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Winning the Juror's Heart - Originally posted in the Orchid Forum 09/06/2007
SKU: CWX-CBTS11
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Originally posted in the Orchid Forum 09/06/2007

I recently juried the Couture Awards for a show in New York and sifted through about 400 images. This was the first time I had been on the jury side, so it was interesting for me to see exactly what I had been encouraging my students to produce and not produce all those years. Most juries ask for five slides at a time which they view all at once on five slide projectors. You the juried get five seconds of glory. Jurors rate your work, 1 & 2 being good and 4 & 5 being not so good. There is no rating of 3. The 4’s & 5's are taken out immediately, while the 1’s & 2's are seen again and the passing selections are eventually weeded out. NOTE: I did not look at these with a slide projector. I viewed them with software called Zapplication which is an online jury process. Better now because the jurors have more time to look at the work.. Some advice for artists submitting work:

1. There is no way to compensate for poor craftsmanship. Even if you have the best photographer, if the work isn't there, it won't make the grade.

2. Avoid Inconsistent lighting. Some of the shots in a grouping of five had perfect lighting with consistent drop shadow which really popped the work. Then the fourth and fifth images had really poor lighting. I gave lower marks to these groupings because they did not convey a professional look. I'm a juror and you need to impress me first.

3. Do not submit project-based work. I look for style or a personal "look," not a series of items that were products of various workshops. I've been in the business long enough to know when a piece was made in a hydraulic press workshop, or in one with John Cogswell, or in a Mokume-gane workshop. Those pieces say nothing about the intent and style of the maker.

4. Interesting and novel work. There is no substitute for this, even if the lighting is not perfect. If the work is fresh and well made, this is a joy for us to jury. If the light is spot on, your mark will go higher.

5. Textural backgrounds: No. No. No. Your work is not about what it is sitting on, it is about you. No piece of wood or fabric, or background of black beans or rice will make your work look better than it is.

6. Include a detail next to the piece, but only if it HELPS the piece read better. There are some pieces of work that look great when you hold them in your hand and play with them, but do not photograph well. If this is the case, then by all means, help the audience. This is a good question to ask by the way, and one that I eternally struggle with. I'm building some pieces now which I am submitting for a show on "House: The Form" in late March. I'm assuming that most of the submissions will be larger sculptural pieces. I'm making small jewelry scale houses which sit in the crooks of several branches. Each house can be taken off the branch and worn as a piece of jewelry. I intend to show the piece as whole, details of the houses on the branch and one house worn on the body. It will be hard for the jury to see what I am up to, so I am going to have to visually lead them.

7. Drop shadow vs. all white backgrounds. My personal favorite is the subtle drop shadow. It pops the work and it is easy on my eyes. Reflective shadows are fine, but only if the photographer knows exactly what they are doing.

8. Progression of skill level. As each of us gets our first amazing piece fabricated we run out to a photographer. Good choice. But as jurors we sometimes see an artist's work change and improve. I don't want to see your pieces from the last five years as you progress. I want to see five pieces of your best work. Get the requisite number of images of your best, best-lit work.

9. Try to stay away from props UNLESS they are completely appropriate. Remember what you are trying to get the jury to look at. If your slide has a prop, gather a couple of people who are not familiar with your work, project your slide for five seconds. Ask them what they see. Does your piece have a theme? If so, it MIGHT be appropriate. a. A tea service might look very nice on a tea tray b. Models don't always help the look for jewelry. You end up looking at the model.

10. Don't mix dark with light. If you have a graduated gray background, be consistent. Your work should have a "look". Mixing styles and sizes can be confusing.

11. A rule of thumb: three on the top, two on the bottom. Don't have the jurors cock their head at odd angles, trying to figure out what you are showing. Often something with color looks best in the number 2 middle slot. The last image might be a grouping. A grouping of small pieces with even lighting can be an eye popping shot and will make the jurors take notice. A group of ceramic mugs, or different size vases with perhaps a flower in a couple of them would look nice grouped.

12. Lastly, keep in mind that it ultimately won't matter what you put out. What matters is what the judges want for the look at their show. They are asking: “Will your work represent the kind of show we are putting on?”; “Will the person's booth be of the highest professional standard?” If you can answer yes to both, then there should be no problem.

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