Why You Should Enter
Getting your work seen is the first step to becoming known in the wider metal clay and jewelry making community, as well as in front of potential customers and/or students. Aside from social media, the best way to get your work seen is to enter a call for entries. That might be for a challenge, a publication, an exhibition or just to submit images for AMCAW’s image library.
At AMCAW, we think it’s so important to take this step that we’ve created multiple opportunities for our members to do so – and for free! Besides two challenges a year, the AMCAW calendar call for entries is a great way to get your work in print. ‘As seen in the AMCAW Calendar of Exceptional Work in Metal Clay’ is a great promotional tool for your website and social media. And what customer wouldn’t be wowed to see your work printed in a calendar! That’s the kind of thing which makes customers pull out their wallets to own a piece that you’ve made.
You’ll also get greater connection with our fabulously generous and supportive metal clay community. By showing your work, people will begin to associate your work and unique style with your name. That begins building a potential student base for you if you want to teach at home, online, or at conferences.
In short, entering challenges or calls for entries is a very important stepping stone for every metal clay artist, no matter your skill level.
So what’s stopping you?
So what excuses are you using to justify not entering a piece in a call for images?
We looked at the responses we hear most often from artists who are hesitant to enter their work in any of the opportunities we give them. We then put these to some of our experienced jurors and asked them for candid answers. Here’s the scoop!
‘I don’t know what the jurors are looking for’
Our jurors say it’s simple: they are always looking for
- Original designs
- Well-made pieces
- Clear, in focus, uncluttered photographs
And that’s basically it!
‘The jurors want something wild and crazy’
Er, no, that’s not right! Have a look through the pieces in our calendars or our challenge winners gallery to dispel that objection. What the jurors are looking for is something original. That might be a bit edgy, but it’s equally likely to be a classic design with a modern twist or something that tells a story.
‘It’s only for the elite’
How do the jurors know that you’re not elite? They don’t! The jury process for all our calls is ‘blind’ which means that all pieces are evaluated anonymously. The system we use presents pieces to the jury in random order with no artist information. The only information they get with the image is what the piece is – a necklace, brooch etc – what it’s called, what materials are used and its dimensions. For the challenges, jurors look at each skill level in turn. All the beginners entries are evaluated, then the intermediate ones, then the advanced ones, so all the entries are evaluated against pieces from artists with the same level of skill. This means everyone is evaluated equally.
‘My work isn’t good enough’
Good enough for who? How do you know it’s not good enough? If you’re waiting for it to be perfect, whose idea of perfection are you basing that on? We are our own worst critics sometimes, always thinking everyone else is better than we are. When you submit your work for something, you can be sure of one thing: the jury looking at it has no agenda but to evaluate the pieces from what they see in the pictures submitted. In the challenges, they are looking at how you’ve interpreted the theme through the design, workmanship and originality of your piece. They each score the pieces privately with no discussion in the first round so you’re getting a completely individual evaluation from each juror. And the bonus with the challenges is that you also get feedback from the jurors to help you improve. For the calendar, they are looking for exceptional pieces that will inspire other metal clay artists. You’ll always get an unbiased reaction – and your work might just be a winner!
‘I don’t have anything totally original’
Some folks think that being “original” means that it can’t look like other work in any way or use the same materials, components, colors, format, etc. This idea is not only incorrect but actually nearly impossible. The vast majority of truly original work will have elements that show up in lots of other work: all pendants have hanging mechanisms, all rings have a shank with a focal element, etc. Originality is giving these common elements an uncommon look.
‘I don’t have anything to submit’
We’re happy to have pieces that you made years ago or last week, it’s all the same to us.
‘I can’t take good photographs’
We’ve provided you with some resources to help with that; see our blog posts on how to photograph like a pro for pennies. And if you still find you can’t get good images, consider investing in getting your work professionally photographed. Shop around, ask other artists who they use and get an idea of the potential costs. Having your best work photographed professionally is an investment in the same way that tools, equipment and materials are. Having a selection of images ready for calls is a great way to promote yourself and your work.
‘I don’t have time’
OK, so if you don’t have anything ready and you don’t have time, that’s understandable. But if you create something at some point that you love and fits the original and well-made categories, get it photographed! Then it’ll be ready for the next call or challenge.
What have you got to lose?
When you are submitting a piece of work to be judged it can feel scary, who wants to be judged and come up not worthy? But not right this time doesn’t mean your work won’t be just right next time. And what if you are found worthy? How will you ever know if you don’t try?
Ask yourself, what have you actually got to lose? You might not win a challenge, or get into the calendar but who’s going to know anyway? Only you. It might feel disappointing for a short while but consider that it’s often our failures that teach us more than our successes. The juries for our challenges are required not just to score the work submitted but also to provide feedback to artists on their pieces. This means that you’ll get personal, private feedback from experienced jurors to help you improve. At the very least, you’ll understand why your piece wasn’t quite right this time. Or maybe you’ll learn why it was a Certificate of Merit award winner or even why it actually won the category! It’s all anonymous and if you don’t get through one year, try again. Only by trying will you and your work evolve.
The unknown is scary!
How do you get to Carnegie Hall (or in the art gallery)? Practice, practice, practice! Dipping your toe into the water by submitting your work to the calendar – or entering a challenge – will help you overcome your fears. By submitting to as many calls for entry as time allows, you will gain ‘art world’ experience and many personal benefits.
There are always going to be things in life that are tough, don’t come naturally, or scare you and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, jump off that cliff and swan dive into the deep. Do that a few times and you’ll find it’s scarier looking down from the cliff than up from the water when you’ve tried it. And the more times you do it, the easier it gets!