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Two of the things that frustrate me the most about commissions:

1. When someone has a very clear idea of what they want... but it's not physically possible to make it as they envision it. For example- not that this exact thing has ever happened- someone may want a 5mm faceted stone, flush-set into a ring that's 3mm wide by 2mm thick. This isn't possible; the stone is both wider and deeper than the band, and it would leave no metal to hold the stone in, plus a nasty sharp point sticking the wearer in the finger whenever it was worn.

Sometimes something really can't be made, because the dimensions don't work. It's usually possible to rework the concept so it does work- but sizes are sizes, and to some extend we're stuck with 'em.

2. When someone has a great concept for a piece... that will end up costing 2-5+ times what they have to spend. Often the design concepts don't really translate well to less-expensive gems or metals- and even when they can, when someone wants white gold, they are a lot less likely to be happy with silver, even when they've chosen it themselves. Plus the labor tends to remain the same, regardless of the metal or gems involved.

This is the situation I feel worst about, because I sympathize so much with the commissioner. But- if I make such a piece at a loss, I don't get related discounts on things like my mortgage, my groceries- or even the materials I use, so I can't afford to do that. Still, the situation sucks.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhienelleth.livejournal.com
I struggle with this - so often, when people ask me how much a commission piece will be, I'm tempted to low ball the price for fear of their reaction to the real cost of such an item. I labor under this assumption that everyone thinks their idea will be cheap (relatively) and I'll lose the customer if I don't make their piece more affordable for them - but that's like cutting my nose to spite my face, so I try really, really hard to force myself to be true and honest with the reality of what something costs. Even thought it's hard for me. Yeah, it's lost me a few commissions, but it doesn't help me to offer to do hours and hours of work for the cost of materials + $20, either. My time and energy is more valuable than that.

Date: 2009-04-15 08:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] afmetalsmith.livejournal.com
I know what you mean! It's a really hard situation, and I, too, tend to underprice more than I ought to.

What sometimes helps me: people ARE willing to pay other professionals for their labor and expertise- and I'm a professional, too! Also, most people would not be keen on themselves being asked to work for nothing, or close to it- even when they seem to expect artists and artisans to not only do so, but to appreciate the opportunity!

And, honestly- the people who are most demanding in terms of getting stuff cheap are all too often ALSO very, very difficult to please. This means that, if one works with them, one is not only working for less money, but ends up doing a LOT of extra work- and the only people who have been dissatisfied with my work have come from this pool. Thus I am trying to discipline myself to view excessive concern about low price as a warning sign, of someone who really does NOT want to be commissioning custom work in the first place, and I try to provide them with other ways to get the gist of their desires met.

It's hard, though, and I know I still do underprice sometimes. And by that I dont' mean discounts for family, etc., which it's really hard to avoid, and which I don't even want to avoid!

But yeah- tough situation. I think it helps both the potential commissioners and all us artisans, though, when we can be realistic about time and expenses, and thus the cost of our work.

Date: 2009-04-17 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I completely agree! Metals smith's think alike!

-JP

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