Q Most commissioned art tends to be expensive fine art, such as portraiture. Is it possible to commission something more practical, such as homeware? WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: Vanessa Lee Taub of the new Galerie Vee says so-called functional art can certainly be commissioned. 'Functional art is something you can use every day, such as a vase, bowl, teapot, spoon or perfume bottle,' she says. But just because you can use it doesn't mean it's not art. 'These are significant artists who have worked in galleries around the world,' Lee Taub says. 'Each piece is signed and totally unique. Their production is a slow process. It's not mass production.' CREATIVE PROCESS: 'The first thing is to determine the dimensions of the art you want. There are limits on sizes in glass blowing, for example,' says Lee Taub. 'Secondly, you should have an idea of what you want. Glass? Ceramics? Do you want a window, a window covering, a water feature or a vase? You have to make your own guidelines ... You could say you love a certain type of teapot, for example, but want them in another colour.' Lee Taub represents South African glass artists such as David Reade and Nelius Britz. '[Britz] does cast work, like special glass pebbles,' she says. 'Sue Meyer is very well known and does cast glass. Liz Lacey studied with Reade, and does very accessible glass art such as vases and perfume bottles.' Lee Taub also recommends Martli Jansen van Rensburg, and Merle Martin. 'In ceramics, Linda Hojem does terrific work. She's really underexposed but so original,' she says. The cost depends on the method, Lee Taub says. 'Cast glass is the most expensive because it's very compacted glass, and it's heavy,' she says. 'The price of blown glass varies according to who the artist is and where it's blown.' NEW COLLECTOR TIPS: New collectors should have some idea of the size, material and colour they want, Lee Taub says. 'You might pick an existing shape, but allow for the artist's interpretation. No reputable artist wants to just follow your directions, and you can't expect glass to turn out exactly how you imagined. 'A handblown piece will never come out like one made in a factory. There'll be air bubbles from time to time. It's all part of the process.' There are no drawings to approve, she says. 'It's a creative process. The important thing is to come in and have a look. Glass is very difficult to photograph and [photos] rarely show the vibrancy or depth.' The time a commission takes depends on the scale of its work, Lee Taub says. 'A simple vase can take a day or two,' she says. 'Often, more than one version needs to be made until the right one is created. An artist will reject pieces until he or she gets the right one. Allow about one to two weeks to make smaller pieces. If it's sent by air, it's just a matter of another week. By boat, it's about six weeks.' Pricing starts low, Lee Taub says. 'Almost anything can be commissioned,' she says. 'You may want a perfume bottle in your colour. That would be just under $1,000. A huge sculpture could be anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, including delivery.' RESOURCES: Craft Art in South Africa by Elbee Coetsee (about $132.60; amazon.com). Galerie Vee, 2/F, Prince's Building, Central. Inquiries: 2376 0961 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .