Welcome Special Requests, Probably


Still Life with Whup Ass Cans and Chainsaw
Still Life with Whup Ass Cans and Chainsaw

Once upon a time I was a Commission-Phobe. I wrote that taking on a commission was like picking a scab: a bit hurtful and self-destructive.

It was true for me at the time and you can read my reasoning here.  I have the horror stories to go with them: unreasonable deadlines, unending emails, design changes requested when it was too late, money refunded, non-payment. And I learned from them.

Since that post,  the special request tide has turned. It’s not that my reasons for hating commissions were proven wrong. They are all still profoundly true, but I manage the associated difficulties in suitable ways and I find myself welcoming select commissions with grace and ease.

So what, oh what, has changed? I can name three things that make all the difference:

1. Notice that word “select” in front of “commissions?” I say “No, thank you” easily and graciously.  A good working NO generates clarity and affords the way to say a genuine and enthusiastic YES!

2. I am extremely protective of my studio scheduling priorities and respect the fact that my custom hand-built and painted ceramic work is painstakingly slow to make and rife with uncertainties, especially when it enters into unknown creative places. I have also learned to not work to anyone else’s deadlines or standards.

3. Most importantly: How does taking on this proposal feel? If that gut check is not clear to me at first, I will give myself time to find out. If I cannot get to a certain ease of concept, timing and compatibility, welp, I go back to #1!

I almost added a Fourth Thing: I get great ideas from the folks who have a feel for my work sensibilities and make suggestions and requests, like those Whup Ass cans. But that gift is so intertwined into the other three reasons, I will just call it a beneficent balm to the learning I have done since I quit picking scabs.

–Liz Crain, who finds that the best commissions are really collaborations, full of love and vision and it is a Fine Thing to keep open for them.



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