The Battle of the Beadsmith: How Not to Enter a Jewelry Competition

Well, the first round of voting in The Battle of the Beadsmith competition ended last week, and the winners have been announced. Much to the surprise of many, my piece, Mother of Dragons, didn't make it into the second round. But, get this: it lost by only one vote.

One vote! I was over the moon when I found out. Yes, you read that correctly. I mean, don't get me wrong. Sure, I was a little bit disappointed that I had lost in round one, but I was thrilled to know that it was such a close competition.

I had my reservations going into this competition. I hadn't made a "major" piece of beadwork or beaded jewelry since I had my son back in 2008, and I hadn't entered any kind of jewelry making competition since 2006. But I wanted to enter this particular jewelry making competition because I knew it would be fierce, and I wanted to push myself to create something entirely new.

I also learned a few things about entering jewelry making competitions that really changed the way I view these things, and I hope maybe a budding beaded jewelry designer can learn something about entering jewelry making competitions, too.

1. Just because your beautiful piece of beaded jewelry didn't win, it means your work is awful, worthless, or not good enough. This is a hard one for a lot of artists, because I think that most people equate artistic success with commercial success. However, that's not always the case. There are many, many beautiful pieces of art that don't make it into juried art shows or jewelry making competitions, but that doesn't make them bad pieces of art. It just means that those particular judges didn't like them. And, really — if you ask ten different people their opinion on the same piece of art, chances are that you are going to get ten different answers.

2. If you don't want to lose, don't enter a competition. I know, it's so easy to get wrapped up in the fantasy of entering a jewelry making competition and having your piece of beaded jewelry win top honors. But entering a jewelry making competition doesn't guarantee that you'll win anything. What it does guarantee, however, is that you will get your name and your work in front of a panel of professional judges, and sometimes, just getting your name out there at first can be more valuable than winning any prize.

3. Jewelry making competitions are harmful to your artistic development. This is one hot topic, and one that I will be exploring further in the coming weeks, but personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with a little healthy competition, even in the beading and jewelry making world. Jewelry making competitions are there to inspire artists, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment on finishing my bead embroidered collar for The Battle of the Beadsmith competition — even if I didn't make it past the first round!

Davinia,  by Australian bead artist Patrick Duggan, was another amazing piece of beadwork that didn't make it into Round 2 of The Battle of the Beadsmith.

Of course, being an artist means that you're probably a little more sensitive to the opinions and criticisms about your work. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't pay attention when someone has something critical to say about your beaded jewelery designs. But learning how to recognize what is truly constructive criticism and what is just someone's opinion is an important part of being an artist.

I also don't want to discourage anyone from entering their work in a jewelry competition, either. But do it with your eyes open and with the knowledge in your heart that no matter what the results of the competition, yes, you are good enough!

Bead Happy,


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