Many of you may know my name from Stefani mentioning me in some of her blogs. I am Sara Senour, a potter, who is also the Show Coordinator for the Maplewood Y Craft Show (MWYCS). Stef and I have been working together for the last 2 years to organize and improve the show. I can’t say enough about how much Stefani brings to this process. She is a dynamo!
So, why this guest blog? This year the team decided to do a blind juried show with the goal of creating a quality, upscale one day show for the greater Rochester area. I personally feel this is a niche that the MWYCS can fill. This will be the third year for the show, and each year the quality has improved, but doing a blind jury sets the show up to move it to a more upscale level.
A juried show keeps the show fresh and gives everyone an equal opportunity to be in the show. It allows the show to evolve and grow while elevating the quality of the show each year.
We have had a lot of questions about the jury process, and since so many of the applicants are Rochester Artisan members, we thought a guest RA blog was a good way to respond to those questions and to share what we have learned going through the jury process.
So what exactly is a “blind juried” show?
Well, in the case of the MWYCS, this means that knowledgeable jurors who are artists and who will not be part of the show, evaluate photos of the artist’s work using specific criteria without knowing who the artist is. The only inputs into this process are the photos and the judge’s perception of them.
This is why photos sent into any show are so important!
For instance, from a juror’s standpoint, what should be done when the pictures of the artist’s work are poor quality and the technique, quality, texture, details of the work can’t be determined? Is it fair to guess at the rating and maybe penalize someone who sent a really high quality picture but their work was not of exceptional quality?
Don’t diminish your work with poor photos. Send in sharp, well-lit, high pixel photographs that clearly show your craftsmanship. The pictures need to sell you as an artist! And send in pictures of your current work, not something you did several years ago. These photos are often used to promote the show. People will see the photo of your work and go to the show expecting to see it or something similar for sale. They can get “turned off” if it is not there, which hurts both you and the show.
I will admit that until I went through the exercise of evaluating and ranking the artists’ work for the show, I did not appreciate how difficult the judging would be. (And no, I am not an official judge. I have applied to the show and will be evaluated just like everyone else.) Initially, I thought, well you like it, so just rank it high. But when you are into the process, you think, well how does it compare to the overall body of work submitted? Does it stand out from other similar work? Have I seen this type of work at other shows?
Now it becomes difficult! If you don’t believe this, I challenge you to do an evaluation of the photos yourself. Rank them 1-5 in each of the categories and see for yourselves.
The application photos are on the MWYCS Facebook page in 9 photo albums labeled “2013 Application Photos”.
Technical – What is the quality of the work? Is the work clean, precise and well constructed? Is the technique up to standards for that craft?
Design – Is the design solid with a strong pattern? Dynamic? Has flow and movement?
Color/Texture – Do the colors and textures “wow” you? Do they compliment the work and design?
Originality – Is this something you have never seen before? A truly different type of work?
Inventiveness – Is the work a different “twist” on something you have seen before? A truly different way of working with a traditional method?
Artistic Merit – Overall, how does the work “hit” you? Does it appeal to your aesthetics?
Then there is the issue that the work itself ranges from really good to not so much. How does one rate that? The solution seems to be to add a comment that says, “Accept this part of their work but not the rest”. The jurors don’t want to degrade the quality of the show by accepting the artist rather than their work. So if you are into multiple types of work, don’t be upset if you are asked to only bring part of your work. It is the level of the show coming through.
There is also the issue of “I know this person.” As much as you try to have objective jurors, this is going to happen. To be truly objective is not an easy thing. The juror really has to try to not be too easy or too hard when evaluating the person. And, if the photos are bad, they have to evaluate what is there, not what they know about the artist.
Not all jurors judge equally. Some jurors are really hard in their evaluations while others are very generous. I believe this goes back to the goal of the show. What are you trying to achieve, a straight forward craft show, an upscale high quality show, or somewhere in-between. The goal needs to the first thing on the juror’s instruction sheet. This way the judges are evaluating to the same goal.
My “hat is off” to anyone who takes on being a juror. It is a time-consuming, tedious and challenging process. It is also interesting, rewarding and instructive.
I can’t thank the people who volunteered to be judges for the Maplewood Y Craft Show enough.