Saturday I attended the Mock Jury held by the St. Louis Art Fair organization. Two things I have to say up front: (1) I’m not a beginner and; (2) I’m blown away by the effort expended by this organization solely for the benefit of the local artists. Many thanks to Cultural Festivals!
So, if I’m not new to the artist community, why did I go? Because I sell well at the shows I make it in to, but can’t seem to get into the ones I want.
Did I learn anything? Absolutely! Ironically, it wasn’t anything truly new. I could have told you that your submissions must represent a “body of work”. I could have told you that your booth shot can keep you out of a show. What I couldn’t have told you was how to make my choices look like a body without being an iteration. How to manipulate my booth image and when. That the people who run these shows are there to help. And just how important the words you put on your applications really are.
The single key to the success of the Mock Jury is that you can ask questions. And, boy, did I! Ironically, the biggest issue had the simplest answer. Body of Work. So the question was “How do I make my…” and the answer was straight arrow in one sentence – choose a central theme and go from there. Simple, right? It could be colors or patterns or shapes. Don’t know why I didn’t see it before. For me for this year it will be a set of rainbow colors that are in a couple of my favorite pieces. I could hardly sleep that night for the creative ideas racing through my mind.
The booth issue was surprising. First, did you know that some shows will reject your application if they don’t see your submission pieces predominantly displayed? Do you really read the show application to see if you must have a frontal exterior shot or if you can use a more attractive partial shot? And do you live by the standard “less is more”? I got tired of hearing comments from the judges like “too much clutter”, “can’t tell what that thing is”, “don’t want to see the chair”, and “can’t have the name in the shot”. They only liked the booths that were really Spartan. I’ve known that my booth shots were weak but not how weak and why. The judges explained that a poor booth shot will not keep you out of the first round of judging but easily can make the difference in the final round.
A new concept for me was that show administrators can be your friend. You can actually talk to them and get assistance. They may call you if there is a problem with your application or something not allowed in your booth shot or just to clarify an issue which the judges may question. They will not get you into a show – that’s up to the jury – but they will help you put your best foot forward.
And, finally, there is the topic of words. Not every judge on every jury knows the secrets of your art form. They see the image of the final product. Little did I know how beneficial it can be to explain what you have done, exactly how it is accomplished, and why it matters to you. If you are an artist applying to Fine Art Fairs, please tell me that you know that you only get about 15 seconds to make it through the 1st round. So your images must be top notch professional. What I did not realize, however, is that in the subsequent rounds more time is allowed. Judges ask questions and discuss the art. Your descriptions on your application to the show can make or break you. It clarifies to the judge what was involved and where your passion lies. It can tip the scale for you in the final competition.
If you get a chance to go to a Mock Jury – do it! These judges reviewed every participant in depth – all 100. What you learn hearing them talk about your submission is worth your weight in gold but I was also fascinated by the total.