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A Conversation with Jessica Daman - jeweler
2008 Mount Gretna 3D Juror

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The Jury Process
There were approximately 500 applications for 280 spaces. Thirty of those spaces were judges choice awards and three of the four jurors were exhibiting artists and were given jury exempt spaces. The images were projected four across; two each on two six foot projection screens. The jurors were instructed that Mount Gretna is a family type show and they wanted high quality work that fit in a family atmosphere. Nudes were OK as long as they were done tastefully. We were told to stay away from jewelry and leather kits. They also mentioned that they’ve been seeing a lot of imported oriental art that isn’t made by the people applying and we were asked us to keep an eye out for it. The majority of slides were pretty good. I saw a lot of really high quality work in all mediums. Now I won’t feel bad next time I get turned down for a show because I know it isn’t anything personal. It's just that there is a lot of really great work and a limited number of spaces.
We looked at the images for 15 seconds and read the artist statements. But if anyone had a question, we would read it out loud and discuss it among ourselves. The show director did not at any time instruct as to how we should score or offer opinions on the artists. We also did not indicate to each other how we scored. The scoring was done on a scale of one to five. As a juror I did not feel pressured to consider work based on having a balanced show, just to choose the best work. I also made an effort to score work based on its technical skill, composition, and creativity etc., rather than my own personal tastes. We also had the authority to stop the slide show to ask questions about the work, if they were applying in the correct category, discuss whether the person applying made the work, or if we needed to reexamine the booth slide. We could also request that the image be zoomed in to see detail.
The Artist Statement
I wish that ZAPP would allow more than a hundred characters for a clearer description. If you weren’t familiar with a process it made it difficult to understand what the artist was doing. I am a jeweler and have an art degree and used to do ceramics, so I did have a general understanding of a lot of processes. The juror sitting next to me was a ceramist who also seemed very knowledgeable, asked what “ss” meant in a jeweler’s artist statement and I explained that it meant sterling silver. She originally had thought it meant stainless steel. I don’t think I would know this either if I didn’t make jewelry so being able to type in a few extra characters in the artist statement would really help.
When you do your artist statement, make sure to spell everything right. In some cases the mistakes were kind of funny but it doesn’t help you to get noticed that way.
The jurors all commented on this. A few of the artist statements had words like “great” or “superb” or “fantastic”. It came across as being really egotistical. If your work is great, we’ll see it. When I read an artist statement, I want to read about how the work is created, not read that it may be a superior work of art. And someone actually used all capital letters to reinforce it (laughing).
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The Booth Slide
The booth slide was important because if someone did a certain type of work, we would look at the individual art slides to see if there was similar work with the same quality or characteristics that was in the booth slide. For example, if they were showing all sculptures of fish in their slides and they’re showing little yard art in the booth, then you’re going to see a difference in what they’re jurying in with and what they’re selling. The whole booth didn’t have to be made up with it but you wanted to see at least a couple of examples of what was in the jury slides.
I saw one artist in particular that juried in a category other than jewelry. They had some of those things from their slides in the booth but over half of their booth was jewelry. Since they weren’t jurying in the jewelry category, the jury looked negatively upon that.
There were two people that sent in booth slides showing an empty tent. I also saw chairs in the way of booths and people in a few of the booth shots.
Image Tips
In the 3D categories some of the backgrounds didn’t match, which surprised me because they might be really high quality photographs of the work. I asked the other jurors whether it was important to them and they said yes, it bothered them when the backgrounds weren’t identical. All the jurors thought that cohesiveness was important for a good score.
It seemed to me, and the other jurors seemed to agree, that work that was photographed well is more likely to get accepted than work that is not photographed as well.
In all mediums, there was a lot of high quality work but there wasn’t as much pluralism (uniqueness) of style as I would have liked to seen. The pieces that stood out were unique. They might have been unique in materials and though I might have seen something similar before, I don’t necessarily see a lot of it.
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There were maybe two or three jewelry submissions that I felt were buy/sell, and I don’t have a lot of tolerance for that. In one instance, I’m looking at what looks like Bali silver with a lot of granulation and detailed cut work. When I looked at their booth slide, they had a low rent flea market type display of an EZUp and a few card tables with necklace displays, no cases and all mismatched fabric. I’m looking at the work and I’m looking at the setup and I said that if I made work with that much detail, I certainly would not display it in that way. Another juror said that it was a valid point and that I was probably right. If I had spent that much time creating work like that, it would have been in display cases and not spread out on card tables.
If you sell baby clothing, pictures of babies wearing the clothing can be a distraction. As a matter of fact, I didn’t remember what the clothing looked like but I did remember what the babies looked like.
And with clothing, we would have liked to zoom in a lot closer to see the detail. Even though we were able to zoom in, we would have liked to zoom in more. Maybe the work could have been photographed tighter.
Jewelry Slide Tips
You need to keep in mind that the backgrounds should match and try to jury in with work that doesn’t have the look that everybody seems to be doing right now. Does it have technique, does it have form, is the composition good and is the workmanship good. It either needs to be unique or be something that catches your eye. The jewelry category was twenty percent of the total number of applications. Some of the slide sets were so similar in style that I felt that you could have put ten of them together and said that they were the same artist’s work. So anything that sets you apart is going to help.
What I took away from the experience for my own jewelry
The jewelry category is fierce with a lot of stiff competition and I have been shooting my own jury slides. Compared to what I saw, mine are just OK, so I’ve decided that if I want to get into the best shows, I need to hire a great photographer to take the pictures because I think that could give me an edge.
I feel that any artist that gets the opportunity to observe a jury should jump at the chance. It really opens your eyes and puts your work in perspective. I learned more in that one day than I probably would have learned in three years of just looking at my own slides. You can see what you need to do differently, what other people are doing well, and where you stand as far as your own work. Seeing the slides projected one set after another makes seeing trends in mediums easier than going from booth to booth.
I was really honored to sit on the jury and it was an invaluable experience for me. I felt that the people who ran it had the artist’s best interests in mind and tried to do an equitable job. I really did my best to jury with a fair and open mind especially when it came to the jewelry category as I would hope another jewelry artist would do the same for me.
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