Tonight I made two frogs. If you know anything about my past life, you’ll know that I have made quite a few frogs. And sold them. But tonight, after weeks of procrastination, I made two frogs. And I am thrilled.
The story started when I was asked to do a special project for the head of the pre-school at the local Community College. She wanted two plaques, one with a lizard and one with a frog. Each would be hung on the wall by the door of the two class rooms. Originally, she was thinking they would be out of metal, but I told her that my previous media was polymer clay which would be more colorful and probably safer and more long-lasting than steel. She agreed to this and I set off to the studio to become “Miss Professional Artist”. And that’s when I made my biggest mistake. I thought that I should come back to her with a design for each plaque and a cost sheet, broken down to materials and labor. I thought that she should have some idea of what it was going to look like when I finished. I thought that the less surprises, the better. Hummmph.
So I came up with two relatively easy designs, worked out the cost, did a couple of mock-ups of the background and a lizard. (After making hundreds of dozens of lizards in my wholesale days, I could whip this one out easily.) I brought the designs in and we agreed on the cost. And I went back to the studio and started to make the lizard. See, at this point I was still into the idea that I would work for the amount of hours I had stated, and that I would actually MAKE money on this project. Uh huh.
I finished the lizard, took a picture of it and sent it to the head of the school. It’s funny how, even without the benefit of non-verbal cues, I was able to pick up on her lack of enthusiasm. Or maybe I was projecting, because I wasn’t very enthused about it either. The result was that the unfired plaque sat on my piano for a month or more while I dealt with my open studio. And I was definitely resisting working on the frog, even though the design was clear. Basically, I was going to have to make a bigger frog, which I had never done, and somehow have a tongue shooting out to catch a fly. I was NOT excited about having to figure this challenge out.
Well, to make a long story short, I finally had a revelation. I took the lizard plaque off the piano and mushed it into a big ball and started all over again. This time, I decided to make it from my heart and not my brain. I let the muses remind me what colors I like to work with and comfortable ways of creating texture without losing the design. And it worked! In addition, the e-mail response was considerably warmer. And while my time budget has been blown to smithereens, I am so much calmer and happier.
So now, I am making the frogs for the second plaque. You see, I have realized that this is not the time to experiment and play, this is the time to create what I know. It’s amazing how many times I have to remind myself of this. I should write in very big letters in my studio: “WHEN YOU ARE ON A DEADLINE, MAKE WHAT YOU KNOW. THERE WILL BE TIME TO EXPERIMENT LATER.” And that, my friends, is the moral of the story. Now if I can just remember it for the next project.
Let me know if you have had a similar experience when you have created a commission for someone!