When I first started as a full-time potter, I took every commission I could. You want a replica of a vessel from National Geographic? No problem! You want a butter dish that holds a whole pound of butter? It’s your arteries! I would grit my teeth and accomplish whatever a custom wanted. It wasn’t a pleasant process. There was a lot of complaining on my part. I think my customers were happy, but the fact of the matter was I didn’t really care. (I know it’s awful.) The creativity I brought to my work had been sucked out trying to fulfill someone’s vision, not mine.
It didn’t even matter if it was something I made, which in retrospect was silly. I had to invest time into accomplishing a form that I wasn’t going to stick with and it also took time away from my “real” work. At the time though I needed to stay afloat financially and did what I needed to do. I was grateful for the work, really grateful.
Now I’m not saying I’m not grateful for commissions, but I no longer do items that I don’t create on a normal basis. Sunday at my open studio a customer wanted goblets. I quit making goblets about 3 years ago, so I referred another potter that makes goblets on a regular basis. It’s a win-win. I don’t feel disdain, the customer gets what he wants, and the other potter gets business.
I also had a request the weekend to make soup bowls with handles, which again I don’t make. The customer brought in a bowl that she had purchased from another potter and wanted me to copy the design and remake it. I told her what I could create, in my style, and gave her a price. She didn’t confirm the order, which I’m sure was because it was more than she wanted to spend.
I’m not upset. I’ve learned I need to focus on my current line, and as in relationships in life, you also need to set boundaries with customers.
What are your boundaries?