I was hired to create clay relief illustrations for a kids educational workbook. The owner of the animation company who hired me was excited about my style and had me come into his studio to start work immediately. It’s important to note that he walked into the ceramics studio I work at and specially asked if there were any ceramic artists for hire. The task was that I’d make about 12-15 flat clay relief illustrations that could be easily photographed from a top-down camera angle.
The first red flag came when the client made me sit beside him as he meticulously sketched each page design on his laptop, then got irritated that I wasn’t familiar with using Photoshop on a Mac. (He specifically hired me because I’m a ceramic artist, and also wouldn’t allow me to use Photoshop on my own laptop. He also said that sketching on paper wasn’t allowed.)
He then presented me with a box of half-used Sculpy clay that was full of dust, some of the colors mixed together. Sculpy that had been used during kids animation classes that he now expected to be used in his new professional project. I explained that I’d been hired as a ceramic artist and assumed I’d be able to use clay and glaze I was familiar with using.
He told me that I’d be expected to work in his studio and that I was making things very difficult by demanding to work, you know, in the actual ceramics studio he visited to find ceramic artists.
I was already there, so I decided to give it a shot. He told me to make him a bee. I made a flat bee with 3D elements- but surprise, he actually wanted a full 3D model. I explained this was all gonna be hard to photograph and waste a lot of time, and reminded him he’d hired me to make a relief, which was flat with 3D details.
I finished the bee, and for two hours he critiqued it, demanding I change the size of the stripes, change the wings, criticizing ‘imperfections’, and making me add legs. Finally, when I was done, he was irritated that the 3D model didn’t sit flat on a table. The following conversation happens:
Me: This is just a test model. We’re making reliefs, right? The bugs in the relief will be attached right to the rest of the piece. I’ll make the background first as a flat layer, then add 3D bugs and plants so you can photograph it.
Client: No, we’ll use this bee. Is it ready to photograph?
Me: …No. I need to make the entire clay illustration. You want these made from ceramic, right? It’ll be much faster and better quality if I work in my own studio with my own materials.
Client: Can you just bring the clay here?
Me: It’s a different clay, it needs to be put through the kiln. I’m honestly not familiar with Sculpy and it’s a completely different technique.
Client: It took you hours to make this bee! This is gonna take forever! You need to work in my studio since you needed so much guidance.
Me: You hired me because you loved my art. I work much faster with clay that needs to go into a kiln, it’s a totally different material. You’ll need to trust me and let me work if you want me to do this.
Client: I can’t pay you what you quoted. You just took so long. What if we just did a few bugs in clay and photoshopped the rest of the drawing? How much would you charge for one bug?
Client: That’s way too much!
Me: If I made this just to sell as an ornament, I’d charge $40 because of how big you wanted it with all the details.
Client: …Well, we’re gonna have to discuss this. Come in tomorrow from 10am-4pm.
Me: Yeah cool.
I didn’t go back. I emailed him that night to tell him he’d be better off either hiring an actual Sculpy artist or figuring it out himself.