How to Commission Art and Why You Should Consider It.

What does it mean to commission an artwork?

Commissioning is when an artist or craftsperson makes something for a specific customer in response to a request. It could be a piece of original wall art, jewellery, sculpture or a bespoke handmade object. It’s different from personalisation in which a design template is provided by the artist with specific perimeters in which to add a customer’s personal detail.

Why commission artwork?

You can make it personal

Art can connect us to a story, a value or an emotion which is personal to us. Handmade objects can do the same, they elevate an experience or an environment to spark joy in us. Commissioning a piece for your home, or as a special gift means you can use a specific story, relationship or experience as a starting point to create something truly meaningful.

You can make it fit your needs

Commissioning allows you to choose a colour palette based on your existing home decor, specify the dimensions based on where you want it placed, and choose materials that suit your style or sustainability choices. Maybe you have seen a piece by an artist or maker that you like, but the colours or materials are not what you would choose? Why not ask them if they will produce a similar piece based on your specifications.

A new story is developed in the process

The relationship between artist and customer creates the opportunity for a new personal narrative to emerge which makes the finished artwork even more special. The item will hold memories of choosing and approaching the artist and the process that followed, which in most cases will be a good thing!

artist at work
Image credit - Jonathan Borba
Commissioned jewellery piece by Georgina Ettridge

Is it expensive?

That all depends on what and who you are commissioning. Do your research and try to find prices of similar works by your chosen artist before you approach them. Check that they are in the same range as your budget. It’s worth noting that specially commissioned pieces can be slightly more expensive than non-commissioned pieces due to the additional time involved in the customer/artist relationship.

What if I don’t like it?

If you have done your research and communicated clearly and regularly with the artist this will greatly reduce the risk of them producing an artwork you don’t like. To protect both parties a written contract should be agreed before any work is started which should specify progress check-in points for feedback, payment terms including the total agreed fee and if this will be split into a deposit & balance, and a clear written brief.

Honest, clear communication throughout the process is key to success.

Further Reading (courtesy of The Artwork Archive):

Do’s and Don’ts of Commissioning Art 

How to Create a Commission Contract for Artists