Friday, June 25, 2010

The Jury's In!

I wanted to take the time to congratulate each and every artist who sent in submissions to the PMC Guild Annual! I honor everyone who puts their work and their egos on the line by submitting photographs anywhere. It's not as easy as it may seem. Inviting a group of strangers to judge you and your creativity is an anxiety producing exercise. Seasoned artists and those just taking their first nervous steps are equally stressed by the entire process.

I was so honored to be on the Jury this year and took my responsibilities very seriously, as I know all the other jurors did. To be in company with Barbara Becker Simon, Lisa Cain and Bruce Baker was an experience I won't soon forget.

Last year 114 beautiful works of art were published in the 3rd volume. This year 456 images were submitted by over 120 artists. The work of 62 finalists consists of 120 pages displaying 130 photographs - some with multiple views. It was a daunting task to review each and every entry. I, for one, was looking for innovative design; excellent construction techniques and stellar photography. The jurors never met. Either in person or online. We never discussed our views. Only Jeanette Landenwich knows who liked which pieces. And our views didn't necessarily mesh. Scores were to be from 1 to 5 with 5 being highest. We only overlapped on about 6 5's and 3 4's. So you can see we were all looking at different criteria.

The chosen pieces are all wonderful and beautifully presented. I have to say that there were pieces left out that I just loved. And some included that were not to my taste. But that's the way a jury works. Multiple opinions with one final decision maker.

For those of you who have yet to stick your toe in the waters of publishing or those of you whose work may have been left on the cutting room floor, I thought I'd offer a little insight to what I noticed as I was reviewing all of the submissions. And keep in mind that photographing work for Etsy is different than for shows which is different for publication which is different for editorial which is different for advertising. So one photo will never please everyone who might view it.

1. I know you have heard this time and time again - but professional photographs are imperative. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to pay someone else to shoot your work, but it does mean that if you choose not to - you need to learn how to do it properly yourself. Many of the photos in this year's book were taken by the artist.
2. Do not submit scanned images. The way the light from the scanner hits the highly reflective surface of a silver item is less than flattering to say the least.
3. Do not use fabric as a background. No matter how "artistically" draped. The weave of fabric distracts from the jewelry's form and in some cases might steal the scene from the intended presentation.
4. Unless you really know what you're doing solid black and solid white are difficult backgrounds to use correctly. Black velvet and white paper show every dust particle, cat hair and other anomaly.
5. Never photograph work on a stand or neck form. Live models might be fine for some submissions, but even those are chancy.
6. Don't use decorative paper, stone or props. They're distracting and don't add anything to the image.
7. Remember your audience. In this instance we're talking about a metal clay publication. The metal clay is the star. Don't include commercial elements - chain or clasps. Don't include strung beads unless they realllly add to the focal element or include metal clay beads. Don't even include a metal clay clasp in the photo unless it is unusual.
8. Do remember that cropping is your friend. Even if you have a professionally taken image - you can re crop it to fit the submission. Something that Art Jewelry magazine might love to print, might include elements that the Annual isn't interested in showing.
9. Do use a gray scale background. You can buy them from specialty photo suppliers or make your own with a copier and Photoshop. Or buy one and then make lots of copies for future use (they scratch easily). Vickie Hallmark has a terrific blog entry sharing her tricks and tips for jewelry photography. There are 3 parts. you'll have to do a search to find the other two. Or perhaps I can convince Miss Vickie to put them in a side link on her blog.
10. Do experiment with a reflective surface. But make sure there are no reflections of the camera, your yellow shirt or the flash from the bulb.
11. Do try to find a professional photographer you can work with. Perhaps your local college has a photography department and you can ask an upperclassman to help you out. For a small fee of course. Look at the by-lines in the Annual and ask the artist for information on their photographer. Those who took their own might want to start a new sideline! Ask the "photo by artist" people if they'd consider taking piccies of your work.
12. Do make sure that everything is in crystal clear focus and sent in the highest/largest dpi format you can manage.
13. Do push your own limits of creativity to design new and exciting work! Metal clay has been around (in the U.S.) for 15 years now. We've seen all the lentil beads; flat, textured and cookie cuttered; simple work that we need to see. (my harsh opinion remember) Ask yourself "What If". What if you cut that thing with that shape, turned it upside down and painted it pink? What might you discover? What new techniques might you bring to the metal clay community? What new corners of your own mind might you discover?

