Top 5 Tips for Commissioning Custom Sculptures

Commissioning a custom sculpture can be both exciting and intimidating. Unlike an existing sculpture, you can’t see the piece ahead of time, run your fingers over its surface, or look at it from different angles – making it challenging to imagine the final result.  That said, for many of our customers, a commissioned sculpture offers unique advantages that an existing piece cannot provide. For example, in many cases, interior designers, architects, or landscape designers may find a piece that’s almost perfect but is too big or small for a specific residential, hospitality or commercial space they’re working on; or they may be looking for something specific to fit a unique concept they’re working on. In other cases, public or governmental organizations and institutions may be looking for a unique indoor or outdoor sculpture to address a specific theme, commemorate a public figure, and so on.

In all these cases and more, a commissioned sculpture offers a unique opportunity to bring a specific vision to life.  Now that we’ve established that commissioning a sculpture is both beneficial and challenging, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 tips for doing it right. Based on our decades of experience creating commissioned works of art and installations for public and private spaces, we believe that these tips can help make the commissioning process more seamless for both our artists and our customers.

1. Research Artists

Even if you’re commissioning a unique sculpture and not a modification of an existing one, it’s important to find an artist who fits the style you’re looking to achieve. Although the artist accepts commissions and is open to new ideas, their unique, personal style will always be apparent in their work. If you’ve found an artist who you think could be a good match, take the time to look at his or her existing works of art, and make sure that the style is what you hope to achieve in your commissioned sculpture. 

2. Get to Know the Artist

Creating a personalized sculpture is a partnership, and it’s important to make sure that you can communicate well with your chosen artist and that he or she can connect with your artistic vision. Therefore it’s a good idea to meet, physically or virtually, and discuss your vision together. Let the artist know what intrigued you about their work, and share your ideas for the sculpture you want to commission.  If possible, use reference images to give the artist a better idea of what you’re looking for. It can also be helpful to share pictures of the place where you plan to put the sculpture so that the artist can connect with the surrounding aesthetics. Remember, artists are inherently visual, so any visual input you can give them is likely to be more helpful than verbal input. 

3. Sign a Professional Commision Contract

Commissioning a sculpture is a complex and multifaceted process, with many potential pitfalls. Therefore, it is critical to sign a professional contract before embarking on your artistic journey—see some sample contracts here. Each contract is unique, but we’ve found that the following elements are especially important. 

Detailed Description 

A contract should start out with a detailed description of the project, including the size, materials, and subject matter. The more details, the better. Try not to be vague or assume that the artist envisions the project the same way you do—make sure to drill down. 

Payment

Most artists require a split payment structure for a commissioned sculpture, including an upfront payment to initiate the project, and a second payment upon completion. In most cases, at least 50% of the total will need to be paid upfront, to cover the costs of materials and the artist’s other ongoing expenses. In order to get an idea of what the total price should be, it can be helpful to see how similar sculptures are priced on the Pasal website.. 

Timeline

The timeline in the contract should include more than the date of delivery for the final product. We recommend including a payment schedule, deadlines for drafts, previews, and approvals in order to stay on top of progress and prevent unnecessary delays. 

Copyrights and IP

Even though you have commissioned the sculpture, the artist created it and therefore still has legal rights to the artwork. Artists often want to display commissioned pieces on their websites, or on other promotional platforms. If you do not want the artist to show the sculpture you have commissioned, it’s important to create clear guidelines for future use in the contract. 

Artist Requirements

Depending on the type of sculpture and your vision, the artist may need input from you. For example, if you have commissioned a commemorative piece for a loved one, the artist may need quality photos of the subject. The contract should detail exactly what the artist needs. 

4. Keep in Touch During the Process

The artistic process is always fluid, so even if you have a perfect contract you should maintain an open line of communication with the artist throughout the process. If the artist is on the wrong track, you want to allow him or her to make changes before incurring expenses on expensive materials. It can also be upsetting to an artist to invest extensive amounts of time on a concept only to find out that it wasn’t what you had in mind. Frequent communication will lead to the best results. 

5. Work with a Project Manager Who Knows the Field

Commissioning a sculpture is a process that requires a lot of effort for everyone involved, and it can be helpful to work with an expert or project manager who can help you select the right artist and make sure your project is implemented accurately on a timely basis.  With over 40 years of experience in creating commissioned indoor and outdoor works of art, we can guide you through this process and make sure you get a one-of-a-kind sculpture that fulfills the vision of everyone involved in your project. Feel free to browse our artists and contact us to learn more about creating your dream sculpture.

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