- Sara Nordling
Threading the loom for my most recent commission.
Some weavers hate doing commission work. I can understand that. I had one client years ago that almost made me quit doing them altogether. Too many demands, too many changes, and too many things not right with the work I was doing for her. I have changed my opinion on commission work. I have a contract that I give to people to explain the process and fee structure which helps cut down on the demands and changes. It’s more than that, though, it’s a great designing challenge!
Often the clients I am working with are churches who want something woven for use in a worship setting or elsewhere in their buildings. They are not weavers. Instead of being scary, I find it exciting. I am dealing with groups of people, or individuals, who have no idea what is possible and what is not possible on a loom. This is good for several reasons.
First, they aren’t limited in their imagination. Not being weavers, they don’t know what looms can and cannot do. They may throw out all kinds of ideas that can’t be woven. It’s my job to take the seed of that idea and turn it into something that can be woven. Or, they may have no idea of what they want, and I show them samples to see what they like and don’t like. After that they may still surprise me by wanting a certain look or feel to what I’m making. Or, they may want curves and not straight lines, different colors, or additional colors. Yet, in the continued dialog I often find that I can come closer to what I thought was impossible and learn some new things in the process.
Educating people on what’s possible helps me clarify my vision. Working with non-weavers can be challenge. They don’t know any of the terms, the limitations, or the processes involved. In getting my explanations in plain English without jargon it helps me to see what is important and essential about what I’m making. Using more shafts just because I have them for a design may be fun and challenging for me but this sort of thing is lost on a client. Helping them through the process helps focus me on what’s important in the design and what I can do without.
The collaboration and exchange pushes me to places I would not have gone on my own. Taking the above two points into consideration, clients can often ask to see some “what if” possibilities. They then suggest changes. Sometimes these are things like wanting the mood or feel of the design to be a bit different, adding in an additional color, changing a color slightly, being more abstract, or more representational is a design. All of these push me to go design in ways I would not have thought of on my own. Having limits to push against in the design process helps to hone the design. If all things are possible, and any option is open to you, where do you begin? Limits and restrictions give you a way to focus your design work.
The clients then have some ownership of the process and I build relationships for future work. If not from them then from people they refer. Having clients be a part of the process not only helps my design, it works to keep the client involved and knowledgeable about the process. It builds a relationship with the client so that they feel like they are getting something person, special and designed just for them. Building relationships is good and helps create your brand and reputation as a weaver.
If commission work still isn’t for you, here’s something you might want to try. Have a non-weaving friend help you design something. They may never actually get the item you are weaving, but the process is the same. You get their input and fresh ideas, while pushing yourself creatively. It will also help your friends know what is involved in what you do.
Happy Designing! Happy Weaving!