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How to commission an artist or maker to create a custom made personalised present or piece

How to commission a maker

by Folksy

Commissions, bespoke orders and personalised pieces on Folksy

Buying craft is always special because every piece is individually made by hand, so each one is unique. Even when you buy one of a series, like a print or a ceramic mug, it will be slightly different from the others, with small variations or differences that mark it out from the rest.

Sometimes, though, you might want something absolutely one-of-a-kind, something no one else in the whole world has, made especially for you. This could be a piece for your own home or wardrobe, designed exactly to your specifications, or it could be a present for someone you love.

This is where commissions, custom orders and personalised pieces come in.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the difference between a commission and a bespoke or personalised order, explain how the commission process works, help you find designers on Folksy who can create handmade items specific to your wishes, and show how you can work together to create the perfect piece.

You can commission artist Lydia Needle to make bespoke a bee sculpture in your own vintage box

What is a commission?

A commission is the act of requesting an artist, designer or craftsperson to create a piece especially for you. It is usually a collaboration between you (the customer) and the artist or maker, where the combination of your brief and the artist’s perspective blend together to create a totally unique piece.

Like all projects, successful commissions depend on trust and good communication. The process varies according to the individual artist or maker, but most begin with a clear brief drawn up together, a timeline and an agreed budget. You will usually pay a deposit at this stage. After that, the artist may prepare a drawing, sketch or model for your approval before beginning work on the final piece.

When commissioning an artist or maker, it’s helps not to be too prescriptive in your ideas, or have a set vision on how the final piece will look, as this then allows the maker the freedom to experiment and create something original. It’s a good idea to look through their portfolio of work to see examples of previous pieces and understand what’s possible first.

For example, artist Lydia Needle offers a commission service where she custom makes needle-felted bumblebee sculptures in her client’s species of choice. She begins by showing clients examples of her previous bee species as well as the materials she has available (this can be vintage beads, silk threads and found containers), to give the client an idea of what’s feasible. She can even create bee sculptures that fit in clients’ own containers, which can make beautiful heirloom gifts, memorials and keepsakes.

However, she always makes it clear to her clients that there is an element of unpredictability to the finished piece: “I am an artist. I am creating an art piece for you. Each piece is completely unique and, often, the result is unexpected.” This unpredictability is one of the joys of commissioning work and something to be embraced.

At their best, commissions are a hugely rewarding (and often fun) process, which result in an original piece that wouldn’t have been possible without that specific collaboration between client and artist.

It’s worth noting that, as commissions tend to fit outside an artist’s other work and can be time-consuming, many limit the number of commissions they take on. So if you’d like to commission an artist or maker to create a commission for you, leave plenty of time – so you can both enjoy the process!

A custom house portrait by Hello Trees Hello Flowers

What is a bespoke or custom order?

A bespoke or custom order is similar to a commission (and the terms are often used interchangeably), but whereas a commission is usually creating something entirely new or experimental through a process of collaboration, a bespoke order tends to be where an artist or maker adapts an existing design in their collection to fit a client’s specification.

Examples of bespoke orders could be a necklace made to sit perfectly with the neckline of your favourite dress, a scarf woven to be extra long, a wedding tie made to match the colour scheme of the big day, or even a pendant necklace made from your favourite Instagram photo. You can even order bespoke portraits of your house, your pet, your family or a friend.

Creating made-to-order pieces can take a bit longer, so when placing a custom order, make sure you check the delivery timeframe.

A Christmas jumper decoration by Handmade Retro Jewellery that can be personalised with a name across the front

What about personalised presents? Are these the same as custom orders?

Confusingly, yes, they can be! ‘Custom order’ essentially means any product that has been modified, personalised or made to specific requirements. However, the term ‘personalised’ tends to be used for products that are specifically designed with an element that can be altered to fit a client’s words, message or details.

Personalised products can be things like a personalised birthday print that tells you what happened on the day you were born, a Christmas card which includes the recipient’s name on the front or your own message printed inside, a necklace engraved with your initials, a handmade bracelet stamped with your message on the reverse, anniversary gifts, cards and prints marking the date or Christmas decorations personalised with your pet’s or family’s names.

Whatever type of custom order you choose, whether you commission an artist, personalise a card or give someone a bespoke portrait of their house, you’ll be getting something totally unique and made just for you!

Featured image: Hand-crafted glass flowers by The Glass Florist, who offers custom-made everlasting bouquets to recreate your wedding bouquet or a loved one’s favourite flowers