All about that Ribbon

Well, it’s been a long summer and as we head into Fall, there are thoughts I’d like to share, specifically about the show circuit.  My experience is pretty wide and pretty long when it comes to working on the show circuit–I’ve been active now for about 18 years and have attended many shows across the southeast.  Craft shows, Art shows, Art and Craft shows, indoor and outdoor, juried, non-juried–they’ve all been a part of my journey as an artist.  My niche is the Fine Art shows with judges and strict juries.  My work is quite unique and most of the time well appreciated in those circles.  I attended one such show this Fall with a judge and strict jury.  The quality of the show was fine and the expectation was given that the judge would visit each booth.  We were not guaranteed a conversation, but a least a look.  By the time the judging ended I realized the judge never even visited my booth.

Should that be a problem?  Should I feel neglected, or at least a little bit miffed that I was left out of his scrutiny?  Well, to say the least, I felt frustrated and a bit angry that I was treated with little professionalism.  Many of my experiences with judges is for them to pass me by since I’m “just another jewelry booth” which is far from the truth.  While I appear to be “just another jewelry booth” my work is most distinctive and there are very few metal clay artists let alone enamelists.

So, I casually asked the show director if the judging has ended.  My underlying purpose was to make sure the director knew that we had not been given the courtesy of a viewing from the judge.  I had also watched as the judge spent over 20 minutes in the neighboring booth from me.  She was insistent that he had indeed come by, but said she would bring him by again.  Well, she at least pointed my booth out to him as they stood across the street from me.  Yeah, I was watching.

That little stunt brought me even more frustration as the lack of integrity and fairness.  I have come to learn that many of these juried shows are done locally and have focused mostly on the local artists–a clique is already in force for the awards.  However, it was never as blatant as this was for me.

The results?  Yeah, the guy in the neighboring booth won Best of Show . . .hmmm, could be they were able to spend time with the judge and talk about their processes as an artist.  Obviously, my sense of professionalism kicked in and I was just done with this show.

It is disheartening when you work so passionately and put all your energy into your art and to be ignored.  While I’ve gotten used to the jewelry categories rarely winning any awards, I still think professional courtesy should never be ignored.  It is truly a level of respect for all artists.  Many promoters have a bad reputation because they are just selling real estate to fill their shows, but many of them show respect.  This show director didn’t know the meaning of respect during the judging portion.  Needless to say, I won’t be attending or recommending this show again.

Which is sad, because it was one of my least expensive shows to do.  But you can’t put a price on integrity.

There is still hope out there for my work to be recognized.  It has been awhile since I’ve had a ribbon but I also know that the awards I have earned in the past were legit and that my customers are my ultimate judge when they buy a piece.  And it is good to remember that I did win “Best of Show” in a juried art show where there were three judges scoring independently.  In fact, one of the judges shared with me that one of the reasons I won was because of my passion.  Many artists were pleased as jewelry rarely nabs the top spot.

Honesty, transparency and fairness are still out there–we just have to find the right shows for our work!