Monday, June 14, 2010

Commissions Gone Wild, Part II

You love commissions. You love getting dolls by your favorite artists with your favorite features, in your favorite colors, on your favorite molds. Or maybe your favorite artists' work sells like suntan lotion in May, and you want to guarantee the next one will be yours. Or maybe you don't do Ebay. Anyhow, whatever your reason, here are some tips on working with artists, so they'll always see you as a golden opportunity, and not a soul-sucking kraken from the lava pits of hell.

Keeping Your Commission Artists Working For You

  • For the love of decency, don't be cheap. Commissions are a pain, for all the reasons listed on my last post. But your favorite established artists who no longer take commissions? Even they'll crack if you make the right offer. And newbie artists? If they're not being paid well, they won't be around very long--so please, don't use 'em and lose 'em (the OOAK doll scene has lost enough great artists to financial burnout as is). What? You say you can't afford to be lavish? Um, remember Mom's timeless words about those dolls in the store you HAD to have when you were seven? Stop buying those dumb gumballs and save up your chore money!
  • Never forget that to you it's an extravagance, to the artist it's a car payment.
  • Be 100% specific about what you want upfront, and pay attention to any concerns the artist has regarding the job.
  • Pay quickly. Don't be taking your damp sweet time while your artist is nervously eyeing the electric bill on the table. Don't assume they took you on because you're friends. Instead, assume they urgently needed the money, but are too proud and professional to show it. (Hint for the chronically clueless: when an artist e-mails you your doll's 'done' pics, and tells you she'll ship out as soon as you send your final payment, what they're saying is, "Rent is due in two days, and I'm going to be $230 short. I've maxed out on my loans from family and agencies. So it would be damp glorious if you can PayPal me the rest on this doll ASAP, because it takes two days for it to transfer from PayPal to my bank account. Otherwise I'm screwed. Sincerely, Sleepless and Heartsick in Dolltopia".)
  • Spread the word. This may seem like going against your own interest, since it means others will be competing against you for your artist's work. However, without a 'fan base', your artist won't be around long. Again, don't use 'em and lose 'em.
  • Know the capabilities of your artist. Don't push them over their capacity. You saw their work. You liked it enough to hire them. Now don't expect them to paint/sew/sculpt like one of the 'big girls/boys' if that is not in their portfolio and you haven't paid for it. A common scenario I see is customers paying a newer artist $200 for a doll, and expecting to get $600 quality job (you know, with the piercing gaze, finest lines and smoothest gradients, all of which takes time and experience to achieve). It's like trying to force a $1000 green broke colt into the kind of floating Grand Prix passage you'd expect from a fifteen year old $100,000 dressage horse--let me tell you, someone's gonna end up on the arena floor, and it ain't the horse.
  • Understand even the 'big girls/boys' don't make that much. Trust me on this. I have a sister who could be considered a 'big girl' artist, and she is constantly hitting me up for money! (Dodges slap from sister.) That $400 Tonner repaint on Ebay? Subtract $80 for the doll. Now we have $320. Subtract $10 for painting supplies, wraps, laminated certificates, or whatever. Now we have $310. Subtract $40 for the Ebay and PayPal fees. Now we have $270. This amount is the artist's wages. Divide that number by the average 30 hours the 'big girls/boys' put in (which I know they do for an absolute fact--my sister puts in more than that if the doll needs highlights or whatever). Average wage for the 'big girl/boy' artist: $9 dollars an hour, a few cents above minimum wage in several states. And guess what? I make more than that machining. Plus, when I work overtime, I get overtime wages. Plus I have pay stability. Plus my value as a worker will rise over the years as I become more knowledgeable. Yep, I, a blue collar worker, make more per hour than Karen Kay, Noel Cruz, American jeZebel Originals, Fairies in the Attic, Patricia Rose Studio, Beautiful Faces, Dolls by Passion, and Cheryl of Crawford Manor do making dolls. But I'm not rich, not by any stretch. I'm just your average hard working American trying to make ends meet. So again, don't be cheap. Don't ask anyone to work below minimum for you, okay? It's greedy and it's unethical. And let me tell you, if you are one of those collectors who constantly talks artists down below their worth, I have no respect for you. Nor should anyone else.
  • Don't be annoying. Artists do befriend each other, so if you are a rude impossible-to-please customer, you won't end up on just one artist's never-paint-for list. You'll end up on five.
  • Remember money was the driving force behind all the great masterpieces. It's a ridiculous myth artists are propelled by some mystical, magical, artsy-fartsy force. No, creating a true masterpiece is tedious, with fun 'ah hah!' moments thrown in every once in a great while. It demands several irreplaceable hours from the artist's life, during which they could be playing with their children, visiting Grandma, comforting a friend, working to feed their family, enjoying the weather, petting a dog, or whatever. In fact, I'll go as far as to ask this: without monetary compensation, is it even ethical to spend vast amounts of time creating art? So for the third time, DON'T BE CHEAP.

Whew. That was heavy. Why don't we move onto something a little lighter? I give you the wrong-mold-for-the-job repaint. She can be found in all of the OOAK fashion doll categories on Ebay, and looks something like this:


Her distinguishing feature is her paint job over fights the mold in every way imaginable. Her lips are painted either over or under the sculpted lip line. And her eyes are either lower, higher, bigger, smaller, or more slanted than the mold's sculpted eyes. Additionally, her shading has been overdone in a continued effort to fight her mold, therefore she will look sun burnt or dirty. I suspect she ended up this way because, in their heart, the artist wanted to be working on a different mold and couldn't go with the flow of the one they had. However, she also might be a rejected commission, in which the customer insisted the on their 'darling favorite mold of all time' instead the right one for the job, forcing the artist to create a deformed Angelina Jolie.

P.S. If you think I'm just being mean, let me tell you, I'm guilty of painting one of these dolls myself ... once. My family still teases me about her, even though that was over five years ago! So if you are also guilty of painting one of these, be thankful you've seen the light, throw your head back, and have a good laugh at your deformed dolls' expenses.

Sara unleashed

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