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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stuff They Don't Tell You & Unwritten Rules

The time has arrived for me (and maybe for you!) to consider the possibililty of entering Bead & Button Magazine's premier competition, Bead Dreams.  A message from Bead Dreams last week informed past participants that the rules have been posted.  (EDITED TO ADD:  It's a new place every year, and for those reading for the first time, here is the 2016-17 link:
The rest of the links in the article are likely no longer functioning, just so you know. )

This information is posted publicly on the Bead&Button Show site. Almost everything you need to know is posted there.  I LOVE this event, and I began a potential entry yesterday evening.

Take a good look at the Rules and Eligibility.  I read it all twice to make sure I understand.  Some of my not-from-the-USA friends were horrified to discover the cost of getting their work safely to the event.  I was surprised myself to realize that shipping my work, insured for its value, to Milwaukee cost almost $50, not counting the box I bought to ship it in.

Scroll down to check out the nine categories you can enter, and the prizes generously donated by the sponsors of the event. These are mostly gift certificates or gift packages, and in one instance, cash.  Although to qualify to win anything, your entry must be accepted as a finalist.  And then, the finalist entries are judged to determine prize winners. More on that in a moment.

Finally, here is the entry form.  It says on the right margin, that if you have Adobe Flash, you may take a guided tour of the application, and although I was not able to make that work, DO IT if you can, or mock your way through the form (carefully not submitting) and then make a list of information you will need to apply.  Write whatever descriptive sentences or paragraphs beforehand,  re-reading and editing for clarity.  I had a very hard time editing the form last year, so beware of inputting info before you are ready.

Should you enter?  If you have the time, desire, and capital, why not?  But if your beady soul will be crushed by not becoming a finalist, or not winning your category, or even Best in Show, then maybe not.  Because, that is the worst that can happen.  One way to help that decision along is to take a look at the handy galleries of past winners and finalists, and think about how your work might measure up, if that matters to you. Whatever your impression, there are no guarantees.  Artists who got in last year might not get in this year, and vice versa.  How you do in any competition depends on who else shows up and what they bring.  You might make the most amazing art you have ever created and be wildly proud of it, and not become a finalist.  But the experience might be worth more than any placement or prize.  Here is anther opinion about the question of whether or not to enter beading competition, (in this case, Battle of the Beadsmith) with some really great points and opinions.

Now on to a few bits of information you might find useful, which are not part of the official info links above.

The Judging Criteria

Here is something they do not tell you. Finalist entries are judged on three points, and given a numeric score between 1 and 10.  Those scores determine winners.  I know this from the judging sheets that have been returned to me for the last two years, and I will share them with you, because I find it helpful to have the information, and you might too.  I would even share my scores if you asked. Since it is not official published information, it could change at any time, should the organizers decide on different criteria.

1) OVERALL PRESENTATION;  Use of color, shape, texture, and other design elements; effective, well thought out; wow factor; design message.

2) TECHNICAL EXECUTION;  Mastery of technique (i.e., no excessive thread showing, no unintended gaps, precise wraps, etc.) proper choice of materials (beads, threads, findings, etc.) to achieve highest quality; superior craftsmanship (proper construction of materials); no unsightly connections, workings, clasps or breakage; workable - if an element is supposed to open, it should.

3) CREATIVITY;  Original design or design elements within the overall piece; creative use of materials (i.e., using common materials in an innovative way, using unexpected elements or materials, inspired new ideas); pushing the field, medium, or technique forward; keeping the craft evolving.

COMMENTS AND NOTES are also written, and I have found both the scores and comments extremely beneficial and helpful.  The judging is done by people who know what they are talking about.

The Unwritten Rules

To be perfectly clear, I am writing tongue-in-cheek here.  None of these is a real rule, and you do not need to follow them... but you may encounter unintended consequences, and forewarned is forearmed.  I find my own opinions and ethics are presented here as "good ideas."  You should find your own truth and ethics, I think.  Shows me how easy it is, to think you know what is best for all!

Now to the "unwritten rules."  Stuff you have no idea about if it is your first experience with the show. And these rules are not the rules of the organizers of the event.  But should you ignore any of these unwritten, unpublished rules, others may take it upon themselves to make it known that you are breaking these rules, and that you should be ashamed of your behavior.  I broke the rules, and was called out for it, and was wretched for a long time because of it. So I am going to share these unwritten rules, and you can decide for yourself whether you want to follow them, knowing the potential consequences.

UNWRITTEN RULE #1 - Before the submission date, feel free to mention that you are assembling an entry to Bead Dreams on social media.  But post NO pictures!  No progress shots, no finished shots!  Some people do show tiny portions of their work in sneak peeks, or the detritus on their bead mat when they are done. I have not seen anyone shamed for sneak peek/detritus postings.   I am not sure how it came to be a rule, but I have heard it discussed, and I can see the logic to it.  It might be terribly embarrassing to proudly flaunt your baby, only to discover that your work is not designated as a finalist, and not accepted to the show.  And I think some people are superstitious about the procedure.  Maybe they have to wear the right sox and not clear their bead mats until after finalists are announced.  Now, this is NOT a rule put forward by the organizers of the event, and in no way an expectation of theirs. So whether you follow along is up to you.  But beware that there are those with this expectation, and they could make your life miserable should you choose to ignore it.