When you get to see the fabulous 2010 PMC Guild Annual in October, you'll notice that there are a few entries that fly in the face of the suggestions I just finished making. These suggestions are MY opinion after all, and I am certainly not the end all and be all. But I know that there were people who submitted really interesting work with really um... less than excellent photographs.

You don't have to wait until next year to benefit from this post though. Holly Gage has just put out the word that she's looking for fabulous work for her 2011 calendar and you have loads of time to get up to speed! Well, a couple of months anyway. So try, try again. Or for the first time. You have nothing to lose.

And for those of you who don't make the cut, sometimes you just have to think of editors as casting agents and yourself as an actor. They just didn't want a brunette this time. This time they were intrigued by the red heads. But there are agents out there who love the brown haired girls. Some of them may have already cast you. And more will in the future. You just have to be in the right place at the right time with the right agent when you're auditioning for the right part. (Forgive the former make up artist in me for the analogy.)


Janet Bocciardi said...

Lora - thank you so much for taking the time to put all this down. It's so clear how serious you took your responsibility. I know it will make some whose work wasn't chosen feel better and just hearing the sheer numbers tells you it wasn't an A-B decision. Personal opinions of others, as well as quality of photographs...

This would go for any publication, not just metal clay. Know what you can do better on and trust your own work that you love.

I'm always in awe of the work I see in these annuals, so can't wait to see this year's!

Wendy McManus said...

Lora, these were just the gentle words I needed to hear to help calm my feelings of disappointment. Thanks for taking the time.

I have a question about the inclusion of commercial components, such as chain. I submitted photos of pendants. The way those pendants hang from the chain is important, and reflects on a particular set of design choices I made. To not show these pieces "hanging" would have reduced the impact of the design. But, I don't make chain.

It pains me to think that hanging my pieces from a gorgeous (but commercially purchased) chain might have hurt my chances of being selected.

I wonder if you have any thoughts about this conundrum to help me with future submissions.


Vickie Hallmark said...

Lora, thanks for the great compliment of linking to my photography tutorial! (Not to mention the even grater compliment of selecting my work for the Annual!) As you suggested, I've added a link to the sidebar and placed all the pages together on my website.

Cathy said...

Lora, nicely put. Like your suggestions. As you know I felt the same way after jurying - wanted to reach out to help those who didn't make the cut. Your post provides both comfort and constructive advice for all.

LOVE the casting agent/actor analogy!!!

carol said...

This was so good to read Laura, its hard when you send in submissions and thats it all you hear is who was successful. I didn't enter anything this year, tho I have submitted a couple of times and its hard as you say you put your ego on the line and no matter how you try to be philosophical about the results its hard not to be disappointed. Love your casting agent analogy, like you I have a background in film, so it really touched a cord. Really looking forward to seeing the annual

Anonymous said...

I am anxious to see the Annual this year as always. I find it interesting that out of over 120 artists that submitted work, there were only 62 finalists. Obviously some artists have multiple entries chosen. Were the non winning entries that poor or their photography that poor?

Susan Dilger said...

Good suggestions Lora! Thanks for taking the time to write them out. They will be helpful for not only those not making the cut, but for people wanting a head start for next year. We all have to keep pushing the envelope as you said!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lora, for giving such excellent feedback on the jurying process and for providing such an excellent guide for future applicants. It's rare that a juror takes the time and makes the effort to communicate this information (myself included).

Linda Kaye-Moses

Nicola said...

I missed the deadline again this year (it's getting pics onto CD and over to the USA that always throws me, lol)
Love this post though -very useful info for getting my info into next years (fingers crossed)
Nicola xx

ann rosier said...

Lora: that was very good advice. Thanks for posting it. And I like the constructive advice you took the time out to tell the contestants and all of us what to look for when submitting. I can hardly wait for the journal to come out.
Ann Rosier

Phoenix said...

WOW great input . . . it put a few questions to rest, gave me some clues for next year and I am proud to be a part this year. Links for resource are always so welcome.


holly k said...

many thanks, lora...i'm always, ALWAYS struggling with the photography and vickie's tutorial was extremely helpful-i've bookmarked it and will return (again and again, no doubt!). it's extraordinary that you took the time to offer so much helpful insight into the process...