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 A Conversation with Wendy Rosen

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Wendy Rosen is the founder of the Rosen Group which puts on the Buyers Market of American Craft (BMAC) since 1982. It's the nation’s largest wholesale craft trade show.

art show juror interviews

Why the Jury System is Flawed
The standard craft show jury system does not allow for the revelation of whose work you’re looking at, and so you could be looking at derivative work made by someone who’s actually copying the original designs of someone else. That’s the first reason.
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The second reason is that sometimes photographs of great work look terrible and photographs of bad work looks great. The photographs are not always representational, and the worst thing that an artist can do is take their own photographs.

Out of the 100 slides that I see, only three are probably what I would call a glamour shot, the rest are ordinary shots. About 60 percent are ordinary shots, and then you’ve got 35 percent that are horrible shots. The glamour shot is the shot that can actually be used for public relations and advertising for a show, and that’s the kind of shot that gets through the jury.

What I consider to be a glamour shot is that it’s looks like it’s been professionally taken with good lighting so that the texture comes out. The dimensional nature of the item is there and the color is correct. There are a million things that go into making a great photograph, but the difference between a great photograph and a good photograph is that there are so many good photographs out there that it isn’t really a guarantee of getting into the shows. You’ve got to have something great in order to get into some of the more competitive shows.
Researching and Jurying
My show doesn’t work that way because if I see bad photography or work that I question in any way, how’s it made or what the color is or the dimensions of it, I can make a phone call. Mine is a transparent jury situation.

My jurors are a community inside the office that initially reviews the applications. I then look at the application very, very carefully because there are people who want to exhibit in some shows that are not really qualified. I have to make sure that all of their processes follow what our rules and regulations are as defined as to what an American craft is.
I need to know what their commitment to business is and what their goals and objectives are in getting into this show. I need to know what their experience is and whether or not it’s a really good idea for them to exhibit now or maybe wait until they’ve gone to a business institute or learned a little more about the wholesale side. The worst thing that can happen to me is that an artist would actually have a problem and not make their expenses and be able to afford their next show. I am relying on a long term relationship because it costs me a great deal of time and energy, and sometimes it takes us years to mentor someone to a point where they’re really ready to do the show, and we don’t want them doing that show before they’re ready. We don’t want them to fail.

My criteria is that it’s hand-made to our specifications. Sometimes, the specifications are more strict than other shows, and sometimes they are less strict than the actual made in America requirement by the government.

Here are two examples of our requirements. Someone who’s creating a piece of jewelry, and the focal point of the piece of jewelry is a fine carving, they may get into many retail craft areas but will not get into our show. Because in our show, the focal point of a piece of jewelry or another piece of craft, must be something made by hand fabricated. And in the case of etched glassware, if the glassware is made in America, but not made in a studio, then the exhibitor can exhibit with us, but cannot identify themselves as hand-made glassware. They have to say “etched.”

There are many ways to get around the jury system. You can send in multiple applications. You can send your slides ahead for review by a juror to get their opinion, even though you’re not supposed to do that. There are all kinds of devious ways that people get around a jury system. I’ll look to see what’s on their web site. Then I’ll call and ask questions about their process, where they went to school, who mentored them, and what their goals and objectives are. You get a much better understanding of where that person is in their life and why they want to do your show.

So when these artists apply to my shows, they’re in as long as they want to be in as long as they don’t have unresolved problems with buyers. We’ve had situations where someone takes deposits, and then doesn’t deliver. Things of that nature are very important for us to deal with.

I make notes when I’m walking down the aisles. With 1,600 booths, I cannot do on-site jurying, but we tweak things and gather information. I do a review of the show generally in the morning and very late in the afternoon. I’ll go look at things, and I will try to greet as many of the new exhibitors as I can, and, but when you’re dealing with 1,600 exhibitors, that’s kind of hard to do. I often don’t get to everyone who’s new in one show. It’s only the new ones that I really need to see. The regular ones are generally okay, and I will get a report from another exhibitor or from one of my floor managers if they’re not. We have specific exhibitor relations people in each category.

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The Internet
I communicate with people on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. So I am online and looking at web sites all day long. When an artist, one that I don’t even do business with, sends me a question on something, I answer them. I had one from London the other day. “How do I sell in the United States?” So I write them a note giving them five or six resources to that will help them out pointing to mostly online opportunities.
Final Advice
My advice to artists looking to do my show is that they go to the Arts Business Institute or come and visit the show first, and I recommend that for any show you want to do. You should see it, touch it, feel it, and be there as an attendee before you decide to spend the money to exhibit. Then make sure to have an original line of work.
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