The winners of the 2016 BeadDreams art show have recently been announced. Like the Olympics finals or the Golden Globes, BeadDreams is a big bead deal. Part of the Bead and Button Show, it’s sponsored by three national beading magazines. Instructors, artists, and bead aficionados attend from all over the world. If selected by the jury, artists exhibit their work among the top individuals in the field.
Even though I wasn’t juried in, it’s the first time in several years that I’ve made a submission to this show. It was exciting to participate this year—especially as I hit a new stride with my work.
Lessons learned from BeadDreams 2016
Looking back, the experience gave me some great insights.
Take everything with a grain of salt
A remarkably high level of art gets into this show, so being selected by the jury is an acknowledgement of one’s work. That said, art show juries always look for specific things. Even when your art is excellent, it might not be the jury’s taste. For me, it’s important to trust the quality of my work.
I’ve been working on a new freeform style that is more playful and expressive. The piece I submitted to Bead Dreams evolved organically from my collection of Gail Crosman Moore glass beads, Bali fine silver beads, and (of course) hand-turned springs.
Creating this piece was a really exciting process. It’s fun to use really high-end, very high quality art beads and not worry about how much it will cost at the end. My goal was to just create something over the top.
Want to see? Here it is:
My submission: Breastplate for Ninsun
Ninsun was a Sumerian deity whose name literally translated is Lady Wild Cow. She was an earth goddess: the mother of Gilgamesh, a mythical Mesopotamian king and the divine power behind the qualities the herdsmen hoped for in their cows. This name is a partly a tongue-in-cheek reference to my having recently moved to a rural location, and how my art is intertwining with our life and livestock.
To balance the weight of this dramatic setting, beads are strategically placed at the back of the piece, creating a counter balance that falls gracefully down the wearer’s back. Simple, asymmetric links relate to the setting while allowing it to be the primary focus.
Pay attention to detail (but don’t obsess)
For a competition like this, jurors view the work blown up on a screen. I do everything in my power to make all my pieces work, but for BeadDreams, it really needs to stand the test of a microscope and critical viewing.
As I started working on my piece, I was thinking about something grand and dramatic that uses higher level skills and more materials. I wanted it to be perfect, but expecting this can create more stress. You can’t think too hard or focus on the fact that what you’re making is different from your usual work.
Waiting to hear was interesting. They said they would jury our pieces in about ten days. Then, without a lot of explanation, said they weren’t going to jury it for another month. I assumed technical difficulties and was pretty good about surrendering. However, as it got closer to the to the date, I kept wondering if it got in!
Be your own judge
Juries that receive as many submissions as BeadDreams can’t give specific critique of each entry. In general, they’re looking for quality construction, quality photographs, and the quality of the artistry.
When I received word that didn’t get in, I thought about those three factors. My work is quality, but I think I have room to work on photography. Photographing art jewelry isn’t a point-and-shoot project. It’s an art form in itself. For future submissions, I know I will approach this aspect differently.
Look at the big picture
If this were a lesser show I might feel a little chagrined about not getting in, but as I look at the other artists who didn’t get in, I’m in outstanding company. There’s a lot of great stuff.
After submitting Ninsun to BeadDreams, I made a “baby sister” version with simpler components with a similar style. It has already sold from the Circle Gallery in Madera—along with the matching earrings. To me, this means my new free-form style is resonating with people. That’s exciting!
At the moment, my goal is to keep exploring my new free-form theme and get more of my work out there. In the coming months, I’m hoping to jury in to Celebrate Agriculture with Art 2016 show and participate in a masterpiece show curated by Paul Parichan.
Stretching for BeadDreams was an exciting challenge. The way I see it, my job is to keep working at a high level and getting new work produced and out to new venues all the time. Besides, there’s always next year for more BeadDreams!