Why I Do Custom Work.

Since beginning this journey as a mixed media artist in 2013, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing why I do what I do. From what colors and images I choose, to what techniques I shun or embrace, and even why I give away at least 20% of the art I make in a year. Those that know me in real life are probably not shocked by this little revelation at all.

Recently, I’ve had something happen I’ve never had happen before- a run of custom work from different sources. When I was first starting out, a colleague of mine named Danielle commissioned me to do several custom works, and I am forever grateful because it showed me:

  1. Others valued my vision and wanted to share it.
  2. I could make some money selling my work, even if it wasn’t a ton.
  3. I had a talent for making pieces people responded to- even if they hadn’t seen it until completion.

Back to the current run of custom requests. First I got one from my Amazon store, for a rock n’ roll themed piece. The buyer wanted a diptych for her husband that featured specific artists. I completed it and the result was a smashing success. Her husband was thrilled and they were especially happy with the time I took to find special elements- ticket stubs, old 45’s, and other stuff. Her review made my heart sing and was one of the best, most awesome compliments I’ve received to date on my work.

Then I got a request from a personal friend to do a themed piece for her son and a charity she holds dear; both of those are in progress and have very different themes and designs.

But today really knocked my socks off. 

I sell on Etsy, Amazon, and Facebook and at shows locally, when I can. I’ve had the most success on Etsy & Facebook, and spend a good amount of time trying to nurture my presence on both.

So I wasn’t surprised to see a few messages from a buyer on Etsy asking me questions about 4 of my collages. It was a little odd that she sent me several messages but I didn’t think too much about it; sometimes people get excited and I don’t mind. 

About the 4th message in, her words stopped me in my tracks:

I have autism. When I need down time your stuff is exciting, interesting and calming for me. Your art connects with how I experience stuff.

Reading those words took my breath away; though I don’t live on the spectrum, I’ve known those who do and know people with kids who do. It is not easy. But it is also not terrible and I have a deep, abiding empathy for the struggle autistic people feel to connect and feel connections. 

In addition to the pieces she custom-ordered, she also bought three of my existing works. It just humbles me beyond words. Clearly, the art speaks to her and brings her something so intrinsically important that she dropped a decent amount of money to make it happen.

I’m going to love doing this project more than words can say. And it exemplifies why I will take on custom work when others won’t- connection. And if that can make a difference, bring joy and calm and anything else positive- then it is absolutely worth the time.

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