How Do Commissions Work?

I get a lot of people asking about how, exactly, commissions work. So here are the ins and outs and a few tips about commission me and other artists to do work!

It all starts with a sketch

I cannot speak to the process used by other artists, but for me it almost always starts with a sketch. And sometimes it starts with a stone. In the case of most of my gemstone oriented commissions I encourage my client to start by choosing a stone they like.

In a couple recent commissions one client chose an oval pink opal to make a pendant from, and another chose a trillium shaped iolite for a ring. In both cases I made a few (or several) sketches of different possibilities. While I sketched I talked with the clients about what other images they might want to include. The woman with the pink opal wanted a ladybug and daisies because those images were meaningful to her. My iolite client wanted something that was fancy but not overly extravagant.

For layered pendants, I talk with the client about what images they want to include in the scene and we go from there. Layered pendants are kind of like paintings. There are no boundaries like the shape of a stone or its colors. Just metal that I cut into any design I want. The commission sketch below was for a client who wanted Gerber daisies, his wife’s favorite flower, as a gift for her.

After a little bit of talking and sketching all three clients settled on designs that they wanted.

Commissions cost the same as buying already made art

Once we have the sketch made and the design decided up I give my clients the prices. The price for a commission is not higher than the price of buying the same piece already made.

At least, not the way I do things. Generally I like commission work. I like making something personalized for someone, filled with meaning and something they can cherish for years to come. And it is the same amount of work to make the commission as it is to come up with and create my own designs. So the price is the same.

Pay in full or pay half down

For commissions I need half the amount as a down payment with the rest to be paid upon completion of the project. The down payment is a promise from me to the client that I will make the piece we talked about and from the client to me, that they will pay for it. Plus the money helps me buy materials to start the project.

But of course, if you want to just pay it all ahead and be done with that part, I am alright with that too.

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How long do you have to wait for your beautiful new piece of jewelry?

That depends on several things. It depends on how many commissions I have pending. The majority of my work is commission-based at the moment so at any point in time I have ten or more lined up and they are all done in a more or less first come first served order. Usually you will not be waiting more than four weeks. Once the sketch is done I can give you an estimate on how long before your piece is finished.

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Busy seasons, like the upcoming holidays (sorry to mention things like Christmas when Fall is barely started) may make things take longer. That being said, if you have time constraints I will always do my best to make it work out for you!

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Not sure what you want? Look at the artist’s work!

I always recommend looking at an artist’s work before asking about a commission. It helps both you and the artist start the conversation about what you like. It is also best to ask for work in some way similar to the work, subject and style the artist has already done. It is the artist’s thing. What the artist has already made is most likely what he or she is passionate about and what the artist is the best at!

For instance, I work primarily in nature oriented imagery. If you asked me to do a downtown street with lots of angles and hard lined perspective I would be willing to give it a try. But it is not my forte.

However, if you asked me to do, say, a layered pendant with an iguana on a beach, I would be all for it! I have never really drawn iguanas or done very much with beach scenes, but I like animals and have drawn enough other animals and natural scenes that I’m confident I could do it.

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What images are meaningful to you?

After looking at what I or another artist make, then think about what you like. What is meaningful to you? I love hearing what people choose to have put into their jewelry and why. One client’s wife loved elephants and they had just had their first child so he got her a pendant with a mom elephant and a baby elephant to symbolize the new love in their lives. Sometimes a certain animal or flower will represent a daughter or a grandson. Sometimes you just have an affinity for squirrels and trees (I may be talking about myself in that one). Or you could have a yoga and meditation practice and love how the lotus symbolizes compassion and wisdom and want that on a mala bracelet as a reminder to keep with you in your everyday life.

The options are endless. And if you still aren’t sure what you want or what you should get for a loved one, I am always happy to help you think it through. Working on new ideas is one of my favorite things. (Along with squirrels.)

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Any more questions about commissions or want to start one now?

E-mail me, call me, text me, stalk me at my dad’s coffeehouse, whatever works. We can meet in person or have the conversation over email or text with me sending lots of sketches and pictures.

That’s all for now! I hoped I answered a few questions. Now I might have to design a layered pendant with an iguana on a beach!

Gerber Daisy Pendant

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