Struggling Artist

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m a glass artist who works primarily on commissions. I sell once a
year at a local art fair where people see my work, where I sell pieces
for under $100, mostly to get some free publicity. But what I really
like to do is to work with people to come up with a unique installation
to fit their home and/or yard. The more I focus on what I like to do,
the more people seem to be drawn to me, in part because the people I
design for are happy with what we co-create. I have two problems, if
that’s ok. A very close friend wants me to make something for her
that’s like what I have in my own yard. It’s a large installation –
imagine a dozen pieces of paper, but made out of fancy glass. The
glass alone, relative to what the small art fair pieces cost, would be
close to $500 far more than I would want to charge a friend. She
insists on paying me. How can we both be comfortable? Also, a woman
called who said she has bought my art two years in a row but would
like me to make something special for her, just a little bigger. I told
her to bring pictures of the space, and dimensions, and invited her to
my studio, before I realized that she’s bound to notice my three pot
plants, which I am legally growing as sleep medicine. It’s almost
impossible to separate the art from the green vista. I think I’d get a
bigger job if she saw my art at my place. You have a snappy answer
for me?

Struggling Artist

Dear Struggling Artist:

Your problems are actually pretty easy to solve. You could have
included a third.

Re your friend, get clear with her on the cost of the glass. Start by
asking her what her budget is for the project. Then invite her to your
studio and to a local glass shop so she can see the array of color and
pattern options, and the relative cost of the fancy vs plainer glass. Let
her select and buy the glass directly for the project, and you keep the
remnants as compensation for your labors. You can charge her a small
fee for your art and kiln time if you want . I suspect she will insist on
that. Do what feels fair.

Re the visitor, walk her through your home studio so she can see what
her choices are, and then focus her on your selection of glass. Then
walk her into a different venue, your dining room table for example, to
talk about her project, and sketch it out together. If she asks about
your foliage, tell her it is an experiment with sleep medicine, and then
bring the conversation back to the glass.