Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A commission unfolds... Part 1

It's always an interesting journey when somebody asks you to do a piece for them.  I think I am getting better at it - trying to ask the right questions, checking that we are seeing or thinking along the same lines, testing ideas early and then pretty much just getting on with it.

A friend recalled a piece of mine she had seen several years ago and we were trying to remember just what it looked like. I was at dinner at another friend's house and remembered he had bought it, so I asked if I  could borrow it back to show the commissionee. That was lucky - I had not photographed it before selling it - my bad.

We knew she wanted it embossed; on a concertina fold coming down the piece, so far so good. She brought along ideas about having the words go across, come down and be read both vertically and horizontally. So off I went.

I had to do a lot of maths.  I knew the depth of the frame that our local framers had; and I knew that the height of the paper when folded had to be less than this, because we also need to include mat board and the glass, so way out of the deep dark recesses of my mind I pulled some trigonometry and worked out how high the fold could be and therefore how wide each fold was and how far apart they could each be. Seriously left-brain work for a creative!

The first time I wrote it out I felt that it was unbalanced because of the big gaps between letters for the vertical words due to the concertina folds (we knew we needed the letters on the top of the concertinas to enable it to be read if hanging on a wall).

So I wrote the horizontal words with equal space to match the vertical words. Although the words looked better balanced in a way, this made it rather enormous, so I rang her and suggested she pop over and see what she thought!

We agreed it wasn't working, and in particular, she felt that the vertical word letters were kind of hanging there, unrelated and it took a while to work out you should read down not across.  We joked about "elo elo elo..."

So then the re-working began; which words would we use; how would we lay it out if we didn't use a crossword approach and so on...but that 's a story for later down the track. It's part of the process of trying to work with somebody to achieve what they had held in their imagination or mind's eye and translate that into something can be realised.

Despite the challenges, in so many ways it is a privilege to work for somebody like this - to try to make something as beautiful as they thought it might be...


  1. What fun to see your thought process and the progression of the piece. Love the elo, elo, elo. Electric Light Orchestra perhaps? Sorry, couldn't resist.

  2. you are so right...
    commissions can make one groan (though you are grateful to be asked)... there is an expectation and pressure involved... but sometimes the pressure yields diamonds... glad you and your friend are working well together - and i do love that finished piece that inspired her...

  3. Fiona....I'm most impressed...by your ability to pull trigonometry out of your hat and the skill to make this work. Bravo to you for the open-ended flexibility....best wishes!

  4. Whatever form it takes, I think it will be beautiful. Do share it again on completion if your commissioner is happy for you to do so.

  5. It's most interesting to see how you go about this Fiona. As a non-calligrapher, I sort of imagined you just sat down, wrote it out and voila! Done!
    But trigonometry???? That's serious stuff.

  6. i have no doubt that whatever the result, you will bring something very beautiful, and perfect, into being. I think the challenges of commissions in the creative arena are huge ......... good luck! :-)

  7. F-commissions - such a mixed blessing - whilst we know what is right when we are making stuff doesn't mean that the client sees it that way. Maybe better to be in the shadows and not in the commission limelight? B

  8. You know Jennifer - I thought of them too! And then got a song stuck in my head...an ear worm as they say.The calligraphic process is along and arduous one at times; have even skipped some steps here!

    MJ - thank you for that gem - that sometimes pressure produces diamonds! So perfect. We are working well together; but there is always a little something different to when you are doing work for yourself.

    Hi Patti- thanks! My notebook is full of triangles and hypotenuses to prove it! There is way too much maths in calligraphy for my liking really; but if you don't it never quite looks as good as it should. Flexibility is certainly the key and not being so committed to your way that its impossible to meet them where they are.

    I hope to Lesley - each piece has to take its own path doesn't it? We'll get there tho.

    Thanks Susan - yes, there are challenges, but if you pull it off, it's wonderful to know you hit the mark. Fingers crossed...

  9. Love the original piece you are working from....so elegant...also what a fun collaborative process between you and and your client to achieve her vision!

  10. Thank you Cynthia -I was really fond of the little piece and never thought I'd sell it - must be why I forgot to photograph it. Commissions that can be collaborations are the best sort I think. Go well!


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