The problem is, they usually ask this question just after looking at my limited edition line of children. ( a limited edition means that I sculpt one sculpture, make a mold of it and sell a limited amount of the same sculpture-usually 10 if it’s in
bronze or 25 if it’s in cold cast bronze) The prospective client has seen the price of a limited edition sculpture and they think it would cost about the same to have their own child or grandchild made into a sculpture. People are often shocked at the price difference between a limited edition and commission work. I quite often feel a bit awkward as now I have to justify the price difference.
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 will be making ten sculptures in the edition, the price is divided over those ten pieces, so these cost of the mold making are now only $100 per casting. The sculpting fees are also deferred.
Sometimes people ask me if I would use their child as the model and make it into a limited edition. It depends on if I think the idea is marketable as a limited edition. Sometimes it’s a great sculpture, but the child is specifically designed for a particular rock it is to be sitting on or some other feature of its placement. Sometimes there is just a very limited
clientele that would be interested in purchasing a sculpture of a potential client’s specific idea. The large Yorkshire pig I sculpted last year has a pretty limited clientele! Not all pig farmers want a life-size bronze pig in their front yard-though I think they should! I also recall a four headed cobra that I cast for a guy-where did that go and what are they using it for?
When I come up with an idea for a limited edition sculpture, I usually sculpt it on spec. I think of an idea for a sculpture and how marketable I think it would be- if I don’t think enough people will open their wallets to pay for it, I can’t afford to sculpt it. I always keep in the back of my mind that I have a large family to support, mortgage and employees to pay!
When I am hired by a client to sculpt their private commission, I become their employee for the duration of the time I am working on their sculpture. Of course there are many perks to getting your own design in a sculpture-but
the client assume 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 being my provider!
I should note that there has been a time or two that somebody has approached me with a private commission and I have split 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 a landing eagle. 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 eagles. Another reason for wanting to do an edition of this eagle is that if I was about to go to all the work of sculpting all those wretched feathers, I might as well make a good buck at it!