Back in the day when I was hungry for business and not turning anyone away; if you know me you'll have heard me say I would sell my underwear; anyway I was building awareness and trying to buy more stock so every dollar was delegated to grow the business. So, when I was asked to design and hook four chair pads I heard ca-ching and said why not?
I hook quickly so I estimated a delivery time, and she negotiated the price, a nice way to say she penny pinched down to the bare cost for materials, therewould be no ca-ching! There was nothing for labour, not even room to squeeze out ten cents an hour. I think she smelled my desperation and played on it. I should have said no but back then it wasn't in my vocabulary. When you own your own business your time means nothing so she got herself the deal of a lifetime. The chair pads were about 17" x 22", each with the same fruit motif and all the same colours which she provided paint chips for. So I got started. The first chair pad was interesting, trying to do simple shading with the colours she allowed and I was somewhat happy with the result. It wasn't anything I would ever hook for myself so the enthusiasm wasn't there, which is the one problem with commissions. I've found that unless you love your project, fueling enough steam to get to the end, the rug usually ends up packed away in the closet unfinished.
So I started the second seat pad. Already I could tell I made a big mistake. That first one had taken two weeks, picking away at it in the evenings and it was all #3 and #4 cuts. Four chair pads identical right down to the last loop was going to be a problem. I didn't have enough love for the job to muster the excitement needed to pull it off. I finished the second one in a little under three weeks and then the knowledge there were two more to complete almost sickened me. I think I would have rather taken out my eyeballs and stomped on them than do those last two. But, I am a woman of her word and I forged on at a snail’s pace. The month long deadline had cruised by at an alarming speed and I was well into the second month with only two and a half completed so the excuses began. She seemed sympathetic at first when I told her that I was unrealistic to say I could complete all four in a month and still try to run my business. i would have had to do nothing for the entire month except hook anad that wasn't realistic. After the one month rolled into two she lost her charm and it got rather sticky and because our communication now lacked any warmth that made it even harder to do the work. So the two months turned into three and thank goodness I didn’t drink alcohol as I might have hit the bottle and gone on a bender. That last chair pad was grueling but I put a blitz on to finish and the entire job took three months plus the good part of another week.
Next came the whipping and finishing. She decided she wanted them whipped instead of just folded under and hand sewn as we initially discussed, but wasn’t willing to pay a penny extra. I have my pride and do a job well and I like the whipped finishing and figured I could do this to soften the fact that they took longer to do. I whipped one per evening and then I wrapped them up with a lovely little card and took them to the post office. In my exuberance to land the contract I also forgot to quote her for shipping so I ate that as well to the tune of $30.00 for insured post because the last thing I needed to hear was that they got lost in transit. Back then I was greener than the jolly giant so I kept shooting myself in the foot every time I opened my mouth. Live and learn the hard way was a daily mantra.
So the weight was off my shoulders and the parcel was in the mail. I felt like running naked in the streets, to laugh and sing. The dark cloud of those chair pads lifted like a helium balloon and I was so thankful just to get back to a normal day, without stress or obligation to deadlines, no negative vibes floating my way.
I emailed the client and told her that her chair pads were in the mail and that I am sure she will have years of enjoyment out of them. Sorry it took so long but being my first commission I hadn’t quite figured out all the bumps. Thanked her for her business and hit send.
Well, her reply left me staring at the computer screen with mouth agape. If only she'd said those things to me prior to posting the parcel I would have given her money back and kept the chair pads, sold them in the shop for what they were worth. She ripped a strip off me from the tip of my head to my big toe leaving me open and raw so when the salt came it stung like acid. I fully accept responsibility for not coming through in the time quoted but I don’t think I deserved to be broken so severely. She told me this was the worst experience of her life, that she had heard Canadians were like this and now she found out first hand that we were all lazy. I was willing to eat the blame but that kind of comment was uncalled for and not deserved. Painting all of my fellow countrymen/persons with the same nasty brush was rude and besides, at this point, why beat a dead horse, what did it serve?
I asked hubby what I should do for a reply; he is far wiser than me and always knows the right thing to say. He told me to let it drop. Don’t say anything back as it won’t make any impact. Just use it as a life’s lesson for future commissions. Well, there would be no more of that. I might have been hungry for business but that project left me starving as I made no profit and had to eat a lot of crow. I guess I am the kind of person who finds it difficult to be inspired by projects I can’t get into, and never again would I ever hook the same rug twice let alone four times, I’m not a photocopier kind of hooker! There’s no excitement in it for me and I guess I need to be charged to tackle a project. Every now and then I come across the picture of the rugs and wonder if she looks at those chair pads and remembers what she said. If that was the worst experience of her life there can’t be any joy in the possession of them. Maybe deep down I enjoy thinking that they 're tainted for her. I can be mean too.
Despite hearing other horror stories of commissions gone wrong, I also hear wonderful tales where hugs are exchanged from the sheer joy of sharing ones talent with a customers who knows how to appreciate the time that goes into the work. Friendships have bloomed from purchased rugs. I think life is full of experiences, both good and bad, but no matter what comes down the chute, there are lessons woven into the story to learn from.
If any of you reading this had a positive commission experience leave a comment as I would love to hear about it to help wipe away the one I had.