Commissioning Artwork FAQ

Commissioning a piece of original art may be intimidating if you've never done it before. There’s so many unknowns. Will it look like what you envisioned? How much will it cost? How long does it take? Is the artist you have in mind currently taking on custom requests?

I wouldn’t want any of my customers to feel this way or to rule out custom orders because they’re unsure about the process. Commissioning art can be an enjoyable experience so I thought I’d share how I personally handle commissions and answer some FAQ. A huge part of my handmade business is custom work, so I welcome special requests!

Q: I’m interested in commissioning a wool landscape painting. What do I need to do?

A: Send me a message via Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, or contact form to get the conversation started. If you have a photo you’d like me to use as a reference for the piece, please include that. We'll work out the size, frame choice, deadline, and go from there. Pricing depends on size and complexity of the piece, but a good ballpark budget number for custom felted landscapes is $2 per square inch. For example, an 8x10 scene would typically run $160, which includes the frame.

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Q: I saw something in your Etsy shop or Instagram that I liked, but I want it in another color (or a slightly different design, size, etc.).

A: No problem! Nearly all of my jewelry can be customized, and often times the fiber art can be recreated or tweaked to be a specific size, alternate color range, etc.

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Q: Do I pay before or after the work is done?

A: 99% of the time I’ll request payment upfront. This goes for jewelry, fiber art, or any other custom orders. Once I’ve received payment, your order will be added to my list and I complete them in order of payment received (unless there’s a specific deadline previously discussed).

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Q: Does a custom order cost more?

A: Not necessarily! The price is usually the same, but it may take a few days longer to create, depending on the request and if I need to special order materials.

Q: Do you offer proofs or photos prior to shipping a custom order?

A: I typically don’t do this for custom jewelry, ornaments, or smaller items. However, for the custom wool landscapes, I’m happy to to show you progress pictures upon request.

Q: Do you offer discounts on bulk orders? 

A: When it comes to jewelry, yes, I'm happy to work with you on the total price if you're ordering 10 or more pieces. When it comes to the fiber art, the price is firm. Needle felting is a very tedious process and this is the reason my fiber art work never goes on sale online or at events.

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 Q: The piece I wanted to buy has already sold. Can you make another?

A: Probably so! I don't mind recreating pieces (although they'll always be slightly different than the original because they're handmade). If you see something that's sold, get in touch and I'll let you know if I can recreate something similar. 

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A quick run down of do’s and don’t when commissioning art:

DON’T commission artists to knock off other artist’s work. It’s not cool, and it’s no fair.

DO ask artists for references or examples of past work if you’re unsure if they’re the right person for the job.

DON’T expect the artist to deliver the finished piece in person, even if they’re local.   

DO ask for progress images if you’re particular about the composition, materials, etc.

DON’T be afraid to be specific if you have a certain size, look, or deadline in mind. Share that with the artist from the start so they can accommodate your wishes.

DO allow the artist to do what they do best and embrace their process. The finished piece will surely look different than what you had in your mind, but hopefully it’ll be even better than what you imagined.

Architecture Meets Jewelry

Architecture and jewelry have a lot in common: form & function, balance, personal connection, and materiality, just to name a few. It’s no surprise the A & D industry has contributed to the jewelry world, and vice versa. Recently, I was commissioned to make a small contribution of my own, and the experience was the ultimate collision of my career and small business.

My background is in commercial interior design. When I’m not running my handmade jewelry business Once Again Sam, I’m working as an interior designer part time for LS3P, a major architecture firm in the Southeast. I’m part of the Worship Studio, which consists of a dedicated group that helps design traditional and contemporary churches all over the country. Interior Design and Jewelry Design influence each other in ways I never imagined. I have designed floor tile patterns that became leather cutout cuffs, and I have chosen wood veneer for pendants that ended up appearing on feature walls. Design is design, oftentimes applicable beyond it’s intended application.

Women in Architecture of the Upstate recently commissioned me to create a special gift for their upcoming event, to be given to the speaker, Kate Schwennsen. Each year, they feature a different artist, and have commissioned a variety of work that ranges from painting, to film, and fine jewelry. I was glad for the opportunity, and a little curious how the design committee process might go.

Working as an interior designer means I regularly meet with committees to present concepts and material finishes, and share sketches of potential designs. I’m used to feedback, managing a range of different opinions, and communicating ideas with clients. However, working as an independant jewelry designer and small business owner, I’m used to working alone, having almost no feedback, developing ideas from start to finish with zero outside influence. Designing jewelry with a committee was an entirely new opportunity, a combination of my two skill sets, and the experience ended up being incredibly enjoyable thanks to the wonderful ideas and productive interaction with the WIA group. I’m also thrilled with how the final gift turned out and hope the recipient is too!

This is the final gift set - it includes a mahogany jewelry box with a laser engraved top, and matching leather lining. Inside is an orange laser cut leather bracelet, a pair of bocote stud earrings with orange leather insets, plus a geometric bocote pendant with brass tube detail (the orange is a nod to Clemson’s colors, because Professor Schwennsen is director of The School of Architecture at Clemson University).

So how did we end up here? Where did this design come from? The process went something like this:

The committee shared what they knew about the speaker, her style, what kind of jewelry they thought she’d enjoy. We also wanted to portray an abstract storyline about the “bridge” between an education in architecture and career to inspire the geometry and connections within the jewelry itself.

  • We looked at examples of jewelry I had made in the past, so that the group would better understand the kind work I’m able to create, plus we reviewed color and material options available.

  • I developed 4 concept sketches showing different wooden pendant ideas, which was our primary piece. Some ideas were similar to pieces currently in my jewelry line, others were 100% new.

  • The group provided feedback on the sketches, asked questions, brought up some excellent points, and I made a few templates and prototypes before getting final approval to proceed with an option.

  • I began making the final pieces based on a majority vote in favor of option #1 (and had some help from my handy husband making the box to contain the set).

The final gift set was presented at the AIA / WIA meeting on October 20th, following Kate’s talk titled “We’ve Done More than Stir: Celebrating Women Leaders, Creating Cultural Change”. It was easy to see why she’s one of the most admired educators in the USA, and I was really inspired by her message. Women have been making headway in the field of Architecture, which is exciting, but there’s still a long way to go!