Friday, January 9, 2009

Show entries: Importance and Impropriety.

I havn’t yet read the book “Outliers” (Malcolm Gladwell) that many bloggers have mentioned though it’s on my library list! I think there must be quite a few in line for it so obviously there’s a strong PR machine at work somewhere. And I’ve heard of “mixed reviews” which I hope doesn't mean that the book has a lot of filler material. Don’t you just hate books like that – where the author is so lazy, or so arrogant, that they just give you one sentence per page? (I recently had the misfortune to get lured into buying one such book).

However, Gladwell has, in effect – whether deliberately or not – laid down something of a gauntlet to artists in his suggestion that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve excellence in anything. Three hours a day, for 10 years.

I reckon I’ve got 10 years left!! (hopefully!!)so I thought Right!! I want to be excellent in the making of art quilts (I’ve already been at that a while, having just made my 201st AQ, there were several TQs before that – in fact two on each bed in the house and a lap quilt (usually a dog!) for each chair). I’ve also recently begun to learn watercolour painting and would like to be excellent in that too before I “pop me clogs”. I began the watercolour because it is a quick way to sketch out a lot of possibilities for quilts, especially commissions where you need to show the client Colour as well as shape, line etc.

So I thought: well 3 hours with the quilts and 3 hours with the watercolours per day – easy!! That’s only 6 hours, and when I had a “proper” job I routinely did 10 hour days.

But…’s now the 9th of January and I’ve not managed a single 6 hour excellence day yet. Okay so where is the time going? (apart from blogging of course!)

Yesterday, for example I decided I would just enter a few upcoming shows before starting my 6 hours. What a palaver! Some mediums have now turned to an efficient standardized online show entering procedure, but not quilt shows, and not local art shows. And, have you noticed how each show has different regulations? Everyone needs a different ppi level for their image – some shows need two!! (Quilt National! And who could not enter that show?) . The image has to be resized, therefore, at least once per each entry. But some shows (sneakily!) don’t bother to tell you the ppi level required – so you have to guess – will the juror be looking at these images on a computer? or projected? Each show requires a different labeling system for the files. One yesterday specified in the strongest terms (“if you do not do this properly your entry will be rejected!”) that one had to use inverted commas in the labels – this is not a valid labeling protocol!! I could be nothing but improper!!

Another show asked that you send a stamped envelope so they could return the CD if you wished, but even if you didn’t wish, they still required the SAE!! Some shows have an efficient turn around time (when I was on a show arranging panel one time I insisted on no more than 3 weeks) but many don’t – a recent SAQA show’s time between entry and notification is almost 5 months!

And the fees!! Increasingly, they are beginning to “suggest” or even require (!) that you join their organization when you enter. For one biennial show last year this added upto $70 for an entry.

So with balancing which piece to enter which show, resizing and relabeling and burning and finding all the right bits of paper to put into the right padded envelopes…my entries yesterday for just 4 shows took me all day – another 6 hours further away from excellence!!

So, why should one enter shows? Despite the cost and the time involved I do think there are a number of very good reasons to enter and I always encourage people to do so.

Shows are a great way for the public to see the art that is being made by ordinary people every day. Most shows have free entry for the public – any one can go in and enjoy. I do so deplore exclusivity – “you can only see my art if you pay a lot of money” (yes it’s true, some big name artists do have that policy). Art is for everyone – I love having my quilts shown in public buildings that people visit every day. I once had a show in the lobby of an office building, and the janitor was so excited about it!! It was great – he took all the visitors around the show – whether they wanted to see it or not!

Shows are a good way for you to assess your art. If you get into a show, it’s a great feeling! And once you’re in, it’s wonderful – and educational – to see your piece hanging in a “gallery” space. You can get a much better assessment of how well it works. Often you can see it from a greater distance and that helps you to judge the impact of the design. You can nearly always see pieces in the same show that are stronger than yours, and weaker…and that helps you to learn more about evaluating your piece.

Entering shows means you’re serious about what you’re doing – it indicates a level of commitment, and I think it forces you to make better work. It gives you a goal to work toward, a time constraint, and a commitment to finish the piece. The beauty of quilts as a medium is that we can forever keep taking bits out, adding bits in, rearranging…rethinking..if you have a commitment to finish, this will keep you going.

Furthermore, you might win a prize! Or maybe get a sale! While in monetary terms these may not mean much (when you’ve deducted the show entry fee, the shipping, the packaging , the time, the gas to the shipping company etc), the validation is brilliant!

So, maybe my 6 hours of would be excellence training yesterday weren’t wasted after all.

Hmm, I think I’ve convinced myself! Maybe I’ve convinced you?

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!


PS the quilt at the top is of my show entries yesterday! For more quilts please visit my website.

All my quilts are for sale, incidentally – I don’t post prices on the website but they’re approximately $200 psf; older pieces may well be discounted! And I have some smaller pieces on the blogstore.


Michelle said...

I too have had problems with entry requirements for shows and contests. First sizes: In the last show entry for Paducah there was a miniature (max. 24" each side) category that is clearly for traditional quilt patterns as it says blocks are to be no larger than 4" square. Then there is no art quilt catagory. There is a small and large wall quilt category, but the small wall quilt measurement starts at 40" wide. What happened to measurements between 24" and 40". The quilt I wanted to enter "Sweet Determination" is 39" by 60.5, so I could not enter. I also cringe when I see that the judge or judges are traditional quilters and I'm entering the artquilt category. So far my quilts have been accepted whenever I have entered, but I can't help feeling since my quilts are more art and less quilt, that they don't seem to fit well in any category.
OK, I'm finished complaining! I have read your blog for some time but never responded before. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience about the art world. Michelle

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

I agree with you & Michelle. I truly believe art quilts should have no size requirements at all. There are gems out there that are postcard size!

Do not forget the new rule on making a sleeve for hanging too!

Nina Marie said...

I find all the hoops, the different shows make you jump through disrespectful to the artist. It makes you wonder what agenda the organizers have in mind. Are they interested in getting the best art for their show? Or are they just placating their own egos that artists will enter no matter what the requirements. I just emailed my entry to Sacred Threads and the process was easily followed. That said notification isn't till the last week of March which is 10 weeks (sigh).