Thursday, July 26, 2012
The First Battle is Over
Even though I'm not moving on to Round 2, I'm still pretty durn pleased with myself and with my entry. I pushed myself harder than I've pushed in a long time, and I'm very happy with the result. I completed my entry on time and met the deadline. And I got so much amazing feedback, both before and after the results of the first round of voting came in, that I feel like this is a great personal success for me.
There was, as to be expected, some backlash after the results of the first round were announced. And I was just gobsmacked to see how some people reacted after being eliminated or after their favorite pieces (not pieces that they made themselves) were eliminated.
Cries of "foul" filled the Battle of the Beadsmith Facebook page, even as most of us who were eliminated were graceful and just happy to have participated in this event.
What surprised me most was all of the criticism that was unleashed after the results. People were hurt that their work wasn't voted on the next round, and more than one person even suggested that the competition never should even have taken place.
People complained about the judging - there were no set criteria! How were these pieces judged? How could someone come up with a competition that pitted one bead artist against another?
Oh, the INJUSTICE!
Now, here are my thoughts. And I'm sure I'm gonna piss off a few people here.
I almost didn't enter the competition. I didn't think my work was nearly good enough. I was sure that I was going to be eliminated in the first round. (Which I was, but that's besides the point.)
I talked to my sister about the competition, and as a working artist herself, she had some very good points.
1. If you're an artist, you're automatically in a competition. Whether you like it or not, as an artist, as soon as you create a piece of art - whether it's a song, a poem, a novel, a short story, a painting, a sculpture, a piece of jewelry, whatever - SOMEONE is going to judge it. They're either going to love it, or hate it, or be neutral about it. That's just the way it works. And it's no good to be an artist and make work that you stick in a closet for thirty years. Art is meant to be shared, to spark conversation, and yes, to be judged. If you don't want to be judged, don't be an artist. (But, really, people are gonna judge you, anyway.)
2. Just because your beautiful piece of beadwork wasn't voted forward to the second round doesn't mean that your work is worthless, awful, or "not good enough". Both artists and non-artists seem to equate commercial or competition success with good art. And that's just not always the case. (Anyone who has ever seen any of the Twilight movies, or any of the Transformers movies, will understand this point.)
Yes, there were some amazing freaking pieces of beadwork that were voted into the second round, but all of the pieces were amazing.
True story: after selling my handmade fused glass very successfully at the farmer's markets throughout the summer of 2008, I started taking it around to a couple of local craft stores to see if they would be interested in either consigning it or wholesaling it from me. I remember one store owner in particular who told me that my pieces would never sell. Whatever. I took it with a grain of salt, and went on to have two more very successful summers of selling my handmade glass and beadwork at my local farmer's markets and craft shows.
3. If you don't want to lose, don't enter a competition. That's the whole point of a competition, right? Someone wins, someone loses. Entering a competition doesn't guarantee a win. And neither does entering a competition if you have "name recognition". There were a few heavy-hitters in the beading world that were eliminated in the first round, people that I would have totally expected to move forward. But that doesn't necessarily mean that their work is inferior. (See #2, above.)
4. Don't complain about the judges in a competition. Seriously, people. The judges in this first round were all of the competitors and a select panel of judges, some of whom have been involved in beading as an art since before I could eat my own solid food. That's good enough for me. Those judges are well-respected bead artists, and really, they've seen it all. The participants who created all of these amazing pieces of art also seem to know what they're doing when it comes to judging beadwork and art, so, yeah, I'm pretty sure that they have good reasons for choosing the way they did. Not that the judgement of any one person (or any group of people) makes a work of art "good" or "bad". (See #1 and #2, above.)
5. Just because there are some awesome pieces in this competition that got voted out in the first round and people's feelings got hurt doesn't mean that the competition should never have happened in the first place. I can't imagine even making that statement. I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of entries into competitions like Bead Dreams and Bead Star that get booted out in the first round, but has anyone said that those competitions should be shut down? Heck, no! Those competitions have resulted in the recognition of some of the most important emerging bead artists in recent years!
I'm not trying to discount anyone's feelings. Of COURSE it hurts when you're eliminated from a competition. Let yourself get upset, if you want to, but don't let it make you think any less of your art. And please, please, please don't point fingers at anyone for your not winning! Entering a competition does not guarantee success! (See #3, above.)
Remember: your art comes from YOU, and the great thing about it is that no one can duplicate your own artistic vision. If you didn't make art, would you be miserable? I certainly would. Making art makes me a happier person, and I really don't care who does or doesn't like it. In the end, if I like it, that's good enough for me.
Personally, losing round one by just a single vote was a big win for me. I never dreamed that I could hold my own against such an amazing piece, but I did! And the feedback I got about my entry - that it was risky, edgy, and unabashedly unique - means more to me than any "win" could.
So, if you want to enter a beading competition, go ahead and enter. But do it with your eyes open, and with the knowledge in your heart that even if you don't win, yes, you are good enough.