sewing table

How to commission a handmade item

So do you know how to commission a handmade item from a crafter or artist? I only ask because, before I started Kraken Kreations, commissioning a tote or a cushion cover was an utter mystery to me, like atom splitting or the popularity of David Walliams.  For some reason the ‘C’ word made me picture a process akin to tapping nervously on an artist’s door and being charged the GDP of a small African nation for the privilege. And I can honestly say that at until the age of 45 (just one year ago) I had never commissioned anything (I know, I know).

Well, since starting my business I’ve discovered the reality of commissioning and thankfully it’s nothing like my wild ideas. In fact, the ‘C’ word is just a fancy way of asking someone to make something for you and, thanks to my customers, I’ve now made hundreds of commissions of my own. So if, as I used to, the commissioning process is a mystery to you, this is how the whole thing works:

For me the process usually starts with an email or Facebook message from someone with an idea. It might be a riff on an item already on my website such as a knitting project case with an extra long handle or it’ll be a completely new item that will make me hop about with the prospect of fresh challenges.

Fact is, I’m open to all sorts of ideas and some of my faves have been when customers come at me with blue-sky thinking (as opposed to restraining orders). I’ve made so many items which I would never have thought of myself and you imaginative customers are my biggest source of inspiration. Be warned, though. There are two things I won’t do. The first is any form of dressmaking (because the stress would give me a stroke) and the second is copying someone else’s idea (because that’s soooo not cool).

Anyway, whatever you have in mind, it doesn’t matter whether your idea is fully formed (some customers send me sketches and dimensions) or just a vague notion of something (some customers send me emails which simply read, “Purple pencil case, please.”). Just hit me with whatever is in your head and we’ll work it out.

It’s at this point that I’ll start firing questions at you. I’m not trying to be a pain in the arse though. I just want to get the item bang on. You are, after all, paying good money to get what you want and it’s my job to make sure you get it. So be prepared for me to ask you about your fave colours or preferred pocket styles for bags, your must-have length and absorbency for cotton sanitary pads or how many centimetres deep you need your laptop case to be. I’ll even double check your measurements because you’ll be boggled at how often I’ve been asked to make, say, a book cover that’s 30 inches, rather than 30cms, wide (which might work for the Book of Kells but not for anything you want to keep on your desk).

As for fabrics,  if you haven’t checked them out already I’ll direct you to my online directory or I’ll give you links to my fave online retailers. You can browse their sites and send me links to your fave fabrics which I can then order in for you. Or if the whole print/ colour thing is all a bit overwhelming (even I gibber in some fabric shops) I can just choose the fabrics for you.

It’s at this stage that I’ll design your item. It might mean the quick addition of a zip or the lengthening of a shoulder strap or it might mean developing something from scratch. It’s a quick job, though and when it’s done we’ll crack our knuckles and talk payment (cue Great British panic).

Assuming you like and have approved whatever design we’ve made, I’ll give you a price. The chances are that it will cost only marginally more than a comparable item on my website but it all depends on how extensive your commission has been. The price will be determined by all sorts of things such as whether I’m buying in fabric, if you want additional notions such as webbing or buttons, how complex the item is and how long it will take to make.

And once I’ve given you the price? It’s entirely up to you to whether you want to go ahead. I won’t sneak into your house like The Babadook and terrify your family until you agree to buy sky pockets. Seriously, there is no obligation. Most people are pleasantly surprised at the price of their item but if it makes you stagger backwards while screaming, just walk away. Alternatively, you can modify your design to make it more affordable or I can shelve the commission until you, say, get paid. One glorious customer of mine has ordered five bags as Christmas gifts and she commissions one or two as and when she gets paid. It’s totally up to you.

Then, when I receive payment via Paypal, I’ll pop you on my order list and start the process of making your item. I’ll have already told you when you can expect to receive it and I’ll keep you in the loop the entire time. Oh, and if you want your item made by a particular deadline such as a birthday let me know at the start and I’ll do everything I can to get it to you on time.

Then just sit back and let me do the work. I’ll modify existing patterns for items which just need tweaks or I’ll design new items on paper before committing them to fabric and starting construction. I’ll then get sewing once any ordered-in items have arrived and… well, that’s it!

Your item will then be wrapped in tissue paper and labelled with a tag of the fabric used in your commission (I love how so many of you actually pin these tags to your notice boards!) and you’ll get it in the post. If it’s an expensive commission, such as an embroidery, I’ll send it by recorded delivery. All you have to do then is leave a, ahem, glowing review on my Facebook page and BOOM! We’re all done!

So commissions aren’t so mysterious after all. They’re just a series of steps where you tell me what you want and I make it. I don’t know about you but I’ll never fear the ‘C’ word again. And if you had a bright idea while reading this, email me at cath@krakenkreations.co.uk. I’m totally ready and waiting.