Friday, January 10, 2014

Secrets of a tapestry volunteer (Part 1... "Don't worry")

I have learned a great deal about shows from being one of the co-chairs for the American Tapestry Biennial 10 this year (the American Tapestry Alliance's biennial international juried show). I have little to no decision-making power, but I do have an inside seat into how the thing works. And it has been eye-opening. I'm not going to tell all the secrets here because frankly, we need volunteers (and honestly, it has been totally worth it anyway). But here are a few tips for entering an international juried show.
  1. If the show is in the USA and the dimensions are asked for in inches, please don't send me centimeters. I have to go and convert each and every one of those numbers because the size of the show is measured in feet which correlates to inches. And I know that it is crazy we still use feet and inches over here when the rational world uses the metric system which frankly makes way more sense, but trust me. It is a lot of work to convert all you metric-people's centimeters to inches. (Don't worry, I converted all the centimeters.)
  2. If the prospectus says "show the edges of the tapestry if they will be visible when the piece is shown," then don't crop them out of your photograph. A photo with the edges showing looks very different than one with the edges cropped. (Don't worry, we took both this time... but next time, don't crop!)
  3. Photo sizes. Yoy. I can't believe the variety. Some photos were 35 KB (WAY to small by the way) and some were 20 MB (WAY too big by the way). This is just something I have to deal with, but try to find a happy medium. There are pixel requirements on the prospectus. (And don't worry, I fixed your photos or asked for new ones.) I see a blog post coming about how to resize your photographs! It actually isn't the easiest thing especially if you don't have the right software.
  4. Send photos. Seriously. Some people didn't. (Don't worry, I asked you for them if you didn't.)
  5. If the prospectus says that October 31 is the "received-by" date, this means we aren't accepting any after that date. It is not a postmark date. Many shows use postmark dates. Make sure you check! (Don't worry, I emailed you if you missed it.)
  6. If you are challenged by the online entry, consider getting your entry together and mailing it early. I would far prefer the online method as it is faster for me, but some people have weird browsers or old computers and the online entry just didn't work for them. And what the juror sees is the same in the end regardless of whether you entered online or through snail mail.
  7. If you use someone else's PayPal account to pay, especially if you have a different last name from them, please leave a note that it is a payment for you. (Don't worry, I think we finally sorted all those out.)
  8. And lastly, if you are snail mailing an entry from a place that may take a long time to arrive or may actually get stuck in some mail-person's carry-bag for a couple weeks or whatever happens to random pieces of mail, send your entry really early. There is nothing worse than having to tell someone they weren't considered because their entry took over a month to get here. (Don't worry, if I didn't tell you this was you, it wasn't though I am super disappointed for the person it happened to!)
But don't worry....

Disclaimer: All of this is completely from my head. Please don't hold ATA responsible for my random grousing! I do hope these little tips help when the next show comes around however. I know I'll follow them (lesson learned!).

Seeing the entries for ATB10 was enlightening. It reinforced something Thomas Cronenberg and Jennifer Sargent said in my rejection letter for ATB9. The juror may well be a person we respect who has worked a long time in the fiber field and who we desperately want to hope will like our work. But that juror is attempting to create a cohesive show and the work that gets in does have something to do with the other pieces submitted. Just because your piece didn't get in doesn't mean it isn't amazing (believe me, there was some amazing, wonderful, fantastic work submitted to ATB10). It just means it didn't fit the juror's vision for this particular show. Or maybe it just means that she ran out of room and those last 5 huge tapestries just couldn't be accepted. Or maybe he just doesn't like green or flowers or hanging installation pieces or whatever. Don't take it personally. Keep entering. And above all, keep weaving.

(What the ATB9 co-chairs actually said was, "Please keep in mind that the selection for this show is that of one juror. He chose works that fit his vision. Many tapestries not selected for this exhibition could easily be selected for another show.")


  1. Wow! You were quite generous in chasing people down. A lot of shows are getting tough - if the artist doesn't follow directions, the work is eliminated - end of story.

  2. Nice post, and very helpful for people to see behind the scenes.

  3. I am hugely disturbed to learn that the standard for applicants is so lax. That is a slap in the face of the applicants who accept responsibility (as they should) for understanding and complying with the requirements. And cleaning up behind those whose applications did not satisfy the requirements is co-dependent behavior that ultimately disempowers those applicants, treating them with disrespect. This is so disturbing to me that I must find a way to bring it to ATA's attention, not only complain here on this blog.

    1. Perhaps if you would sign your post we could have a conversation about this. The standard for applications was not lax and many people's entries were disqualified for not fitting the requirements. The tapestries that went to the juror fit the prospectus (except maybe for the cropping thing. It was just too much work for a volunteer to get new photos from so many applicants. I spent uncountable hours as it was readying this show.)


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