At first, this made sense to me, and the story went like this:
This 'artistic midwifery' is what inspires so many artisans to flee their 9-5 job to take up a craft in the first place, and to devote the hundreds of precious hours needed to become expert.
The hope, of course, is that appreciative patrons will peruse the showcase of spontaneously manifested works of fine craft and pay good money for the piece that calls to them, as if the piece chose to be born in that particular artist's studio, to be seen by that particular customer, to find a final resting place in that particular living room.
But, alas, economic realities make themselves felt, and the artisan sooner or later is forced to accept the custom made order.
What the artisan finds is that, with exact dimensions, color, and style predetermined, what they've got in front of them is a big fat J-O-B.
Like I said, this made logical sense to me. I even thought that I'd verified the conundrum when during my first few custom made orders I was so stressed about satisfying the customer, and lacked the confidence needed to enjoy myself, that I swore I'd never do custom work again.
However, I've come to view custom made orders very differently, and I believe a change in perspective could benefit every artisan out there who feels oppressed by the constraints of a custom job.
The reality is this: My clients are not paying me to get the size and color right, they're paying me to CARE.
Sweatshops in Bangladesh are great at getting the size and color right.
Contractors throwing up cookie-cutter spec houses are getting the size and color right.
I first realized this while sanding a huge custom order end grain cutting board. I'd already perfected the process of building this kind board, so I was just going through the motions when I found myself looking for the reflected light on the board and wondering how the light would reflect on the grain in that particular client's kitchen. I'd been in this client's house before and could visualize their kitchen which had zero natural light and very bright under-cabinet light bulbs. Holding a lamp at the appropriate location relative to the board, I decided that the glare on the board highlighted the grain pattern best when the board was rotated in a particular position, so I changed the location of the finger-holds to make it more likely that the board would stay in such a position when in use.
Finding this little consideration fulfilling, I continued to put myself in the place of the client. What would be the first thing I noticed about the cutting board? Where would I store it? Why did I want it in the first place? Why was I spending money on a custom made cutting board?
All of these questions began informing small decisions I would make along the way, decisions of which I previously had been unaware.
These days, most of the custom orders I'm doing for people are projects with outer processes that I've more or less perfected and could do in my sleep. Now it is the inner process that is engaging for me. The emotional aspect. The aspect that my client can't find at Walmart. The aspect that can't be provided by the lowest bidder.