Sunday, June 6, 2010

Commissions Gone Wild, Part I

Browse any doll forum, and before long, you'll find a post written in a nasally whiny tone, saying, "Why don't my favorite artists take commissions anymore?"

Why? They wonder why? Here's why.

Common Commissions Crap Artists Put Up With

First, many collectors view commissions as a cheap way to get a good doll. If you are one of those people who thinks that way, give me your hand. I will slap it so hard, it will fly through the Earth's core and make it to Jupiter (NASA's budget has been cut tight, so you won't be getting it back anytime soon). I'm sorry, but that thinking is utterly despicable!

Once as an artist, I spent three sleepless days in a row, frantically slaving away on some doll to pay Rhea's horse board bill in time. Fine repaint, lots of beadwork, costume lining, a story. You know, the 'works'. Days later, she closed painfully low for the work put in, despite receiving many compliments. Why? Who knows? Perhaps the 'big' buyers were on vacation. Or perhaps they forgot to snipe. The doll market is a small, unstable place influenced by so many factors, and the occasional 'dud' doll happens to all artists. Anyhow, to the point. To add peroxide to my hurt, I opened my e-mail to congratulate the buyer, and found three nearly identical messages from different people that looked something like this:

Hi. WOW! Your work is OUTSTANDING. This doll really moves me. But she ended way too high for me. I can't afford your Ebay dolls. Do you do commissions?

Be honest. If you were in my situation, wouldn't you kill those people? The only reason I didn't hire an assassin was because I couldn't afford one. And of course, days later, I had the embarrassment of explaining to Rhea's caretaker why I was short. Oh, and on top of that, there was a family member in the background repeating, "How much per hour did you make on that doll again? Not talking? You know, Wal-Mart is hiring."

Second, art is subjective. Until telepathy devices go on wholesale at the supermarket, an artist won't be able to interpret the customer's exact wish. Usually the artist will produce something good enough for the customer, or even better. But that's just luck. Oftentimes, the artist will put in thirty hours of work, only to be told the doll is awful. Especially if the customer picked the wrong mold for the repaint, which leads to....

Third, a repaint artist can only fight a doll's mold so much. Seeing a number of my friends' celebrity commissions, it astounds me how many times the customer will insist on the wrong mold for the repaint. Usually it's the customer's 'darling favorite mold of all time'.


I've come to an epiphany. All you non-artist collectors out there? You SUCK to high hell on picking the mold for the celeb repaint of your dreams. Okay? Accept it. Get over your in-competency. Let your poor starving artist pick right the mold for your repaint. Doing so would be a WIN, WIN; the artist will acquire something worthwhile in their portfolio instead of some freaking deformed 'Cate Blanchett', and you won't be whining about your repaint looking nothing like the damp celebrity.

Fourth, commissions stifle creativity. Painting, sewing and sculpting is tedious work. The only thing keeping an artist working through low pay and insecurity is the joy of creating. Without this joy, customizing OOAKs becomes no more fun than working at Wal-Mart. Except Wal-Mart pays better, and has benefits.

Fifth, commissions are a high-risk transaction for the artist. The artist is privately offering an unfinished product, and so much could go wrong during its production. And it's quite common for customers to bully around their artists, without Ebay as a mediator. The artist will finish the doll, and then be told to tweak this or that to no end. Newbie artists, in particular, are victims of this kind of treatment, because they'll put up with anything, out of a desperate desire to be accepted in the OOAK doll artist community.

Sixth, commissions reduce the artist's vital exposure. Having a big 'fan base' is critical to an artist's career. The more 'fans' there are salivating over the artist's work, the higher it can sell. Now, when an artist sells something on Ebay or a doll board, with their big beautiful pictures, they get tons of exposure. Especially on Ebay, where they also get feedback (which greatly encourages new customers to bid on their work). With time, they gain their much needed 'fan base'. However, with commissions, an artist can go years without people knowing them, because their customers simply don't promote their work enough. And when the customers do share? Well, we've all seen those collector pics on the doll boards. They're usually dark and blurry. This means popular Ebay artists' dolls are looking far better to the public than commission artists' dolls are. So, in commissions, the artist is getting virtually no exposure ... or worse, poor exposure.

So there it is. The reason many artists don't take commissions. In my next post, I'll discuss keeping your favorite artists working for you, for those of you who will die without commission dolls.

All right. How about a handful of mystery jellybeans?

I give you the soft, magical, mystery OOAK. She can be found in all of the OOAK doll categories on Ebay, and looks something like this:

What can I say? Usually these dolls' descriptions are as vague as their pictures. However, I have a suspicion that many of them are actually tarantula-eyed ribbon Barbies in disguise. Sharply inhales. THE OOAK DOLL MARKET IS NOT A LOTTERY, PEOPLE! There is virtually no chance you are going to find that $295 you are asking for in your PayPal account!

Sara unleashed

1 comment:

  1. Oh, that family remark about Wal-mart is hiring really really bit it! Imagine Cheryl Crawford's relatives telling her she ought to desist in the early years of her doll-artist career. And your dolls are outstanding, unique, and have every promise of being in the same category as hers. So, stick it, "aunt Velma"--grow a talent, instead of cutting down those who have one!


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