Re: Do you make all the parts of your media?

From an email I received from Andrea:

I along with several other artists make antique button, vintage button, vintage cameo and vintage glass jewelry.  I have been told before that although they like what I do with the buttons I do not make the buttons therefore I am disqualified.  

To me no one and I mean no one does not buy something to start their art with.  That would be like telling a painter he is disqualified because he does not make the canvas or the paints. How do I weed out shows that feel this way.  There is so much involved with button jewelry from finding, collecting, researching, restoring and this is all before I create them into a pieces of jewelry.  

I have spent a fortune applying to shows only to be turned down.  I have been in several fine art shows and have done well.  However I think for many shows they disqualify me and therefore I am wasting my time.

Andrea, I'd bet your work is lovely. In a recent podcast one of the first reasons stated by a show director about "why you didn't get in" was because the applicant didn't read the application well. No one is making all the parts of their work. That is a given. My best advice is to carefully read the applications for the shows you are interested in and then making a phone call to the show, perhaps even sending them an email with an image of your work attached and asking them if it meets that show's criteria. 

Does anyone else have other advice for Andrea?

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  • I don't think you should worry so much about the compliance thingy. I have seen committees walking shows and checking things, but I've never seen anyone tossed because they didn't have work throughout the entire booth that was a clone of their jury images. If your booth shot looks way similar to the booth you're standing in at the show, how in the world could a committee complain? Everyone knows that we use the best images possible for jury, the more elaborate or complex or thought provoking or whatever, that the jury images are those with even higher price tags, etc. If you have work similar to the jury images, the committee doesn't have a leg to stand on just because you also have the other stuff.

    Case in point: The booth next to me in Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival was pottery. Throughout the weekend we talked about stuff and I learned that the three images the artist used for jury would most likely get packaged up after the show and taken to the next show since they probably wouldn't sell. The artist sold more than 10K of butter dish sets and whatever stuff that was priced from $39 to $199. So that artist's booth consisted of five major ceramic works and fifty giftables that got replaced over and over and over since they were selling like hot cakes.

    That's not my modus operandi. I offer high-end framed 2D work on my walls priced from $1,250 to $3,200 and have a small print bin for unframed prints. Selling the stuff on the walls and winning prize money with it is how I make my living. It's the stuff I use for jury. I don't have a low end line that I call my bread and butter stuff. That's a different philosophy altogether and one I don't employ. I'm interested in pushing the envelope with art and sussing the patron who'll pay for it.

  • It's a hard act to do, but there will be a need for those top end pieces to be displayed prominently enough to make it look like more than 10%. There were a few pieces I used at one time that didn't sell worth a hoot but they were guaranteed to stop people out in the aisle and bring them in. I'm going through the same rejection process right now and need to get newer and different pieces completed, but it doesn't look like that will influence much this year unless I get lucky and crank a bunch out in the next few weeks.

  • Bob, I agree with all of that, except what do you do when the jury walks the show to make sure everybody is in compliance, and they come across your booth and find that 10% of the booth is what you showed in the jury pix and 90% is the bread-and-butter "simpler" pieces that everybody buys?  Suddenly the jury thinks they've been played and you're put on the do-not-invite list for the next year.  How do you make that strategy work for more than one year?

    I have a similar problem in that I prefer to make functional pieces with my glass, and they do have artistic elements, yet the jury wants to see sexy avant garde decorative art.  Especially with 3D art, it's immediately obvious looking at your booth what you're selling, as opposed to having to look through the browse bin to get a feel for the balance of what's being offered.

    If you hear frustration between the lines it's because I just received my third rejection so far this year.  I had even added to the jury pix a more decorative piece, still consistent enough in design to be considered "cohesive", but no go.  Hmmmmm.

  • Cathy, there's an old adage among commercial photographers that fits here; "You can shoot for show, or you can shoot for dough, but seldom do the two ever meet." What that means is that you have to create  four or five pieces, elaborate and creative as you can make them, for your jury shots. Those are what get you in. Your regular inventory is what you know are the sellers. You might sell the jury pieces now and then, but the regular pieces are where the bread and butter are. You can't get into the high end shows unless you have these stunning and jaw dropping pieces. You have to get through the door first before you can sell anything at all. Submit your proven sellers as jury shots and you shoot yourself in the foot. Demonstrate your best artistic expertise to get in the shows you want.

  • As I first stated we all use something to start our art its what we do with it that counts.  But alas all jewelry is pretty much judged in the same category however some make jewelry with precious metals and gemstones and others make everyday jewelry with a different customer base. I agree with you it what someone does different with those items.

  • And another note..."If an artist uses purchased beads, they'd better be doing something really extraordinary in their pieces."  Even if the design is pleasing, the colorways are innovative, and so on, if he could walk into a bead store or even a wholesale bead show, buy the same beads and string them in a similar way the artist doesn't have a chance". I get it, but what about the Model T? All the parts fit just right. The same beads from the wholesale bead show could be strung to look terrible or be strung to gave a "Yeah, that just fits, it's just "right", like they were meant to be designed that way"...I've spent 3 to 4 days (intermittently) working 5 or more types of beads (gemstones, metal, wood, crystal etc.) until it is the perfect layout.  It's not the material, it's the inspiration, art and talent.  

  • It is a Catch 22. It's also dividing art (and people?) into segments. Instead of "that has inspiration, some sort of the divine in it, I like it", it's "is it exclusive and different than what "EVERYBODY" can get?" I'm not saying everyone thinks that way, but I do think it makes for repetition and can get boring and I mentioned, the ACRE catalog was page after page of mostly the same type of jewelry ideas with some variations.....

  • Andrea, you're exactly right.  And one of the things that makes it tough is the knowledge that the "simpler" designs sell quite well at the shows.  But you can't get into the good shows unless you apply with something else.  A real Catch 22.

  • All of the comments have been very helpful. It has made me step back and look at my pieces with a different eye. I guess my decision now is do I want to go for A list shows or not and do I want to make a living or do this for the art. It's a hard call.
  • Yes! That is what makes the difference at the events where the competition is high. Showing work that is distinctly "yours" and makes them look again and hard. 

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