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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Jury Process

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the jury process for the Broad Ripple Art Fair that will take place this summer in Indianapolis.  Broad Ripple is one event whose jury process is open to the public.  The jurying took place at the Indianapolis Art Center, who hosts the Broad Ripple show.  Although I did not apply for the show, I saw this as an opportunity to educate myself on the jury process, and what it takes to get in to the more selective shows.  My husband was nice enough to take the day off for the drive to Indy, and we arrived at the art center a tiny bit ahead of schedule because I wanted to make sure I didn't miss either of the two jewelry categories.

The Indianapolis Art Center (from their website)

When I arrived and took my seat in the mostly empty auditorium, the jury was running way behind.  They were currently looking at ceramics.  The judges, I think there were five of them, were seated down front.  The application process was done through Zapp.  Each judge had a laptop on the table in front of them.  From where I was seated, behind the roped off area for spectators, I could see that each entry was shown as a row of 4 pictures across the screen, with other information above or below.  The judge could scroll up or down between the applicants, and enter comments.  Also, the applicants photos were projected on a large screen in front of them.  At the beginning of a category they would quickly go through all the entries on the large screen.  Then they would go through each entry one by one.  Each entry was shown on the screen for 30 seconds as an artist's statement was read.  Each artist had submitted three pictures of his or her work, along with a booth shot.  The 4 pictures were shown at the same time on the screen, in 2 rows of 2, with the booth shot in the lower right hand corner.  Every once in awhile a judge would comment out loud, but from where we were sitting we couldn't hear what was said. 

Even with the ceramics, the thing that immediately struck me was something I had heard before, but didn't always recognize or understand it:  a "cohesive body of work"  Without getting into a whole other blog entry, it means the pieces look alike, same materials, same process.  When the pictures are shown on the screen together, it is much easier to see what this means.  They should be like 3 components of one big picture, 3 pieces to the same puzzle.  It seemed to me that even the colors should be similar.  I also noticed that the three pieces of art, all appearing to be professionally photographed, usually had the same background.  If you are ever in doubt about your "cohesive body of work", put your pictures side by side and look at them as one unit.

The artists statements (or whatever they were called) were not really about the artists, but about their work and the techniques that they use.  Things like: " I grow crystals in my glazes for two weeks", "all hand drawn - no stencils"  This statement is the artist's chance to tell what is special about their work.  Some other bits that I heard (not necessarily pertaining to pottery) were "interaction between humans and nature", "functional, yet a literal piece of art", "all limited edition", "dimensionally arranged", "free-form designs", "inspired by architectural forms"....   However, if there is something special about your process, this is your only chance to convey that to the judges.

Jewelry is the largest category at Broad Ripple, so they have split it into two categories:  metalwork and other.  At some point prior, they had decided in order to save time they were going to show the entries for 20 seconds rather than 30.  I expected to see the occasional crappy entry -- I never saw it.  I did see loads of stunning pieces by very talented artists.  Once again, I saw the cohesive body of work.  When it came to their statements, the jewelers were pretty much all business:  "I make ____ out of ___ using ____ [technique]."  I guess maybe the jewelry artists are so busy explaining their techniques, they don't have time for any of what I call the foo-foo stuff.  All the jewelry appeared professionally photographed and almost exclusively on a graduated grey background.

Booth Shots:  Since the judges don't confide in me, I'm not really sure how important these are, but I can tell you my impressions.  Another artist told me, "they just want to see that your booth looks professional".  In pottery I noticed that booths that had many larger items looked better than booths that had nothing but lots of small items.  That's hard to do in jewelry, however.  What you can do is hang one (or three) large pictures in the back of your booth.  (Blur out any logos in your shot before it is submitted however.)  Almost all jewelry booths used counters with glass (or plexiglass) tops.  Though the art shots were all impressive, I did see some booth shots that looked less than stellar.  Some that looked rather messy.  Though the artists send their work out to be professionally photographed, they can't do the same with their booth, and many times the photos weren't very good.  Another thought, and maybe it's just me, but I think it helps if the booth shot goes with the three art shots, or at least doesn't clash.  This is a highly competitive show, and though some of the artists who received comments about their booths did make it into the show, I would think it could make a difference in whether or not you are invited to participate.

The results of the jury have been posted here:  jury results  If I counted correctly, in the "jewelry, metalwork" category, 21 artists were invited out of 100, or 21%.  In the "jewelry, other" category the numbers were even tougher: 5 out of 47, or not quite 11%.  If you applied for this show and got in: congratulations!  If you applied and didn't get in:  I can honestly say don't take it personally.  These are split second decisions based on what they want for their market and truly not a reflection of the quality of your work.  And if you ever get the chance to sit in on a public jury I would highly recommend it.