And Now for Something Completely Different…

A non-painting project that I’m working on this month

Prototype fairy wings for the ballet “Les Sylphides”

Depending on how closely you examined the picture of my business card a couple posts back, you may or may not have noticed that aside from painting and drawing, I have laid claim to “small handmade items” as another aspect I specialize in.

Another thing I do which is NOT on my business card is take ballet classes. I gave the director of my studio one of my business cards back before Christmas, and frankly, it’s been one of the best business decisions I’ve made thus far. Not just because she purchased some of my art (which she did) but also because it’s opened up a new avenue of conversation and connection. Most recently — about three weeks ago now, actually — she approached me with a commissioned project: the studio is doing a production of Les Sylphides for the spring recital this year, and her sylphides need fairy wings. Twenty pairs, to be exact.

So commissioned projects are interesting things, and the process is still one I’m navigating. Fortunately thus far I’ve had prior relationships with the people who’ve commissioned pieces from me, and the back-and-forth of discussing terms has been made easier by that. But it raises some interesting questions that I’ve had to think about. The biggest one being, how much do I charge for my time?

I don’t have a good answer for that yet, though I would say that so far I think I’ve been treated fairly in terms of my clients’ expectations. In fact, the colleague who commissioned the painting from me before Christmas paid me MORE than what I’d initially asked for. I’ve been thinking that my “going rate” for paintings vs. handmade items might differ, and haven’t yet decided how I should handle charging for time spent gathering materials for a project. Or proofs/prototypes, though in most professional cases (at least in my experience), those are included as part of the final product price.

I know there are guides and resources readily available (the number of Google results for the question “How much should I charge for my art?” alone fills dozens of pages) and, if the commission aspect of my business keeps growing, I’ll have to standardize the process some for the sake of mine and my clients’ sanity. Right now the projects have been few enough (and varied enough) that I’ve been comfortable going on a case-by-case basis, and there’s still a big part of me that’s just thrilled that anyone wants to buy anything I make.

But, back to the wings. I made two prototypes (pictured above) which we simplified and reduced in size for the final product. I’ve cut and sewed pins onto all 20 final pairs, and will next glue on structure wire and gauzy fabric to complete each pair. One nice thing about working with so many pairs at once is that I can save some time by creating an “assembly line” process. With any luck, they’ll be done and delivered by next week (at which point I get paid, woo!).

20 pairs of sylphide wings, in progress

What’s the most interesting or odd thing you’ve been asked to make — either for purchase by a client, or as a favor to a friend/family member?

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