One thing that everyone agrees on is the importance of the application.
You don't want to mess this up.
Get your application RIGHT:
Take GREAT photos.
No ifs, ands or buts. You have to have really, really good photos. Half-good won't help you and it will hurt you. Blurry? nope. Dark? nope. Too busy with a million props and bad models? Nope. You may also want to have some photos tailored to the specific show. Lori Flanders of LORiOLA suggests that will help the jury see your work in the way that they want to see it. Props, lighting and background can all be adjusted to fit the aesthetic of a specific show. Consider a collage unless that is specifically prohibited in the application rules; it will allow the jurors to get a feel for the theme of your work. Edit those photos with piknik.com or another photo editing software.
Fill out your application COMPLETELY.
Seriously, don't leave any blanks. There are many shows that will automatically disqualify you for a blank question here or there. If you haven't done any shows, write 'None' and don't leave a blank space.
Fill out your application legibly all in one color of ink. Reserve the cutsy margin art for your sketchbook or customizable Toms shoes. They don't want to try to decipher your handwriting or be distracted (annoyed!) by your doodles. Obviously, this is moot if the application is on-line.
Don't answer the questions with questions, or philosophical drivel, or rambling MFA-thesis statements. Know your own work and be able to write about it, consisely and clearly.
Don't lie. They just might check to see if you participated in those three prestigious shows you listed on your application. Don't list shows that haven't announced vendors yet, either. It looks like you are psychic OR like you are lying.
Pay the fee with a smile and crossed fingers..
Most good shows won't accept your application without a small fee of some kind. This fee keeps the show organizers from being overwhelmed with semi-pro applicants who are turned off by paying $20-50 to apply. It also allows them to recoup some of the costs of paying (or at the very least feeding) their show jury. Don't sweat this fee if you don't get in. Consider it a cost of business and just roll on down the road.
Don't take it personally.
If your work is not chosen it was not because the jury committee sat in a dimly-lit room and talked trash about your application, your work and your personal hygiene while drinking vodka and mocking your taste in music.
Really, they didn't choose your work because they didn't think it would fit into the show. It doesn't fit their aesthetic. Reasons I have heard for voting down good work include:
- This artist has never done a show this big (meaning we don't think they are ready)
- This work is too vintage/street/modern/steampunk/retro/whatever (meaning it's not the 'look' we want)
- This work is too pricey (meaning we don't think it will sell at our show)
- This work is too cheap (meaning we think this artist is a beginner and may have quality issues)
- This work is too familiar/too much like someone else's (meaning we already have all the work like this we want in our show)
Do tray again to get into a show. Don't use the same photos year after year. Don't submit the exact same work. Do rewrite the application and adjust it to bring it up to date.
If at third you don't succeed, then move on.
That's right, three strikes and they are out of luck. Find another show. Your work does not appeal to that jury. It's okay. It's not about you, it's all about them.
Thanks to members of the Richmond Craft Mafia, the Raleigh Handmaidens and Lori Flanders of LORiOLA beads for insight into this topic. Thanks to the Handmaidens for the photo collage at the top of this blog post.
Tomorrow: Act RIGHT when you are in the show, or how to get invited back!