Commissioning a unique piece of craft is an exciting experience. Here's six easy steps to help you make the most of the process.

1. Outline a brief

Before you start take time to think about you want from the commission, particularly any measurement specifications, materials, colours or themes. It can also be useful, for you and the maker, to consider what you don’t want.  You may want the maker to have creative freedom or you may have clear requirements, which you need to outline in a brief. Bear in mind that the best results are often achieved when there is enough flexibility for the maker to input creatively. The length of a commission can vary depending on the maker’s availability, the complexity of the design or locating of materials.

2. Know your budget

The materials, scale, production methods and development time of your commission may influence the price. It is good to have a clear idea of the budget within which you want to work.

3. Research a suitable maker

There are many talented makers to choose from. Visiting Cockpit Arts’ Maker Directory is a great starting place. Attending Open Studios events are also a good way to meet makers in person and see their work at first hand. If you would like someone to manage the commissioning process on your behalf then you might want to consider approaching a specialist gallery or agent.

4. Set up a meeting to finalise the commission

Arrange a meeting with your chosen maker to discuss your commission in more detail. Once the timetable, budget and brief has been agreed, confirm this in writing so that both parties are clear or alternatively the maker might issue a specific contract. If you are happy to proceed, the maker will usually request a non-refundable payment of 50% of the final fee in advance. This is common practice as it will be used to cover the initial design time and any materials that need to be purchased in advance

5. Managing the process

Once the above has been agreed the maker will normally send you a selection of design options for you to select from. Once a design has been agreed they will begin work. You might be required to come in for a fitting or to agree certain design stages or changes along the way. Do feel free to contact the maker if you have any concerns or questions about how the commission is progressing.

6. Collection and care

Depending on the value or scale of the piece, your commission will either be sent to you, collected in person, or installed. If you kept in touch with the maker then there shouldn’t be any unwanted surprises and you should be delighted with the final piece. At this stage any outstanding payment should be settled. Also make sure you ask about any care or maintenance instructions. For example how do you look after/clean the piece? You might also want to see if they have a statement or biography available that you can keep. You’re likely to receive countless compliments about your commission so it’s useful to have some background about who made it and how..

Finally – enjoy the process as this is likely to be the first of many commissions to come!

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