Tag Archives: commission

Designing it and making it – commission a piece of stained glass and do all the hard work too!

Deb and Mick with the completed windows, installed by Mick
Deb and Mick with the completed windows, installed by Mick

What could be better than commissioning a piece of stained glass?
Designing it and making it – of course!

Have you noticed that the ‘don’t buy it, make it’ movement is really gathering momentum?
This is something Jenny and I (Vitreus Art) are being asked for more often than ever.

Although it’s a little counter-intuitive to be agreeing to help potential customers make their own commissions, we reason that the pleasure of owning art is enhanced by having had some involvement is creating it.

We always go to considerable lengths when discussing commissions with clients to uncover their tastes, incorporate their ideas, and to give them the opportunity and means to decide on colours and textures.
Agreeing to teach the client and help them make their own piece is taking this to a logical further step – if they want.

Of course we still welcome commissions in the conventional sense, but just as we’ve seen our teaching practice expand along with the growing interest in craft courses and artisan-made work, so has interest in designing one’s own stained glass.

A few weekends ago we began teaching Deb and Mick to make stained glass in the traditional leading method – as part of their project to make 4 stained glass panels for a new door and surround they’d had made.
The project began some months before, however – when the couple visited us at an Open Studios event at our Adstock studio.

Deb says: “We knew we needed a front door and thought it might be nice to have some stained glass in it but we wanted to have a hand in the design rather than have something traditional. 

After research on the internet we found Vitreus Art and met Mike and Jenny. Before long we had agreed that with their support we would not only design the glass but also make it ourselves and this ambitious project got underway.”

The couple designed their own suite of 4 inter-connected windows, having discussed their design ideas with us at the ‘pencil and paper’ stage.
We shared the basic design rules and offered feedback. Later on, when the door woodwork was ready, Jenny and I visited to help refine the design and agree a final colour selection.

Mick takes up the story: “Jenny and Mike helped us to understand what was possible in terms of the design but have always taken the trouble to listen to our ideas and understand what we liked and wanted to achieve so that the finished work really does reflect our vision.
They took the time to visit us in our home so that they could see the design in context and help us select the colours that would look best.”

Mick, Deb and Jenny - what is it about Deb and a hammer that's making them laugh?
Mick, Deb and Jenny – what is it about Deb and a hammer that’s making them laugh?

We set aside a weekend and sourced the glass and  lead cames needed – allowing for some wastage and ‘accidents’.
Sally Eaton of Rowans Gallery kindly allowed us to use her workshop, affording us more space than our own studios provide so that we could work in pairs on two windows at a time.

Deb comments: “When we met to make the panels they proved to be skilled teachers, helping us to quickly acquire the techniques we needed to start work.
Although we were novices and needed their help with the more challenging parts of the complex design, they never took over – we always felt that it was our work. We are also grateful for their flexibility when the project took longer than expected.”

Some further time was required to finish the fourth, largest panel – proving that projects always take longer than one’s best estimates and highlighting that a bit of leeway to spend some extra time is advisable if planning a project of your own.

Mick then began the work of installing the windows – not a task to be trivialised! The door and adjoining windows dimensions were sized to allow for a current-regs compliant sealed unit with the stained glass panels behind, all held in with a combination of mastic and matching wood beading for finish off.

The result looks very similar to a traditional stained glass installation, with the benefit of additional security, thermal and noise proofing thanks to the sealed units.

Deb and Mick sum up their experiences: “There is great pleasure in either designing or making but to do both is truly satisfying and with the help of this great team is not as daunting as you might think.

We would like to thank Mike and Jenny for helping us achieve our vision.
The door is stunning and will give pleasure for years to come – not just to us but to all who pass by!”

Well Deb and Mick – we really enjoyed working with you – you were great students and the results are a credit to both of you!

Mick soldering panel number 2
Mick soldering panel number 2

We’ve estimated that the cost to the clients is probably similar to what it would have been if we’d made the panels ourselves. Even stevens – and two lovely people have had the pleasure of making something really significant for their home – and have an interesting story to tell their visitors!

Having completed several of these projects now, and with a fair weight of experience accumulated along the way, we’re going to be offering this kind of ‘self-made commission’ project as one of our services.

If you’ve made something in stained glass you’re proud of, head over to our Facebook page and post a photo or two – share what you’ve done!
If you’d like to see some of the photos we took while working with Deb and Mick, you can see them here.
Or if you’d like to commission a piece of stained glass and would like to be involved in making it, get in touch!

Happy holidays and here’s to a creative 2013!
Mike & Jenny






What does a gallery do for their 40(or more) percent?

The sculpture Garden at Obsidian Art
The sculpture garden at Obsidian Art

45% commission for selling my art work?

I hear this quite often – why should I pay a gallery 45% commission to sell my art?

Well, I expect the answer varies according to how serious one is as an artist, or which other channels one uses to sell one’s work.

I know for sure that aside from achieving sales, working with a gallery can be a valuable learning experience for the new but talented artist, and in fact that 45% or whatever they charge has to cover a lot of outgoings we artists might not think of!

First and most obvious, the gallery owner has to make a living by selling art – so they need to charge a commission that reflects the skill of selecting good work that matches the audience, displaying it attractively and the costs of being present and well-informed enough to sell it.

And don’t forget – we all have business premises to pay for – but a gallery, especially on a high street, will have much higher rent or other property costs to pay than we artists usually do.

And the gallery owner has to market the gallery (and by extension, your work) – advertising, PR and website promotions all cost money.

Then there are the general running costs of a gallery – electricity and water, display equipment to buy, and so on. Even just having a credit card machine costs around £30 per month, plus an annual merchant account fee.

I sometimes wonder if artists occasionally forget that galleries are businesses?
They have to make money and are often the owner’s sole livelihood, plus their pension pot.

So what does the artist get for their 45% surrendered?

I think I can summarise these in bullet points:

  • Access to an audience of potential buyers or commission enquirers
  • Professional feedback on what the public thinks about what’s on display
  • The means of finalising the transaction – taking cards, etc
  • Marketing exposure
  • The opportunity for one’s work to be seen alongside other artists, many of whom may be well established and highly sought after
  • Lastly – credibility – being in a gallery can be a real boost to self-esteem, and professional standing

And what might a gallery expect from the artist?

Any gallery owners who have more to contribute are invited to add a comment!

  • Professionalism – deliver what’s been agreed, keep the correspondence up to date and respond to enquiries quickly
  • Submit genuinely saleable work of a high standard
  • Turn over the pieces on show often to keep the display fresh
  • Be available to answer questions
  • Be realistic about what might sell and how to price the work
  • Undertake marketing of their own and include gallery details on their emails and promotional work
  • Don’t undercut – if the piece you delivered is on your website, don’t offer to sell it for less than the gallery is charging

So,  in the spirit of my penultimate bullet point, here are the galleries Jenny and I (Vitreus Art) work with most regularly!

Do get in touch and tell me about the best (or worst) galleries you’ve visited, worked with, or bought something from!

Happy selling,