Writing about mosaic improvisation led me to reflect on the process of mosaic commissions. When someone asks me to make a piece for them, I feel honored that they want to enter this process of creation with me.
Commissions inspire new ideas by the dialogue between the artist and the commissioner. I thought it would be helpful to discuss three questions that are important to ask yourself if you are commissioning an artist to make a work.
1. What aspects of the artist’s work speak to you?
There was a saying in the Moravian church I grew up in, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things love.” What are the essentials? The colors, the size, the texture? What means the most to you about this project? Is there a color you love? A particular shape? If you want aqua, put it out there.
My work has topographic relief, a tactile textural quality where pieces are at different levels, and one of my first clients exclaimed that she loved the bumpy surface, and helped me create something she loved and gave her delight. Communicating what draws you to the artist’s work will help put you both in the same room.
2. How much uncertainty can you tolerate?
Commissioning a piece is by nature about uncertainty because it starts as an act of the imagination. Some clients are familiar with my range of work, and assume with some basic parameters, that they will love what I make for them. Others want sketches, samples or check-ins as the project progresses. The important thing is to communicate to the artist what your tolerance level is, and ask for what you need, such as photos of previous work or whatever else makes you more comfortable with the process.
Commissions are like a jazz set, where the tune goes in all sorts of unexpected directions, and just when you think you’ve lost the tune entirely, it comes back, and this can be immensely exciting.
3. What is the story behind the work you want to commission?
Is there a narrative or memory that gives this work meaning for you? Is it a frame for a photo of someone you love? Does the work remind you someone or something? The story can help the artist envision how this commissioned piece will fit into your life.
What questions do you really want to ask the artist? Please ask! Commissioning art is not something that happens in most people’s lives. It’s unfamiliar territory. A professional artist will help make you feel at ease, and answer your questions.
On my website, Nutmeg Designs Art: Commission FAQ’s and Process
Over at Stratoz’s Blog: