since my last post, so I've lots to share. I'd planned to focus on some of the ups and downs of applying to juried shows, but then realized that I should share all the progress I've made on artworks since my last post. In order not to make this post too long, I'll do two posts. Today I'll share my recent experiences with juried shows. I'll post an update on my work in a day or two.
I have been selling my artwork for many years now and generally I feel pretty happy with how things have gone. But if I were to try to measure my success in financial terms, I'd have to say I was pretty mediocre. Rarely do I have much leftover at the end of the year after all my expenses are accounted for. Some years I don't even cover my expenses. So I try to make sure my work given me and others pleasure and I sell enough to make some space in my studio for new work." Still, even if I don't measure my success in financial terms, I do have to be concerned with my expenses relative to the income from my art.
Now that I am not renting a studio outside my home, my biggest expense category is not fabric. (I don't buy much these days.) My primary expenses are entry and participation fees for art shows and festivals. I think this is a part of the business that many people do not think much about. It is easy to overlook how much the effort to sell your work costs. But because these costs are substantial for me, I do pay attention to them and I think carefully about what I apply for. For each show that I consider, I try to make an educated guess about my chances of getting accepted and if accepted, about the chances of my work selling or getting a prize. Before I'll apply, I do my best to make sure I've got a reasonable chance of acceptance, that my work won't be dismissed out-of-hand.
If you're familiar with a show and have had work accepted before, it's easy to have enough confidence to apply again. But if it's a totally new show, or a juror that you don't know, it's harder. In those cases, I first read the prospectus very carefully to see what I can figure out about what they are looking for. If it is a fine art show, will they even consider textile art? If it is a quilt or fiber art show, are there minimum size requirements? Are there other technical requirements such as the number of layers or how they are held together? Will they accept works that are framed or mounted? (My work is smaller than most quilts, and is often mounted.)
If I satisfy myself that I have work that "follows all the rules," I then try to find out more about their past shows and the juror(s) for the current show. If the show has a web site with a gallery of works from the prior year, I'll review that to get an idea of the number and types of work accepted. Did the previous show include any fiber art? If there was a theme to the show, how tightly did the accepted works adhere to the theme? Was the theme obvious in every work? If there is a theme for the new show, does my work clearly reflect that theme?
Next step is to google the juror(s) to learn what medium they work in and what their style is. Obviously, the more similar my work is to the juror's, the better my chances of acceptance. But it is a rare case where there is a close match between mine and a juror's. Mostly I am looking for a level of dissimilarity that suggests I have almost no chance of acceptance. For example, I most likely would not apply to a fine art show with jurors who are painters with a very realistic style. I just wouldn't have enough confidence of acceptance to make it worth the time and money to apply.
Even following such a rational process, though, there are no guarantees. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Luckily for me, my wins make me happier than the losses make me sad. Here are my two most recent experiences.
Most of the time I enter shows that are local or familiar to me in some way. But every once in a while I try to push myself out of my comfort zone. I did that recently, submitting 3 works to the 37th Annual New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts show opening soon in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was a stretch they probably got hundreds of submissions, but I figured I had a shot. There was no specific theme, no minimum size requirement, no restriction against framed or mounted quilts, and I had some familiarity with the work of the judges. I figured my work wouldn't get dismissed out of hand and I should try for it. Sadly, all three of my submitted works were rejected. Thankfully I know that a no this time doesn't necessarily mean a no next time.
Then sometimes you hit an unexpected jackpot...as I did in the Members' Show at the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center. Since I am a member, acceptance in this show was a given. But the application fee meant I still thought hard about whether to apply and what to submit. Was there was a reasonable chance that I could recoup the entry fee? Reality is few of my works have sold there. Also, most of my newest works were relatively small, priced low enough that even if they sold, the gallery commission and entry fee together would eat up almost the entire price.
Luckily, before I gave up on the idea, I remembered that my "Ode to Maria" piece hadn't been exhibited at WCAC. (It had recently been returned to me when the owner of Handworks gallery in Acton, MA retired.) If that sold, there'd be money left for me, so I decided to go ahead. I'm glad I did because to my great surprise it took third place. The prize check more than covered the entry fee. Woohoo!!
Mother & daughter, Ann Lee & Sonja Lee-Austin share their joys and struggles in their art and lives.