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Craft Commission Contract Information

Until several years ago I thought the Commission Contracts commonly available through published books were adequate. That was until I went to use them myself for a commission of this Seder plate (below).


Right from the start, I realized there were issues not included in the contract that needed to be discussed such as the payment schedule, photography, and taxes (which amounted to a considerable sum.)

PursuitCornerCurl72With this is mind I want to share a resource for readers of ASK Harriete.

Commission information from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar from 2007 (scroll down)

Millennium of Pursuit Seder Plate from recycled tin cans.

SNAG PDS about  Commissions.
In 2007 the SNAG Professional Development Seminar sponsored a program about Commissions. The Speakers included John Medeweff, public sculpture; Cynthia Eid, silver commissions; and Todd Reed, jewelry.  The program was organized by Don Friedlich, Andy Cooperman, and myself, Harriete Estel Berman.

There is a very informative Commission handout which everyone may download for free.  I highly recommend reading this document with hard earned words of advice.

John Medeweff handout is titled "The Do’s & Don’ts of Public Art & Private Commissions". Here is a brief list of his 11 points

  1. Respond only to Call to Artists/RFQ (Request for Qualifications.)
  2. Follow the directions!
  3. Do not take rejections personally.
  4. Most selection committees will choose 3 finalists.
  5. Winning the commission is great but it also means that you will assume a huge responsibility.
  6. Not all public art agencies are created equal.
  7. Never start work on the project until ...
  8. Stand behind your work.
  9. Who is the Patron?
  10. Charge for design work!
  11. Installation.

Cynthia Eid offered practical information about commissions including topics:

  • Getting Commissions
  • Designing Commissions
  • Working with the Client
  • Working with a Committee
  • Pricing
  • Tactics for Making Large Sculpture in a Jewelry Studio
  • Preparing for Installation
  • Documentation and Photography

All of this information is available...but most people aren't aware of this untapped resource. Check it out!  You are welcome to share this information with a link to proper  attribution to the original source.

Millennium of Pursuit        2010 was commissioned by Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco, CA. This seder plate was inspired by the elaborate designs and patterns from the ceiling, walls, and window design of the early 20th century synogogue. View more contemporary Judaica.


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Commission Contract Resources & Recommendations

Commission Contract Resources & Recommendations

My name is Mara Friedland, and I am a metalsmith from Portland, Oregon. I am growing into the position of creating more commision pieces and am realizing I would like to have a contract to make both parties more comfortable.

Friedland_Mara_image #1Do you have a  commission contract recommendation so I "do not have to reinvent the wheel?" Thank you!"

If you have any insights they would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


First I will recommend a couple of resources for a commission contract, then add my professional recommendations.

Business and Legal Forms for Crafts 




Business and Legal Forms for Crafts

Your-Crafts-Business-A-Legal-Guide 0




 Your Crafts Business , A Legal Guide   by Nolo Press.







The Visual Artist’s Business and Legal Guide


Most of these books include a CD-ROM so there is a digital version as well that is easy to modify. None of these contracts are comprehensive so I have included a few additional issues below.

CommissionContractlistThe primary purpose of a Commission Contract is not enforcement. The objective is to bring forward issues that should be discussed in advance by both the client and maker.





Additional considerations for adding to your commission contract include:

  • Payment Schedule in installments
  • Timeline for progress and updates 
  • Design Fee (non refundable)
  • Deposit Before Fabrication for Materials
  • Photography (of the completed work)
  • Owner of object get a photographic image for insurance.
  • Artist/Makers can use image for publication, etc.  
  • Taxes are additional expense and the responsibility of the commissioning party
  • Shipping Expenses are additional and the responsiblity of the commissioning party
  • The copyright of the design is owned by the artist/maker unless the contract specifies another arrangement.
  • Additional fees for changes during contruction/fabrication after approval.

Photography may or may not be important. I recommend adding it to the price as an option. The client may need the photography for insurance purposes. The maker may want the photographic documentation for your records, perhaps an exhibition opportunity, or publication in a book or magazine. It really depends on the nature of the commission.

Confirm that the client is aware of taxes that will be added to the retail price. This might be a significant amount depending on the commission price.

Who is paying for shipping? (if necessary)

Does the maker want to include the option of borrowing the work for an exhibition? If so, negotiate this in the contract. This should be at no cost to the collector, possibly once every 3-4 years if they will allow it (depends on the work, of course).  Include that you will clean the work for the exhibition and that the shipping and insurance would be covered by the exhibition sponsor.

Add anything to the contract that you think is relevant. The important point is to put your conversation with the client in writing to avoid misunderstanding.

Hope this helps.

*The books are affiliate links provided for your convenience.