At first, receiving a commission is like an honor. Someone has bestowed upon you a position of complete authority over the execution and beautification of a paltry handful of beads. You enter into a covenant with someone to produce a vision because they like your work, trust your skill, and want something unique. It validates your hobbies and interests in a way that selling to a boutique doesn't. Plus you get paid for it. Receiving a commission is awesome on all accounts, unless one specific thing happens: The commissioner doesn't pay for or doesn't want to pay for your work.
It's happened to me a number of times, more times than I like to think about. Sometimes, it's understandable. Sometimes it can be devastating. I am, despite my bluntness and inability to sugar coat anything, kinda sensitive, especially about things I've worked hard on. Having my work nitpicked or devalued hurts. Being stuck with a product of efforts someone completely snubbed is like a reminder that I didn't perform as well as expected or that I wasted, time and limited resources on something that didn't meet expectations.
I HATE when things don't go according to plan. I hate redundancy. I like doing things right the first, or at worst, the second time. Errors, repeats, and complete rehashing of a project irks me to no end, stifles my creative juices and leaves me feeling more wrung out than I have any right to be. I have been that way since I was a child. Decisive action is the way to go.
That is why abandoned commissions irk me so.
I'll share a few of the stories with you, starting with the first.
I had made my mother a bracelet. It had a bit of an old Hollywood feel with lots of swarovski crystals, antiqued brass, and vermeil components. It had been a labor of love. Painstakingly, I wove together beads, components, and crystals with golden tiger tail wire to make something reminiscent of a a diamond tennis bracelet. It took a lot of planning to properly execute it and when it came together, it was beautiful.
One Sunday, the Mahogany Stylist wore it to church. While it was good for me because I received a great deal of commissions as a result, the bracelet's popularity was a double edged sword. People who never had a kind word for me suddenly wanted my attention, wanted to know everything I was doing and began hounding me for a copy of the bracelet. Many were content with just that, a copy. Others wanted a slight variation with silver accents instead of gold. Some of them wanted COLORS instead of the simple golden and crystalline clear design my mother had.
That meant buying more materials... I was excited at first, so I obliged to make the bracelets. I bought materials, crystals, and components in a variety of metallic finishes. I was planning how I'd spend the remainder of my meager paycheck on supplies that would help me to make more money than I could at the job I was currently working. My enthusiasm, however, was wholly unwarranted.
In hindsight, a great deal of the first few commissioners were spot on with their understanding of the expectations for a requested item worked, even if mine wasn't. They paid gladly, left tips, and chastised me when they found my prices too low. $25 for a tennis bracelet carefully woven to look like the real thing. That was cheap even if it was costume jewelry.
However, it was the ones who had so many requests, so many variations, the "the fancy clasp, not the plain clasp you've been using on everyone else's. I want mine to REALLY stand out" folks who posed the most trouble. These self-absorbed, delusional misers seemed to have some bizarre notion that when you ask a person you see regularly at church to make you something, it should be free. One woman went as far as to claim, "Well, since we're sisters in Christ..." as if Jesus himself would condone her propositioning me under false pretenses and weaseling out of paying for her bracelet.
If I remember correctly, he trashed the temple for robbing the people by soliciting the purchase of sickly, unwanted sacrificial animals they claimed were up to higher standard. Essentially, he condemned them for taking advantage of the people's naive trust in things related to their place of worship. Which was what this woman TRIED to do. By pleading 'sister in Christ' she attempted to absolve herself from something honorable like paying for requested goods.
I will admit that at that age, 19, I was still very naive, but I was not stupid. I offered to hold the goods until she was able to pay because I needed to try to recoup my costs. In response, she began telling other churchgoers that I charged 'top dollar', as if my efforts weren't worth the small price I was asking. In the end, people eventually saw the truth, but she still clamors for attention every now and then by loudly exclaiming 'When Can I Get My Bracelet??'. Thankfully, no one pays much attention to her any more.
She wasn't the only one to try to worm out of paying for one of those bracelets..and for a long time, I had quite a lot of them on my hands. I eventually sold them off at a slightly reduced price and recieved quite a few rave reviews for my efforts. Here are some pictures. I apologize for the quality. I was still learning to photograph jewelry back then. haha.