I Love Commission Work on Yarn Bowls

Commission work is fraught with potential pitfalls for an artist. What if the customer doesn't like the finished artwork? 

As you can see, a finished piece of art can look quite a bit different than a photo. Those that know my style of art tend to love the custom pieces I make, as did the owner of this left handed yarn bowl. 

When a person asks for a custom yarn bowl, I take the order with several photos. Sometimes I need different views to get a full idea of what the pet looks like when I pose them on a yarn bowl. From that point on, it can take 4 to 10 weeks before the owner gets an email with a photo of the completed yarn bowl. 

It can take some time to get a piece that you've ordered. I have to mull over the different animal poses and faces to capture the look on the yarn bowl. Once I decide on how to create the art, I still need to accommodate the clay when I schedule the time to sculpt. I make a bowl from clay, let it dry to just the right hardness, trim the foot into the bowl, alter the bowl, and then I sculpt the animal(s) onto the bowl before the bowl dries too much. It can get to be quite the balancing act. I've had to recycle pieces (turned back into wet clay) because the clay of the bowl became too dry during a sculpting session. Wet clay on dry clay doesn't stay well. The sculpted clay section could just crack or it could pop off of the bowl. This balancing act of “not too wet/not too dry” is part of why I charge more for custom work. 

The other reason for custom work charges is that a piece could get ruined in the glazing. The thing about ceramics that no one tells you is: glaze is not like paint. To get a glaze color on ceramic, there are five variables to every glaze: the clay body, the heat work and cool down rates, the firing atmosphere, the thickness of glaze application, and the glaze ingredients. We clay artists can never really know for a certainty how a glaze will react in the kiln. We think we might know, and past experience has shown us a thing or two, but then there’s that one firing where everything will go wrong with a glaze.

So, a custom piece usually means a brand new combination of glaze work. What glazes will give me the effect I'm seeking? Will they play well together, or will they reject each other and "crawl"? Etc., etc.  If a piece gets ruined in glazing, it is subjected to a hammer. And the work starts all over from the very beginning. This is the reason that I do not offer status reports on custom work. There is no need to upset you with a report of "had to hammer the piece and start over".

Despite all of the perils in making a custom piece, I still love commission work. The enjoyment I have making a beloved pet come alive on a yarn bowl, and the joy a patron has upon opening the package, make the challenges well worth overcoming. Thank You to everyone who asks, or has asked, for a custom yarn bowl from me, Cindy Douglass. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to use my talent productively.