Creative Burnout From Unreasonable Customer Demands

Omigod Ring

The customer had a size 8 ½ finger, which is fairly small for a man, and wanted a 14k gold ring that weighed a minimum of five ounces. Consider that a thick and substantial gold ring may only weigh half an ounce and you immediately see the problem.

Cramming that much weight into a size 8 ½ ring and still having it wearable was an enormous problem. To aggravate matters further, this particular customer also wanted an eagle head on top of the ring with an assortment of diamonds added. Nothing would be spared in making this mess as gaudy as possible.

Creativity and customer demands can be a challenging combination. Over the years my creativity has been misused by the peculiar requirements of some customers such as this one. His “Omigod Ring” is clearly the worst example that comes to mind.

Frankly, if it had been my shop I would have declined the order, but it was not my shop and the owner wanted the ten thousand dollars under the table. This customer was hiding from the IRS, ex-wives, and who knows what else so he paid cash only for his purchases.

Technical concerns dominated the project, greatly to the detriment of the design. After considering the metal shrinkage percentages I concluded that the ring would severely distort the eagle in the casting process. The solution was to make the eagle as a separate disk that would fasten into the top of the ring.

Soldering the disk into that huge a mass seemed like a poor choice. So the disk had to be cold riveted into place. This would involve drilling a hole for the tube through the main mass of the ring. Unfortunately that would also reduce the weight of the ring.

The customer did not greatly care about how we created the ring, but he was adamant it had to weigh at least five ounces, no matter what. His aesthetic sense must have been stillborn is all I have to say.

I started creating the wax model for the ring. Weighing the wax and then using the correct multiplier gives you an approximate weight for the cast piece. I had to allow extra for the hole to be drilled and for all the finishing processes which remove metal.

Since a ring cannot be too thick between the fingers for wearability, and only so much can be added on the palmside, the only choice was building the top higher and wider to add enough weight. My revulsion at doing a run-and-drip design dissolved into amusement at the ridiculous extremes of the ring.

As the only gram scale was on the main floor, I would descend from my private loft occasionally to weigh the wax. Every time I appeared with this ever growing wax model, the staff would take one look and gasp, “Omigod!”

I, too, was astonished at how much wax it took to achieve the desired weight. The project grew and grew like a giant unseemly fungus.

I thought it was nearly a criminal waste of perfectly good jewelry materials. Actually, it may have been criminal, as the last I knew the IRS and others had finally caught up to this man and plopped him in jail. Until that time he used the ring for his Vegas gambling visits.

I no longer accept work like that. I do enjoy the challenge of creating large jewelry pieces that actually have design integrity and beauty. My creative burnout disappeared when I finally started saying “No” to ill-founded projects like the Omigod Ring. It is far easier to refuse these orders working from my own gallery, RiverStone Gallery.

This post is included in the Carnival of the Creators, and I suggest you go look at the other fine articles in the collection.

This post is also included in the Arts and Stuff Carnival along with other interesting articles.



Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Be Sociable, Share!

3 thoughts on “Creative Burnout From Unreasonable Customer Demands

  1. Astrid Lee

    Thank you, thank you, for making me LAUGH SO MUCH. What a delicious article of the realities of an artist. I love it!!!

    I’ll spare you my own experiences with painting commissions, or maybe one day I’ll write an article to let you laugh (or cringe) in turn.

    Meanwhile, all my commissioned art pieces are on my terms (well, almost..), and they all must befit the term ‘healing art’, which cuts out a lot of non-sense.


  2. Lexi Sundell

    Hey, go ahead and write of your own experiences! Maybe we can encourage other artists to use the NO word when appropriate.

    Glad you got a laugh out of it. Some things are much funnier as time goes on, right?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *