It can be daunting working with an artist that you've never met before. I can recall some interesting conversations with folks seeking commissioned works of art from me. One in particular was a request from an aspiring film maker, where I was asked to provide a "bid" for creating an elaborate Steampunk armored arm from shoulder to finger tip. When I inquired further about the financial expectations for the piece, the individual did not provide me with a proposed budget even when I specifically asked for the budget available to them for the project. They vaguely suggested that others were contributing their time, money and goods to the project simply to be supportive of the possible film endeavor. When I mentioned that I have a contract for commissioned pieces, especially for such an elaborate end product, and that I require half upfront for materials they agreed this seemed fair and still requested that I give them a "bid" for the work. The piece was supposed to be incorporated into an already made elaborate period piece costume. I spent time researching materials, including leather hides and Steampunk hardware, and I also drew up several sketches to incorporate the original costume into the piece. When I was done with my several hours of research I submitted the requested "bid" to the individual for the project, they read the proposal and then never responded back. If they had provided me with a proposed budget I may have been able to accommodate their need by using different materials, however not having this information I gave them what I thought would work best and of course, charge accordingly for the project.
Sometimes, you want awesome things for various reasons and you have a specific budget. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it happens often where people want something but don't have any clue how much time, energy or money goes into making that happen. However, knowing your own expectations and presenting them to the artist aren't negative things, they actually help an artist gauge what sort of creations can be done for the money the individual has available to spend. It won't always work out that the artist can create such an amazing piece on the budget that you have available, and most artists who sell their work have a certain standard of what their time and art will cost to create, and almost all of them can give you an honest response about what they can and cannot do for you. None of this should be seen as negative simply because it is about art. After all, you wouldn't ask your local furniture store to give you one of their high end refrigerators for $20 would you?
Here are a few helpful hints to remember when working with an artist. They are dreamers and use a lot of their brain power towards using their imagination. They want to create something that they will enjoy making and you will enjoy forever. And most importantly this is their job.
Artist use their imagination as much as they can. This can be both a plus and a negative, plus side they will be able to dream bigger than you ever thought, the drawback is they may not be able to keep themselves grounded in reality or budget. This is where a contract helps the artist stay on track. Good contracts will have promises that the artist will communicate with you multiple times about what you want, each step is to be looked over before moving on to the next. This helps keep the project on target.
Artist don't want to sell you something that you aren't going to love. One, you might talk bad about them, two, you won't showcase them and three, artist also don't want to make something that's boring to them. They have to work with this art form for however long it takes to get it right. So it isn't helpful to shut down all their ideas, especially when you don't have specifics about what is desired. Remember they are using their imagination frequently, which is taxing to their energy. You wouldn't offer to lift a heavy bag for your personal trainer, so why ask an artist to keep their opinion to themselves?
Don't forget that being an artist is a profession, not just a hobby. This is their job, and contracts are a professional way to help them stay on track towards creating the best outcome. When you hire a contractor, go to a mechanic, or call your plumber they all offer you a contract to sign before they begin working, and it should be the same when requesting the same service from an artist.
If you have a budget, be upfront, that can only work in your favor. Artists do what they do because they love it, but they can't read your mind or do it for free. Don't be afraid to ask for some assurance, aka a contract; this will help the artist and insure that you are both on the same page. Be professional. I know that I wrote this blog from the perspective of working with someone new, but even your artist friend is due the same courtesy.
I started crafting out of leather in 2011, and now I am making it my life's work. I am writing this blog to help myself remember some of the small steps in past projects, sharing my triumphs and failures, as well as my love of leather.