Finding and Hiring a Sculptor – Compare Apples With Apples

Finding and Hiring a Sculptor – Compare Apples With Apples
By Bridgette Mongeon  2012 ©

15 or 20 years ago the only way to find a sculptor was through a gallery. Now, with the Internet, it is much easier to find a sculptor for commissioned artwork. After finding a selection of artists, what is the criteria that a collector should use to select one artist for a project?

How to find a sculptor
Searching the Internet for artists is pretty simple. A search for “sculptors”, may be too broad, and narrowing the search by using location or subject, or even style: “Houston, Texas Sculptors”, “Sculptor of Children, or realistic bronze sculptor” may assist in the process.

With a handful of artists to choose from, the following questions can help in narrowing a collectors search:

Is the work appealing?
The first criteria a collector should use to decide on a sculptor is how they feel about the artists sculpting style. Many artists website have sculpture galleries where potential clients can explore more of the sculptor’s work. Is the sculptor’s artwork similar to the style desired for the potential project?

A collector has a choice of seasoned-professional or a budding artist. A collector may prefer the value added to artwork when created by a seasoned and collected artist. Some collectors select a budding  sculptor because of a limited budget or a desire to assist the artist’s career. A collector can get a feel for the experience of a sculptor by floating through the sculptor’s website. However, there are still many seasoned sculptors who have not taken to the Internet and do not have Internet representation. A Google name search of the preferred artists may reveal further information. Online articles or interviews may help a collector get a better sense of the person behind the sculptor.

Getting along with an artist is an essential element of commissioning them to create a piece of artwork for your home, company or loved one. Are they easy going? Are they going to listen to a clients input? How do they work with changes? Do they ask questions? Do they go above and beyond for time and presentations?

Type of work
There are some sculptors who prefer not to sculpt children, or do not like doing posthumous sculpture. Not liking the subject matter has to affect the outcome of the sculpture.

As the client reviews the work that the sculptor has done, if the potential project is different from anything else in the sculptor’s portfolio, ask the sculptor how they feel about it. They may not have a sample similar to the potential project, but the sculptor may be waiting for the opportunity that your project holds.

Their workload
Some sculptors may be an absolute perfect fit, but their schedule may not fit into the time frame of your project. If the collector hopes to get the work completed in a designated amount of time, this may be a prime factor on who to use.

This may or may not be an issue for a collector. If a collector wants to watch the project and visit the artist studio for approval, then having a local artist might be something that they desire. But there are advantages to having an out of state sculptor, as well. One advantage is that the sculptor may not have to charge sales tax on the project. With a hefty commission, this could be a considerable amount of money.

In some cases, location is not a problem. Sculptors work with collectors all over the world. Files, photographs and videos can be sent to the client for approval. A blog on the progress is also a solution, that way, the collector can follow the progress of the sculptor.

The sculptor will want to narrow down your thought process before trying to create a final design. If the client requires preliminary sketches, how many are expected?

Is a pencil sketch of the life-size sculpture sufficient? Some collectors prefer a clay maquette. A clay maquette has the same look, as the large sculpture but is a small tabletop version. Some artists create maquettes as part of their process of sculpting, others will charge for the maquette. Some artist may provide pencil sketches and still others may provide digital models giving the collector a 360 degree view of the potential project.

Artists charge different prices. The actual cost of creating a bronze is costly; the sculptor’s sculpting fee adds to the cost and will determine the different prices sculptors charge. If a collector wants to compare estimates from different sculptors, be sure each has the same information, that way you are comparing apples with apples.

Here are some thoughts and questions to get a collector started on the process. The artist may help the collector figure out someone of these details.

  • Is the collector looking for a life-size sculpture, a larger monument, or a small figurine?
  • Be descriptive when asking for a portrait bust. There are several sizes including shoulder and neck or larger. Some portrait busts include the chest.
  • It is important to give each artist a good description of what the collector would like. Include the size of the sculpture or figure. Don’t just say, “I want a life-size sculpture of my son.” Say, “I’m seeking a life size sculpture of my son at the age that he is now, which is 15, he is 5’ tall and slender in build, I’m attaching a photograph for you to see.” What clothing does the figure wear? The good rule of thumb is the more mass on a sculpture the more bronze it will take and, therefore, the more the sculpture will cost. So, if the sculpture is of a man and he has a beard and a cloak, that is more money than a clean-shaven man in a suite. Are there other elements to the sculpture? Remember more bronze equals more cost. Is the figure to sit on a bench? Will they be riding a bronze bike, swinging on a bronze swing, or balancing on a bronze log?
  • Where will this sculpture be placed?
  • Is it going to be installed indoors or outdoors?
  • Will the sculpture be flat on the ground, if not, do you envision a bronze base, wood or marble?
  • In addition to the above items you may want to ask the artist, does your prices include all charges? Such additional costs may consist of:
  • The artists expenses for travel. Sales tax or other taxes Installation
  • Shipping, crating and delivery. If you need prices for this, please be sure to give the artist the shipping address, so they can calculate it properly.

How does the artist receive payments? What are their payment terms?

Does the artist have a contract? Once you specify all of the above they will send you a contract to sign.

Is this a one of a kind sculpture? May artists will reserve the right to pour editions of their bronzes. Of course, not all bronzes are marketable. An edition of your Uncle Joe may not be of interest to an artist, but an edition of a child reading a book may. The contract will state if this is a one of a kind or a limited edition bronze. You can specify a one of a kind, but the price may be higher. Often the artist weighs what they will charge for a bronze, compared to what they will charge others for future editions. The edition  may not sell out right away, but they may over the life of the artist. You might also specify how many will be in the edition and what you would like to collect. Some collectors want to collect only AP’s Artist Proofs. Others want to collect the number 1 in the edition. Many collectors have no preference at all.

Having a clear communication between yourself and the sculptors that you may hire helps you to compare apples to apples. Understanding the nuances of the process keeps you informed.This article will help you to start asking the questions necessary to see your own creative thoughts come to life.

By Bridgette Mongeon is a commissioned sculptor, writer and speaker on the arts.

If you would like to use this article and image you may do so at no charge. The byline and copyright must be included. Please send me an email to let me know where it is used.

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