On Wednesday morning I shipped out my last commission furniture piece for a long time. Perhaps forever.
Last year I closed the ordering form on my personal site. And since then I have worked through the backlog of orders, chipping away until Wednesday when I dropped off a crate at the depot across the river.
For the last 10 years, commission work has been a third to half my income. The other half is writing and teaching. Commissions kept us afloat as we paid Madeline’s tuition at Ohio State and Katherine’s at Spalding University.
During the last three years, Lost Art Press, the commission work and the number of new designs in my sketchbooks took root, bloomed and became overgrown. And last year I had to make a choice.
- Double or triple my prices for commissions to (likely) reduce them. As I build vernacular-inspired pieces, and I have a strong proletariat streak, that didn’t feel right.
- Hire people to help out on both the commissions and shoulder some of my responsibilities for the press. That would put me back into managing other people’s work on a day-to-day basis. I’d rather get a simultaneous root canal/vasectomy without even an aspirin. I want to do the work, not manage it.
- Shut down commissions and build work on spec.
I chose door No. 3.
In the coming months, I’ll occasionally list a piece for sale here on the blog. Lucy and I have decided we can afford the hit to my income (thanks to a debt-free life). This will free me to write and edit more books, build furniture pieces that have been struggling in the birth canal and to stay outwardly sane.
I’ve enjoyed working with customers since I took my first commission for a Shop of the Crafters Morris chair in 1997 from a couple in Texas. Since then, I’ve built some crazy stuff that made me a better woodworker. And I’ve met some people I now call friends.
I’ll miss some aspects of commission work. And now I am about to get into the truck and head to the lumberyard to build something for… who knows?
— Christopher Schwarz
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