Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dressed for the Show

August and September are chock full of deadlines for spring shows. I don't know if it is a lack of confidence on my part, or the fact that my work continues to evolve, but I seem to change my images I submit each season. All this change has helped me refine the process quite a bit. So I thought I would share a few things I have learned along the way.

The process of choosing the right slides is a bit like putting together an outfit. Trust me. It'll make sense as we go along.


1. Jurors are not impressed by range. Just like you wouldn't throw on a grab bag mix of clothing to show the range of styles in your closet, the jury does not want to see all the many paths you are exploring. A submission of a vessel, two pieces of jewelry in very different styles, a 2D piece, and a sculpture is not going anywhere. It is an easy no for the jury panel. It says, "I haven't figured out what I want to work on yet."

This was one of my early sins. I thought range was good. In the decathalon it is, but when it comes to a jury making choices of who is in and who is out, this is a guaranteed out. If you have to play around in many sandboxes, find a way to segregate the work. You can submit a set of images for jewelry, and another for mixed media perhaps. One line might be wholesale, and another for retail. Make it clear that you know they are different bodies of work. Dress for the occasion. Pick the right work for the category.
2. If the picture is not in focus, big enough, or has some other technical problem, don't use it. You will be judged quickly. And they are looking to say no in many cases. There are many, many submissions in the best shows for a very limited number of spaces. Would you go to a job interview in a suit that didn't fit, or was twenty years out of style? Probably not. Don't let bad photos be the reason you are eliminated.

3. Photoshop will not compensate for bad design, poor execution, etc., etc. The dangers of software to enhance your photos is that we can be deluded into thinking that the tweaking is going to compensate for any other issues we may have with a piece. Sorry, it won't. Instead of spending hours fussing over a picture to make it perfect, spend the time in the studio making your work more finished and refined. Just like the strategically placed pin or scarf will not eliminate the stain, tweaking the photo too much won't change the quality of your work. And what are you going to show when you get into the show? Minor adjustments to the photo is fine. Overhauls are not.

4. Your pictures need to complement one another. You need to go for the "Aaahhh..." This was my struggle today. I wanted to use this picture in my submission. But the other images I was planning to use, were in shades of blue, aqua, green and gold. This necklace stuck out like a sore thumb. I like the piece. But it was distracting. Jarring. Taking it out, and substituting another picture gave my submission a more unified look.
There were some compromises in my final selection, but it was done for the "good of the whole". You need to look at the images you select together, and get a sense of them as a composition. If anything is pulling your attention away from the rest of the work, ask yourself why. This is like the check in the mirror before you head out the door. You are the art editor, reviewing your selections. Looking for color, style, and flow. Bruce Baker is a genius at this, and can explain it more clearly than anyone I know. If you can take one of his classes on slide jurying, go for it. This is that critical.
5. Jurors don't want to see your run of the mill, bread and butter work. They want to see your best. So, you go to a show, and what do you sell. Lots and lots of earrings if you do jewelry. Some pendants. And maybe, if it is a good show, a few "wow", knock your socks off pieces. So do you submit pictures of what you plan to sell the most of, or do you submit pictures of the work that draws people into your booth? You may spend most days in jeans and a t-shirt working in your studio. But when you go on a job interview you dress to make an impression. The images are your job interview. They are your resume. They are doing all the talking for you. So you better pull out all the stops. That was why I wanted to use the necklace in black and white and grey. It was a dramatic piece. But I couldn't make it work with the rest of the images this time. And I did not have enough other images available that would work well with it.
At a fashion show, the designs on the runway get toned down for the consumer market. But the fashion designer builds his or her reputation on what goes down that runway. You are more likely to get into the show by showing your best work.
This was a quick overview of some very important decisions. But I hope some of these ideas will help you as you choose which images to present, and how.

1 comment:

tammy vitale said...

Great post full of excellent information! especially: don't range around with your slides.