UNWRITTEN RULE #2 - This one is where I got my nose whacked.  Should you be fortunate enough to become a finalist, DO NOT post pictures on social media in celebration.  Again, this is a rule created by past participants, not by the organizer.  I was so crushed and destroyed by this, I wrote to Julia Gerlach, editor of Bead & Button to get the full story and apologize for my behavior.

Here's what I said:

"When I received the finalist letter, I posted the images I sent with my application on facebook, and a message about being thrilled to have been chosen on my page.  I titled the post, "Bead Dreams Bound."  The album and individual images were spread far and wide across fB through sharing, much more so than I would ever have anticipated.  Then it was pointed out to me that I and several others who had also posted images of their finalist work, were wrong, ignorant and foolish.  Various reasons were given: spoiling the surprise at the event, ruining our chances of placing, getting unfair views by judges online, disrespecting the event and the organizers: generally a very log list of complaints.  I carefully re-read the rules and my contract and nothing was said about keeping the work under wraps until the event.  I am a rule follower at my core, and was devastated to think I had broken unwritten rules.

Then I began to wonder, what exactly are your expectations?  And if you have a preference as to how and when we state that we have work in the show, and make our images public, and write about the experience in our blogs, I wondered why these are not clearly stated in the rules, or on the contract.

So my question is, did I make the horrible error I was so publicly humiliated for?  If so, I apologize most sincerely!  In my experience, some competitions and events do require secrecy and others like publicity and encourage promotion of the event in any and all ways, actually asking for blog posts and tweets, etc."

And here is what Julia (who is really nice!) said, which I publish here with her permission:

"I'm so sorry you were called out for posting your BeadDreams entry.  We don't have anything in the rules about it and we do not plan to add a rule stating that you can't post your entries."

So, I felt better. And the next year, I wrote a blog post about my entry, including my images, and posted a link on facebook with a spoiler alert, so that those who did not want to see images of my work splashed on their home pages could avoid it if they chose. I find there is a time, if I have something to say, that is optimal for the writing.  If am a forced to wait, I find I no longer am excited to tell my story, or have different things to say, and I prefer more immediacy and truth here. But I have another purpose too.  Which brings up the next unwritten rule.

UNWRITTEN RULE #3 - Do NOT do as the event organizer requests, and post the link they send you by email for voting for the People's Choice Award. I think what the creators of this rule were trying to avoid was ballot box stuffing by enthusiastic finalists, who want every single one of their facebook friends and all of their family, and everyone on whose e-mail address they know, to VOTE FOR THEIR ENTRY.  In my opinion, that is indeed not an appropriate thing to do. But asking interested parties to visit the poll and vote for their favorite work is how the thing works.  SO unless you wish to ignore the organizer's direct instructions, you should ignore UR#3 and post the link, requesting that people vote, not for YOUR entry, but for their favorite work.

In all fairness, this is a flawed award process.  It is theoretically a blind vote.  But it is not difficult to figure out mostly which work belongs to which artist.  And some of the work, which can be created anytime throughout the year, has already been widely seen, for example in Battle of the Beadsmith. So the idea that the vote is blind is not realistic to begin with.  I personally believe that most people are sufficiently ethical to look at the staggering body of work and vote for the piece they find most awesome, whether they know who created it or not. Sadly, sometimes, finalist's friends and relatives go to work to solicit votes, without the entrants knowledge. And sometimes a finalist does aggressively solicit votes for themselves. And, in my opinion, those results are sad.  But until the event organizer chooses to rule differently on this matter, I will follow the rules as they are written, and ignore this unwritten one..

EDITED TO ADD:  Wow. I just was shown an entirely different perspective on this third rule by someone who I believe wants to remain anonymous.  Please go and check out rule commentary #19 at the Land of Odds Ugly Necklace Contest here.  It suggests that part of being an artist is self promotion, and that learning to do it (I might have added gracefully) is a necessity for all artists.  It goes on to suggest that it might even be appropriate to explain your work to make it appealing to voters.  In a way, I suppose that is why I write this blog.  I am promoting my jewelry and myself.  I learn so much from my readers and discussion!!!

And about posting my own pictures before the People's Choice vote?  Here is why I choose to do it.  I work REALLY, REALLY hard to take accurate photos of my work, with the best possible lighting.  I work to represent the colors, shapes, and techniques as they actually are.  I take at least 100 shots under different conditions, with different lighting and camera settings to accomplish this.  I find the "official" photos used for the public voting, and serve as reference on the galleries of past winners and finalists, sometimes to not meet the criteria I demand of my own pictures.  So if I am to be judged by the general public on my work, I would prefer that voters see the best possible representation of the work.  Chances are I will continue to post my pictures on my blog.  I mean no disrespect to the Bead Dreams photography.  I am glad they post images!  I also appreciate that doing every piece justice would be a monolithic task.

