, and send them on to the customer so that they are in on the process every step of the way. I am also a stickler for communication. I ask a lot of questions, and don't move forward until I know that the customer feels comfortable with the direction. I haven't had a bit of trouble working this way, and custom work makes up a lot of my business. But I think it is because I am very open about what the process is, what I will and won't do or even consider and again, payment is up front and not refundable after the jewelry is delivered. When they have money on the line, the communication has a tendency to be pretty open! I find that the entire transaction goes very smoothly and is enjoyable as long as those perimeters are in place.

Stacie said...

And...I LOVE that bracelet!!!

Erika said...

What a great and sentimental bracelet! I would think any wife would appreciate such a thoughtful gift.

Speaking strictly from the customer's point of view, I always appreciate it when artisans do custom work for me. However, it is always with the thought in mind that I want the artist's own particular style to be in the custom piece, with just a little input from me. It's fun to say, "I'd like something in this color and material," and letting the artist just go with it, and seeing a nice surprise in the end. I have ordered custom pieces from artists that tell me there is no obligation to buy, but I still feel that I should, even if it is not totally what I expected.

From the standpoint of being an artist, though, I think custom work could be very intimidating! I agree with what Stacie May said about charging a deposit. That way you can really determine a customer's level of commitment to buy. Also, she mentioned having guidelines as to what she is willing to do or not do, and lot's of communication. I would think that would ensure that everyone is clear on what they are getting and will be happy. If someone is really interested in your work, then they will play by your rules on doing custom work!

Kimberly said...

Not very comfortable with custom work either. I had a gal look at one of my necklaces and request something along those lines but in purple.... and I should just "do what I do" But as I was assembling it she started to have more opinions and preferences about the design. Silly me didn't discuss a price range to begin with but judging by the boutique clothes she wore I didn't think it would be any issue. She blanched when I gave her the price which was under $100 including earrings!
Finally was able to set up a payment plan and got my money.
Lesson learned- just say no!
Funny how some people that think they have no preferences in design and purport to be happy with whatever you come up with suddenly realize that they do have preferences. Hopefully your client will be happy with your design. I think you went the distance to make it a meaningful one.

Kelli said...

I too have learned along the way. It's definitely not my favorite thing to do, but mist people do give me artistic license. AND I definitely get 1/2 up front and no refund. Since doing that I've not had any issues. It's the requests to make something out of. "my great grandmothers old necklace" or "fix this old broken necklace" that I now know to just say no to........ A resounding no!

Patti Van said...

I cannot get over how beautiful and personal that bracelet is!! Truly a very special piece! I am sure she loved it!

As for custom work, I have not had much experience with it. I did just recently complete earrings, necklaces, and bracelets for my nieces' 8 bridesmaids, plus her earrings. I was a nervous wreck the entire time! It turned out well in the end, but oh the stress I endured!

Sweet Freedom said...

Your custom bracelet is wonderful - certainly a special keepsake.

Custom work gives me the heebie jeebies, too - especially when they don't give me much to go on ("I love everything you do - I'm sure whatever you design will be perfect") - these are tough, because everyone has such different taste, and my style is definitely "out there".

I have the same concerns when people ask me to help pick out colors and beads in my bead shop, with a "which ones do YOU like" or "what would you put with this?" Just because I like a certain color or bead doesn't mean everyone will - that's why there are so many choices! I tend to put out a lot of disclaimers about everyone liking different things, because sometimes I get a peek at the look on their faces when I put something together, and I can tell they thing my choices are awful! To each, her own!

CraftyHope said...

Custom work is such a mixed bag for me. I like that I get to make something that is specific and special for a person, but I often get anxious and frustrated with the process. Basically, it comes down to the fact that executing someone else's idea means that the design isn't truly mine. I feel that some of my creativity is eked away from the piece because it wasn't MINE. In addition, I often have lots of questions about how the customer wants the piece made (colors, style, metal, placement, length, etc.) that tend to make the process drag and drain on me. In the end, it's great to have a sale and have a piece that the customer is pleased with, but many times the struggle to execute it isn't worth it. Lame?

Cynthia@Ornamental Style said...

I love the personal touches on the bracelet: the quote and the spoon and of course the year will have a lot of meaning for them.

As for doing custom work, I've done four pieces. The first two pieces were for a four-year-old girl! All were a success. However, I don't particularly care for custom work for these reasons. (1) It's difficult to know how much time and materials to estimate for so that you can give them a fairly accurate quote (finding it's better to be on the high side because it's easier to come down on price). (2) The possibility that the customer will want more and more input and keep making changes.

I have told them that if they don't like the jewelry, there is no obligation to buy because I can just put it in inventory. (Although the child's set would have been difficult to do since it was so specialized as to size.) After all, I don't want anyone to own something of mine that they don't like and stick away never to see the light of day.

Now semi-custom is fine. That's where someone wants a different color bead or metal color. That's easy enough for the customer to envision so that there are no surprises. In fact, I have a blog post in mind about this one.

I really enjoyed this topic and am happy to see that I'm not alone. I see so many sites where the designer says she loves to do custom work.

Cindy Pack said...

Beautiful bracelet! A real piece of artwork!
I love doing custom work when I can make a connection with the buyer. Normally we are on the same page about design. And when someone orders from me, they know my style and what I do to begin with. So they know what to expect.
I gather all the information as to what they want- and then do a sketch (or two) of what I envision. Email that to them with the price and if they agree, then I bill for the work before I begin. The pre-work also takes a lot of time, and I now charge a design fee that gets credited to the final bill if they decide to order. If they don't decide to order, I am still compensated for my time to design and draw out the work for them.
So far it's worked out great.
However, I am currently in contact with a woman who I am not connecting to at all and I will have to turn down the order. If I can't make a connection there's no way I'll be able to create the piece that she has in her mind. It's a difficult situation. :(
I have to figure out how to tell her and then move on. And hopefully she can find someone that is more in tune with what she wants to create.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

I think this is a great discussion. As someone who has asked for a couple of pieces, I would never consider not following through with the purchase. One time, I practically bought everything.... and then ended up feeling bad because she really did not have the means, but was trying to make something to bring in a little money. After many, many, many, many conversations, it was not what I had pictured.... but I would have never, in a million years, not followed through and made the purchase. It is chance taken by the buyer. That is how I felt.

mairedodd said...

gut wrenching, nerve wracking...
that is how custom orders make me feel... because there is so much expectation attached to them... you did a beautiful job...

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