A question I get asked quite often is “How much would it cost to have a portrait done of someone and cast in bronze?” I really enjoy doing portraits because it is such a challenge. The goal is to try and capture something of that persons spirit in clay, not just a likeness.
Often people will see the prices of my limited edition line of sculptures and assume that a private commission would be in that range. I create sculptures that come purely from my own imagination or sometimes from famous dancers that pose for me. I will make a mold of these sculptures and from that mold I am able to reproduce a small quantity of them, hence a limit amount or limited edition. That will spread the cost of the original sculpture out over several reproductions. People are often shocked at the price difference between a limited edition and commission work.
When it comes to pricing a private commission, all of the costs of sculpting, mold making, casting, and installation have to be absorbed into the one sculpture instead of being spread out among all the pieces in an edition. With a limited edition sculpture, if a mold costs one thousand dollars to make, and I make ten sculptures in the edition, the price is divided over those ten pieces, so the cost of the mold making is now only $100 per casting, etc…
Sometimes I will do a portrait of a famous dancer or athlete and and while that is technically a portrait I can justify it because it is marketable as a limited edition. I am sometimes asked to make a portrait of an individual and sell reproductions to off set the cost however, there is just a very limited clientele that would be interested in purchasing a sculpture of a potential client’s specific idea.
When I come up with an idea for a limited edition sculpture, I usually sculpt it on what is called speculation. I think of an idea for a sculpture and how marketable I think it would be, if I don’t think enough people will want to buy it, I can’t afford to sculpt it.
When I am hired by a client to sculpt their private commission, I am working just for them. Of course there are many perks to getting your own design in a sculpture, but the client assumes the responsibility of paying for all of my costs. On the other hand, with a limited edition, many people will ultimately share the cost of the sculpture.
I should note that there has been a time or two that somebody has approached me with a private commission and I have given them a great deal on the basis that I can make more than one because I see the possibility of selling more than one. For example, a client approached me with an idea of creating a life sized “Pandora” from a small maquette that they saw in my studio. I thought that was a great idea, so instead of charging him for the whole cost of one, I made him a deal which was quite a bit less. It paid for my sculpting and mold making. I’ll sell about five or more life sized “Pandoras”.
Also, until we have fleshed out all the particulars of a commission piece it is hard to come up with a price. Every commission is a one of a kind so there is not one price fits all. What I normally do first is have a meeting with the client to find out what they are interested in and as much history on the subject as possible. I take into account their possible budget and time frame. Then I will do a rough sketch just to see if I am on point. If it looks good then I can generally give the client and estimate.
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