Yep, I'm going there.
I guess I should begin this post with a disclaimer. What I'm posting is my opinion, so don't get all worked up about it. What I am posting here is from the perspective of an artist who loves to create and strives to not only please her clients, but strives to communicate and create relationships with her clients as well. My goal here is to hopefully help prospective clients and anyone interested in working custom with an artist to consider--and appreciate--just what the artist goes through when working one on one with a client. Just like any relationship, there are moments of joy and happiness, and moments of...well...NOT joy and happiness.
Art is tricky. It's personal, for both the artist and the client. Artists are a bit crazy. IT'S TRUE AND YOU ALL KNOW IT. We pour our heart and soul into our designs and then offer them up to the universe in the hope that others will see and appreciate our vision. It's scary and exciting and sometimes overwhelming! But ultimately, so, so rewarding and renewing.
|Some of my favorite custom designs for clients ranging from a retiring art teacher|
to a marine biologist, to a young girl celebrating the memory of her Grandfather.
So, you are approached by a client asking for a custom design. What a thrill. Creating something specifically for an individual, working one on one. It's such an honor! Seriously, when I am asked to create a custom design I am always excited and grateful for the opportunity to interpret someone else's ideas into 3-dimensional reality. In theory, we work together and create something amazing. That has happened for me many times, from creating a signature design commemorating a milestone birthday, to creating a design in tribute to a loved one's passing. Each have been meaningful and inspirational to create.
These types of custom requests are always welcome and give me such joy to make. BUT....(you knew there was a but) this isn't ALWAYS the case.
From the Make Believe--for the purposes of this post--Client (MBC)--You want a specific design and have a specific idea that you want realised. You contact your chosen artist and if they accept this challange the work begins. You asked for blue beads--a specific shade of blue beads. Not aqua, not turquoise, not navy, not perriwinkle. BLUE. What is the big deal? Why can't you find BLUE beads??? And you want those cool silvery beads you saw in that one design on the aritist's Facebook page that one time you were surfing the Web back in February of 2009. Remember? That one design with the cool silvery bead things?
Make Believe--for the purposes of this post--Artist (MBA)--After frantically searching for days through all your old images you find what MIGHT be the correct image and forward it to the client.
MBC replies--Yes, that's it!
MBA--Fantastic. You acquire more beads, supplies, etc. for the design and spend a few days designing, mock it up, then send a photo of the new design to MBC.
MBC--Now that I see it again, I don't think the beads are BLUE enough, and those silvery things aren't what I thought they'd be. Can we go GREEN with GOLD beads instead? Oh, and did I mention that I need this day after tomorrow for MY WEDDING?
MBA--Screams and throws their computer out the window.
Now, this is make-believe, okay? BUT, things like this happen to artists all the time. The saying goes that the client is always right, and you know what? THAT IS TRUE. If you accept the challange of a custom design you have agreed to work with that client until the dream is realised no matter what. You, the artist, said YES. Therefore, you the ARTIST must produce. BUT, (this post is full of buts....) you can protect yourself and impart the seriousness of the collaboration with the client by setting up a few rules that MUST BE ADHERED TO by BOTH PARTIES.
These policies are for the benefit of both the artist and the client. The more info you can give and receive up front will ensure a smoother transaction with no surprises (there are ALWAYS surprises, but at least you can say you tried). Gather as much information as you possibly can about the custom request before agreeing to ANYTHING. Set a time limit. I tell clients that a custom design will require 4 to 6 weeks to complete NO MATTER WHAT. If it's finished early, great, but this gives everyone a cushion and space to work. Require a NON-REFUNDABLE deposit before work begins. THIS IS REALLY, REALLY important. At least 50% of the total quoted price. And, artists, don't agree to something you are not 100% sure you can produce. Don't leave anything to chance. If a client asks for a design that includes elements you had five years ago, be sure you can get your hands on those elements today! If the design will be mostly hand-constructed you may need a higher deposit to cover your time and costs to construct. Each request is individual and you can adjust your policies accordingly, but COVER YOUR BUTTS!!! (See what I did there? HA!) Finally, upon completion, if for some reason the client is unhappy....well....suck it up. You can try again, or move on. You, the artist will have to make that decision, and hopefully this NEVER HAPPENS and the client is so happy she/he crys tears of joy over your creation.
Now, for our Make Believe Client--if we could ask one thing, it would be to understand that as artists, we are all unique and interpret art and design individually. What does that mean? That means, that while we will do everything we can to make your design a reality, we will do so with our own artistic voice. Please understand that this is what, hopefully, brought you to us in the first place--our original designs and creative expressions. It may not be easy for us to create the same exact thing twice. This is especially true for hand constructed designs. Gemstones vary, and getting that EXACT shade, that EXACT stone may be impossible, but I guarantee we will make something stunning anyway if you give us a chance. We also are not psychic, and ask for your patience when working with you. We also ask that you undertand and appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into every design. While many artists hate the idea of time equalling money, we also do not work for free and the design process is a part of the creation process. That layout we made for you several times to get the desigh just right? That counts towards the purchase price of the finished work. Hours and hours go into each and every design, and we love this. It's what many of us DO FOR A LIVING and we appreciate your support and collaboration. We WANT to do this, we are excited by the opportunity and we LOVE making an idea appear, solid, 3-D, to hold, wear and cherish. It is an honor, seriously.
So, bottom line, as artists we must individually decide to accept custom design requests--or not. If you do, commit to that and give it everything you've got. Even then, understand the power of the word, "No". It's okay to turn down a request if you don't think you can fulfill it or make the client happy. I refer clients to other artists if I think they can do a better job than I can. Treat your client with respect and demand that they do the same for you. As I said earlier, these collaborations are a relationship, with give and take and compromise. They are also wildly satisfying and exciting! Do you work custom? Any clients out there with wonderful custom order stories to share? Be nice, people....we all have horror stories, but I bet the great stories far outnumber the bad. DO SHARE!!!!