Commissioning Contemporary Craft

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A post from the archives by madebyhandonline director Katie…

At madebyhandonline we encourage customers to engage with the making process and commission our makers to create pieces of work with extra meaning and personal relevance. It creates a real attachment with the finished piece and a heightened appreciation for the skill involved. It’s also such an enjoyable thing to do and every now and then we like to do it too!

Recently I commissioned a lamp to go beside my bed. It had to be quite small because of limited space and, in a very male dominated house, I wanted it to be a little bit feminine! I’ve always loved the work of Jennifer Collier and Sammy & Glenn from pachadesign. Both very different in style, but their work communicates such a love and intrinsic understanding of the materials they use. I know that whatever they make will be amazing – it will be full of emotion and will celebrate the handmaking processes and qualities of the materials they use.

Other than providing dimensions, I kept the design very open. I started by asking Jennifer to make a shade and I then gave the shade to Sammy and Glenn to make a base for it. I’d always loved their reclaimed oak and slate bases, however this style just didn’t quite fit the delicate feel of the shade so they explored different possibilities and then found a beautiful vintage sewing bobbin. It was a bit weathered and had lovely little bits of copper on the top and bottom.

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The bobbin was really highly varnished so they sanded it back to the wood to soften it to the shade. And here’s the finished lamp…

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Whether buying for yourself, or looking for a thoughtful gift, commissioning something bespoke is exciting but can also be a bit nerve wracking. My experience really highlighted how important it is to know a bit about the makers before you start. Also there are different ways to commission. Some customers come to us with very fixed ideas about what they want, and makers either accept or decline, and other times customers have an idea but are very happy to hand it over to the maker and be led by them.

A few things to consider when looking to commission a maker… Look really carefully at what they make so that you know a bit about their style and inspirations. Makers rightly don’t want to copy another maker’s work – requests to ‘reproduce’ something probably won’t be well received! When in discussions with makers be very clear whether your idea is tight or whether you’re open to the maker to take it in their direction.

I am now very happy with the most beautiful lamp by my bed – it makes turning the light off at the end of the day even more pleasurable! Here are Jennifer’s paper lampshades and pachadesign’s oak and slate lamps. Both makers, and many others, are available to commission and can be contacted via their pages.

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