Commission work through gallery

Hi. I have my work in a local gallery, have a contract with them for
a certain percentage commisson for items sold there, but have been
contacted by some customers who purchased some of my work in the
gallery and now want some special order items. Some made their
request while I was in the gallery, some called me at my studio. My
contract doesn’t cover this situation, the gallery owner said this
is the first time it has come up (new gallery, only a few years old)
and told me whatever I thought was fair was fine with her. I would
like to know what others have done in this situation? Clearly this
customer wouldn’t have found me if it wasn’t for that gallery, but
the full percentage commission doesn’t seem reasonable for items that
never even cross the threshold of the gallery. Your thoughts?


Hello Karen, If you run this job sraight thru the gallery,that place
will work very hard to sell your pieces. Let them pay the credit
card charges and collect the sales tax. You make the jewelry and be
the hero. Charge the gallery your regular wholesale price.

Have fun.
Tom Arnold

The gallery should get at least 30%, some galleries want the full %.
You said it perfectly, they would have never seen your work had it
not been for the gallery. If your work was in my gallery and I found
out you sold to a customer from my gallery, I would send your work
back and never carry it again. Second part of this answer is that
most customers are really cheap, most try to contact the artist
because they think they are getting a lower price by cutting out the

Bill Wismar

I have always had an agreement with my galleries which gives them a
referral fee if a customer is referred to me or finds me through the
gallery. I pay 10% if the transaction is handled directly by me,
regular commission if the gallery runs the sale through their books.
If I ship the item directly to the customer, I get paid the shipping
fee. In over 20 years, this has always worked very well. I always
disclose to the customer that I am paying a fee to the gallery, and I
make sure my prices are the same no matter where the customer finds
my work. Now that I have my own retail store, there are still
customers who think they will get an item cheaper directly from me
than through one of my galleries. Don’t fall into that trap…you
will only be competing with yourself!!

Karen, my deal with any gallery I work with is that the first
commission I receive from a client who found me through their
gallery is to treat it as a sale through the gallery. The gallery and
I split the percent just the same as if the client had bought it from
the gallery and I have the gallery do all the packaging and calling
of the client and money collection. For any second commission I get
the entire amount and call the client my own. This gives the gallery
some incentive to initiate a commission and prevents the client’s
from doing an end round the gallery. I tell the client of this deal
also. I have even sent a check to the gallery for their percent when
the client paid me directly. I figure that if the client is going to
deal with me directly I have costs involved which prevent me from
paying the gallery their percent for any following orders. If I have
to spend time on the phone, send drawings, plan material purchases
then I have more time into the piece than just a consignment piece I
made for the gallery to sell.

I hope that helps,
Sam Patania, Tucson

how I feel.
You do not work for the gallery! You have a contract with them for
the items they have accepted on consignment! The mere fact that
people have found your work through the gallery and want more does
not encumber you to the gallery in any way unless, of course, the
contract you have with them stipulates a relationship. I am not a
lawyer but have worked with several on-line galleries in similar
ways. What I would do if someone wanted a piece ‘similar’ to a
gallery piece is to peg the price to the gallery prices. That way I
would not be undercutting them.

Cheers, Don in SOFL

I ALWAYS give my gallery their standard commission if the contact
initiated there in some way - the person saw my work there for the
first time, got my contact info there, had bought a piece there -
whatever. This is definitely one of those cases where the more you
scratch the gallery’s back the more they will scratch yours! The
minute you start cutting them out of commissions, you have removed
any incentive for them to promote you and your work or ever refer
customers to you for anything.

Experienced gallery owners will drop you in a skinny minute for
going around them without paying their commission. And should!

Inexperienced gallery owners will think you are wonderful for giving
them their share, and will push your work harder. Win/win.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

There are lots of ways to handle this. We always encourage the
customer to go back to the gallery but, some will not or can not do
so. We pay a referral fee to the gallery if the customer comes to us
and is unwilling or unable to go back to the gallery. But our stores
are not consignment so they have made a real commitment to us that I
feel definitely deserves a commitment in return to them.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Hi Karen

I had a similar experience with some of my jewellery in a local
gallery. I have a very limited capacity for manufacturing jewellery
in bulk so had most of my stock at the gallery and a small amount in
my workshop which is outside of town. When people visited I would
apologise for the fact that I did not have much on display but
explain that most of my stock was in the local gallery. Consequently
they would visit the local gallery and maybe purchase a piece. The
gallery kept 40% of the purchase price. This seemed a crazy situation
and finally I removed all my jewellery from the gallery after they
were approached by a customer wanting to get in touch with me for a
commission and still wanted their 40% merely for passing them on to
me. Now I happily work from home selling less but enjoying the fact
that the customers are buying direct from me at a realistic price,
and I can spend time to talk to them and explain the inspiration of
the design and also the construction methods and all sorts of othe
irrelevant But I must give due regards to the gallery
owners. They are running a business with far greater overheads then I
have and they have to sit in their shop from 9 -5 every day whereas I
am free to come and go as I please.

Sorry not to have given a definitive answer to your question but
hope you might enjoy my thoughts.


Clearly the customer wouldn't have found me without the gallery. 

I think you should give the gallery the commission because you would
not have the customer without them. Being a gallery owner, I know you
put a lot of time and money promoting your artists. When the gallery
owner sees the customer again with their custom work it can make
everyone uncomfortable if the commission was not given. Being open
and honest and paying the gallery for finding the customer is the
way to go. Lynda Harvest Gold Gallery

Lynda Rasco
Harvest Gold Gallery

My standard arrangement for special orders and custom projects with
galleries representing my work has always been that the gallery
receives their usual percentage (50% commission) of retail sale if
they handle all of the interaction with the client. If the nature of
a special order requires that I deal directly with a client and the
gallery does not act as agent in the middle, the gallery receives
25% of the retail sale as a commission.

In either case I require a non-refundable deposit of 50% of my price
to initiate the work.

Michael David Sturlin

Hi Karen - apologies for the late reply - I’ve had this issue myself
and I split the usual commission in half for the gallery - I figure
it as an advertising cost, because they brought me the customer (for
the initial order). After that, they’re a returning customer and I
don’t owe the gallery further. My gallery and I feel that
arrangement is fair.

…to add, if the gallery doesn’t like this arrangement (1/2
commission for first order outside of gallery, like if they picked up
your card and then called you, then none for repeat orders) they will
ask you to remove contact info from your pieces, and have only
gallery cards for your contact info. I have a few that do this. If
the customer wants a special order, they go through the gallery and
the gallery gets their full commission, but they have to be
responsible for the order info, shipping and customer contact.

Susan “Sam” Kaffine
Sterling Bliss

After that, they're a returning customer and I don't owe the
gallery further. My gallery and I feel that arrangement is fair. 

This could be why so many galleries do not show the artists names or
have bio cards for them. This could also be a reason why so many
galleries are closing due to bad sales. The wholesale retail
relationship should be a tight bond for the good of both parties. If
a customer goes to the artist after one sale through the gallery,
then the gallery has to always find new artist all the time and they
also lost a customer. When the gallery closes, your exposure goes
away and then people start to blame George Bush for bad sales. Would
you rather have a retail sale 1 time from one of my customers or
would you rather 50 wholesale sales from the gallery. Bottom line, if
you want to sell to galleries sell to galleries, if you want to sell
retail open a store. My opinion of course

Bill Wismar

You cannot live without your galleries. Why would you piss them off
by dealing them out?