Commissioning Architectural Custom Artwork

The key to successful implementation of an artisan’s work is clear communication.

In order for the process to be positive and productive for both parties, it is imperative to define and communicate the intended stylization or theme to the artist. It is also important to select an artist who understands working with concepts. When interviewing or choosing a craftsman, concentrate on their overall technical abilities, rather than solely upon past commissions. Old World art techniques can take on a modern twist in the hands of a skilled artisan. When it comes to commissioning architectural custom artwork, artists capable of problem solving offer the best solution because they can adjust to their clients’ needs.

An art director or consultant, whether in-house or outsourced, is best suited for ironing out the details when hiring an artisan. He or she will be well-versed in brainstorming ideas with the artisan to create a one-of-a-kind custom piece.

Where are such craftsmen found? While referrals are most effective, as they afford the opportunity to learn the performance history of the individual or company, it is still important to follow certain steps:

1. Interview the individual/company to determine their versatility, experience, and track record. View their portfolio and, if possible, speak with contractors, designers, and architects who have had some past experience with the craftsman.
2. Share your vision for the project with the artisan. Develop an art direction and request samples, then art direct the samples or sketches. This should give you a good sense of how well you both can work together.
3. Next, ask for a cost proposal. Reveal your budget if the cost proposal is beyond the given scope. This is where a creative individual has the opportunity to value engineer a project while maintaining the integrity of the work and the design. Keep in mind, the lowest bid is not necessarily the least expensive route. Consumers or clients tend to gravitate toward the lowest bid, which often contains hidden costs that frequently result in change orders. This could result in a higher cost than the middle or high bid originally presented; in other words, buyer beware. Rather than choosing the lowest bid, perhaps invite the middle or high bidders to value engineer the project, should their proposals happen to exceed a given budget.
4. The proposal should include required lead times and deadlines as per the scope of work, payment schedule (for custom work, this usually requires a 50 percent deposit, with balance due upon completion before shipment/installation), detailed description of labor and materials, shop drawings and samples to be provided, plus installation, freight, and crating particulars.
5. Steps to accomplish a seamless installation begin with correct elevation and plan drawings and/or, better yet, field measurements. The artisan should provide shop drawings for approval before work begins on the product(s).
6. Oversee the work in progress either in person or through documentation. A visit to an artist’s studio, however, can be both inspiring and enlightening. Seeing and feeling the hot coals of a forge while a metalworker hammers red hot iron into shape, or witnessing a master craftsperson score hundreds of pieces of colorful stained glass to fit particular shapes, can lend to a greater appreciation of the labor involved and the opportunity to learn more about the discipline.

Categories: Commissioning Artwork.