Monday, September 28, 2009

Rejected? So what can you DO about it?

I noticed some discussion on the ‘net about rejections from shows and I started thinking about what you can do….not what you feel. Of course one thing you can do is use those unwanted missives as wallpaper: I had a friend who papered her loo with them!! She had some great ones, interesting reading while sitting on the throne!
So, what to do when the slim envelope arrives? While there seems to be some agreement that you shouldn’t worry about being rejected… I think you should worry! At least in so far as worry might lead you to figure out why you were rejected.

Let’s look at possible reasons for rejection and the actions you could take as a result.

  1. Volume. Too many good pieces were entered for the jurors to accept all of them –the jurors’ statements (read carefully!) often indicate this. If your chances of getting in are 1 in 5 or less then volume is at least part of the reason the piece didn’t get in. Now you’ve got three options: enter less popular shows, make better work so you really stand out, or enter more shows! But don’t let the Gambler’s Fallacy catch you out! Don’t assume that just because you enter a show 10 times you’ll have a ten times greater chance of getting in!!! Would it were so!!
  2. Fit. You may have entered a show where they were looking for different kind of work. Always read carefully what they are looking for, and, if you can, look over previous acceptances to that particular show and any statements the juror(s) made about the instructions they were given. Seek a show that fits your work, or (if it’s important to you) make your work to fit a particular show.
  3. Photography. Was your work presented as well as it might have been? This is a difficult one for many of us without easy access to affordable photography – look for the best solution you can. Jurors continually describe throwing out a significant number of entries because of poor photography. My solution was to get a good support wall and the flood lights and then look for a friend with a great camera.
  4. Value and subtlety. Certain types of work, very subtle work or soft mid value colours simply aren’t going to stand out well in a photograph. If you want to get into a particular show make and enter work that photographs well. And make your detail shots really work for you.
  5. The Jurors. There is no doubt that jurors have biases. If you talk to them and they are honest you usually hear that they agreed immediately on about 10-20% of the work as being great. They also agree on the work that definitely does not meet requirements. That leaves a huge grey area in the middle where bias is going to work. Consciously or unconsciously!! Some jurors respond to bright colours, others to very graphic bold work, others to more innovative pieces, others prefer abstract and hate anything representational. One person who has been a juror said to me “your work is good for what it is, but I hate that kind of work!” So if I see she’s a solo juror, I know my chances are going to be slim and I can choose to enter or not with that in mind.
  6. Choice of entered pieces. There is definitely a consensus that entering 3 pieces that are related is going to have much more impact than 3 totally unrelated pieces, or a single piece. There’s a show I currently wish to enter – I had 2 related pieces that I think will appeal to the particular jurors, but I needed a third. Guess what I’ve been making? (night and day!!)
  7. Quality. Is your work as strong as the standard the show accepts? Go and see the show, look at the catalogues, look at successful people’s websites – most accepted pieces can now be found on a website or blog. Take a long hard look – is your piece as good as theirs? This is particularly important if your work is not very innovative (which is fine – it just means you have to work harder because there’s more competition!). If it’s not as strong, why not? What does your piece lack that the other piece has? Don’t just give in and say, “it’s no good, I’m crap!” That’s a poor excuse. Research has shown many times that it is the amount of time and effort you put into learning your trade/craft/skill etc that really makes the difference. Pure innate talent plays only a small part. While, luck and networking are important in business and politics, in the art quilt world (thank goodness! they feature little. So, think! And Make Work.
  8. Enter More Shows. "making more work is what makes you better and if entering shows gets you to make more work, then you should enter a lot! Your quilts will get better. I guarantee it!" Carol Taylor
  9. The X factor: there are always those mystery decisions that will forever puzzle us:


I still can’t understand why the same show rejected one of my best pieces (Where Bong Trees Grow, see left) and, in a different year, accepted something very weak!!! However, both are now long gone…and I never look back!

Please comment on any other reasons (and solutions) that you think are pertinent! I’ll revise the blog and add them (with attribution!).

And, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth


Hilary said...

I, too, have been following the discussion about rejection.

Something I noticed this weekend while looking through well-known association's recent exhibition catalogue: why do so many quilters not bother to write inspirations that tie into the given theme - I guess this isn't something that jurors are bothered about when rejecting/selecting.

I know that we sometimes shoehorn a quilt into a show because it looks as if it fits the theme, but shouldn't the quilter then write a statement that justifies the submission?


Tracey said...

I agree with strawbs .... at least try and make the inspiration fit the theme! LOL!

On another note -- rejection at any level is not a nice thing to encounter but we need to remember that failure to get into a juried exhibition or show is not personal and we should not be put off by it. Next time you try for a juried show - read the rules, find out as much as you can about the venue, what the shows/organisers aims and objectives are etc... and submit a piece that fits the brief .. and if you still get rejected .... don't fret over it ... move on, try again and enjoy the piece you made!

Diana Parkes said...

With reference to Strawbs's comment re writing statements to accompany exhibition entries. I strongly suspect that these are filed as they are usually part of the entry form and are only read when it comes to making those final selections, or award winners. I cannot imagine any jurer reading statements in their selection process.

Hilary said...

ou are right, Diana. But as a judge if I am judging a themed exhibition and the message of the theme is not coming across clearly I would ask for the inspiration notes as I may be missing something subtle but very relevant.

Perhaps knowing that the notes will be published and give the readers pleasure might be an incentive?


Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I have been entering competitive shows for many year in more than one medium and you always hear lots of discussion about what did or didn't get into a given show. I have no magic mirror so I am just as much in the dark about what might succeed as anyone but I do try to approach the entry with the belief that the judge or jurors will try to select an excellent show, otherwise, where's the joy in being accepted. There is, however, one thing I occasionally see that I find suspect and that is when the people doing the judging are too close to those being judged. In these situations, the judging may be wonderful but the simple appearance of 'cronyism' is unfortunate. This situation is the responsibility of the show sponsors not the jurors themselves but I would love to see institutions broaden the pool of jurors so this is less often an issue.