Powerful Exhibition Submission

by Rachael Chambers

I often hear from makers who are disgruntled that they haven’t been chosen for a show/exhibition or event for which there is a selection panel. Many just can’t understand why they have been turned down, yet in many cases the applications submitted are poorly completed with weak photography and over exuberant text. So what is the secret to a good strong application?

I have been on the selection committee of varying panels and it is always tough to choose a small selection from a large number of applications. But regardless of your discipline or the event, there are a few golden rules and one of the most important is to keep your application simple yet powerful.

On a selection panel you are faced with many applications from which a decision has to be made as to who is ’in’ and who is ‘out’ of the running.� Due to the endless task that this type of selection can be, decisions have to be made quickly and often each application is viewed for just a short while. �Therefore it is important to stand out from the crowd. Make sure your work is different from others working on the craft circuit and that it is well made and that your design style is strong. Don’t dilute your brand/design style by trying to show off all the craft you are able to do, instead promote a small selection of your best work confidently, as Lesley Beale who selects for Lustre explains;

“When you are looking at a lot of applications, a maker who has a strong style or signature stands out and shows confidence. Personally, work that is unusual, bold and innovative, but also well crafted usually gets my vote. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, even good work can be ruined by bad photographs.”

For me photography should always be your trump card and I can’t stress enough the importance of good photography in your application. We are all able to read an image quicker than we can read the written word and photography can portray your work far better than any description ever can. I have seen so many applications immediately discarded due to poor photography and many times I have seen a person’s work after a rejection has been given, only to note in disbelief that the work is far better than the photography that was sent in to portray it. Photography however will never be quite the same as seeing an item in reality, but in your application it’s the closest and most powerful tool you have, so make it work for you, as Sarah James, Director of The Contemporary Craft Fair, Made by Hand at Tredegar House and madebyhandonline.com, agrees;

“The best applications have strong, professionally taken images. Selectors often have very little time or information during a juried panel and the images must make an immediate impact. Don’t be tempted to use props or patterned backgrounds as they will detract from the images. For example, if you are asked for 6 images, include 4 images of objects, either singular or in a group and 2 details, if the work needs further explanation. Selectors want to feel confident they are making an intelligent decision based on what is put before them. Though you may think it’s a good idea to put a range of products from different ranges, regardless of how successfully executed, it will just appear that you don’t have a clear idea of what you make. I would only show a maximum of 2 ranges to any selection panel.”

It is crucial that your application follows the set format that has been requested and that you have followed the guidelines closely and that your application arrives on time. Your application should be neat and tidy and your photography should be instrumental in portraying your work. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and first impressions do count, so make sure your first shot is your best shot. Anything you write about you and your work must be concise and to the point as there isn’t a lot of time for the judging panel to read through the applications; so don’t waffle, get your key points across and don’t be frightened to bullet point your unique selling points in order to get your profile understood and noted quickly. Your application doesn’t have to include everything you have ever done, or all the design styles you produce, as this is often too much for the judging panel to take in and weakens your application.
Play to your strengths and put in only what enhances your application. Do also remember that those who are making the selections only have the applications to go on, so if you don’t write it down or show it in a photograph then they won’t know about it. Shout about any exhibitions you have been involved in, any awards gained or recognition received and keep quiet about which primary school you went to, how you used to enjoy cross stitch with your Gran, as it’s irrelevant in an exhibition application.

Also bear in mind that there are only so many applications that can be selected, so if you don’t get in, then brush off your disappointment, ask for application feedback, take it on board and apply again, but not with the same application; refresh your text and your imagery and go for it again.

Rachael Chambers
Contemporary Craft Editor
E: [email protected]

Rachael is also the owner of the multi award winning Ferrers Gallery at Staunton Harold near� Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire. Rachael, who is an award winning business women herself, also runs one day Marketing for Makers courses and a one-to-one mentoring programme called ‘Creative Directions’. Alongside this she gives talks to colleges and arts associations and is on the selection panel for several regional organisations and events. www.ferrersgallery.co.uk

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