Yes, yes… I know, the alliteration is killing you, but what can I say? I love when titles “sound” good. Anyway, I have been debating back and forth the whole idea and process that is a “custom order”. I thought beaders and buyers would both benefit from hearing what goes on in another artist’s mind on the topic. And hopefully, it will open the doors to comments on other’s thoughts and opinions about it.
How do I define a “custom order”? For me, it is anytime anyone asks me to make them something that isn’t already made and in a box ready to sell. I think it is a pretty straightforward way of thinking. A customer who requests a couple extra beads to match ones she just bought… that’s a custom order. A gallery that “really hopes you’ll make something to go along with such and such a piece”… that’s a custom order.
When I first started making jewelry 2003, I would make anything anyone ever asked me to make. I thought, “Hey… I’ll do anything for $15… $15 means I can buy more beads.” Not only that, I was thrilled to think that someone liked my things enough to have me make something just for them. By 2005 (while just starting to learn to make glass beads), I started doing custom jewelry for weddings. I would make an appointment with the bride, bring samples of 6-8 custom designs to match her bridesmaids’ dresses and inevitably she would want to mix a bit of this with a bit of that, creating a 9th and 10th piece. Once she figured out which one she wanted, I would make enough for the whole bridal party. After 15 weddings, I was bitten enough by the glass bug and fed up enough with picky brides to say enough was enough to that.
As glass became an everyday part of my life, I adopted the same mentality as I did when I first started making jewelry. The “OMG, someone wants to pay for me to make them something!” mentality. Again, I was flattered… again, I would bend over backwards at my own expense to make buyers happy. And this time around I thought, “$15 will buy me more rods of glass”.
I don’t know when the switch flipped in my brain but at some point I started to say “NO” to custom orders. I think it was when I really started to define my own style and was starting to get slightly better prices for my beads. I started to feel that if people didn’t like what I made, they didn’t have to buy it. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to make people happy and stifle myself creatively anymore. Because that is really what custom orders started to do to me. And that is the stance I have had for about a year now. At art shows, I get asked repeatedly if I will make something custom. I tell people, nope, sorry.
That was until recently where I said yes to a few orders. Just a few. I think I have 5 sitting on my desk right now. But with these, they are a different kind of custom order… I am not letting the customer dictate the results. It is a hard thing to do and I think it takes a lot of artistic confidence (which is another completely different topic, don’t get me started.) Artistic confidence isn’t something I have a lot of, but I pretend I do and I am now enjoying saying, “yes, I’ll make you something… but I am going to make it ‘my’ way”.
I would love to know where others are at in their “custom order conundrum”. Will you do anything for a buck (and I never judge, it is okay to want to buy more beads!)? Do you refuse orders? Do you make one style of something and then make as many of those as people ask for? As business people as well as artists, do you think it is just bad business not to take orders? Do orders crowd your creativity? Do you think doing custom work make you less of an artist (and I don’t mean that in a bad way… Michelangelo took an order to paint the Sistine Chapel, right)?
Kerry Bogert is blogging about her glass art beads and jewelry from her home studio in Ontario NY. Check her work at www.kabsconcepts.com.