Compare for yourself here.

So, what do you think?  Will you enter BeadDreams 2015?  The clock is ticking!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Maltese Squircle!

Occasionally I am asked to solve a bezel problem, which kinda delights me. I recently agreed to try a shape for Cindy, who sent me a Swarovski Squircle, because I could not find this item locally.  Or that is what she called it.  And it is a pretty descriptive name.  The jewel is mostly a square, with rounded corners. A SQUare cIRCLE!  I wish like crazy that I had taken a picture of it before I started working with it Friday evening, but I did not.  So you will have to trust me when I tell you it had a gold foiled back.  And it was 18mm across its widest point, according to my caliper.  Now Swarovski, according to the Create Your Style site, has a NEW cut, #4470, which looks very much like this one.  But it is only available in 10mm and 12mm.  And in the picture, the "new" jewel has a silver foil backing.  So from this evidence, (and the color looking like Tabac or maybe Sahara to me) I will guess that this item is vintage cut #4471.
SO this may not be the most universally applicable bezel, but I do hope Cindy likes it!

When I looked at her picture, I thought the shape was pretty, and that there should be a way to bezel it to emphasize and delineate the lovely shaped edges.  I decided first to apply a leather back to it, both since I believed is was old, and because of the sharp point on the back.  I thought that point would be vulnerable to chipping, and not be especially comfy either.  So I cut a chunk of lambskin about twice the size of the jewel, warmed it with my iron, stretched it over the upside down jewel, and waited while it cooled to create a pointy pocket.  Then I applied some E-6000 to the back of  the jewel, pressed it into the leather pocket, and dropped it into my rice bed to dry.
Ok, true, my rice bed is not rice.  It is Poly Pellets, which is a craft store weighted stuffing material. But it does a great job of holding oddly shaped things while they cure.  After the drying was complete, I trimmed the leather back neatly to the edge, and chose two contrasting colors for the bezel.
I chose a light, shiny metallic delica, (24k green gold) and a dark, matte metallic delica,(Jet AB), and 15/0 seed beads to match.  You could be much more subtle than I was by choosing the same color in shiny and matte, but I wanted the finished piece to be for daily wear, with a nod toward denim, hence my choices.  Also I wanted to show you clearly what I was doing and thought the two colors would be helpful.

For all four (and like in this case eight) sided figures, we need a number of beads to begin with that is divisible by four.  If you want to read some general info on geometric bezels look here, and specifically for octagons, look here.  I found that 48 beads was perfect, not too snug, not at all loose.

Rows 1 and 2: String 5 dark, 7 light, four times total, and then go through the original bead again to form a circle.  If you need help getting started with appropriate tension, you could put a knot in the circle before going through the original bead again.  I just hold the tail tight,
Row 3: Peyote one full round, holding the work flat, and matching colors. Step up into the center of the circle.  
Row 4: Begin to curve the dark corners by stitching a 15/0 at each edge of the dark section, and matching delicas everywhere else.  So begin with 1 dark delica, then 1 dark 15/0, 3 light delicas, and 1 dark 15/0, repeating three times.  Stitch snugly, (but not super tight) encouraging the dark corners to round out as you go.  Poof, squircle created!  
(Now it would be possible to finish the face of this bezel simply from this point as I do on the back of the bezel, in row 12, but I thought some geometry would further emphasize the pretty shape and cover some of the sparkle power, since I wanted this to be a casual piece.  So hang in there with me for now, and if you want to see more of your stone, you can simple replace the next row with row 12, and call it done on the face.)

Row 5: In this row, we will add two more 15/0 to the dark corners, and two 15/0 to each light edge, to begin to create a triangle peak.  SO, 15/0 dark, 15/0 light, 2 light delicas, 15/0 light, 15/0 dark, repeating three more times.
Row 6: A tricky row, and I officially WISH I had time to learn to use Illustrator, so I could make it more clear for you.  The picture above shows the first three stitches in row six, as well as all of row five. Notice I DID NOT step up after the last stitch in row 5, but carried my thread ahead through the work to the first light 15/0.  THEN I stepped up and stitched the first three stitches in row 6, one 15/0, one delica, and one 15/0 in light.  Then I stepped DOWN, into the previous row (the first dark 15/0) and will stitch the final 15/0 in the peak of the dark corner.  Then I step back up through the first dark 15/0 to continue with the remaining sides in the same manner.
You will go through that first dark 15/0 many times.  If you are not using a size 12 needle, switch now to avoid breaking that bead.  I set the bezel on the stone to show you row six completed above.  I left a space between the dark corner peaks, both because to add a bead would be to excessively tighten the face of the bezel and because I am trying to emphasize the shape.  See the place where the bead is missing, just before where my thread exits?  I hope this is clear!

Rows 7 and 8:  In this round, we will stitch two rows onto each of the light peaks, and step down through that original dark 15/0 to cross the completed dark peaks.  Step up into the second light 15/0, and peyote two stitches with light 15/0.  Then turn your needle as in the picture below to back up and allow yourself to apply the final 15/0 to the peak. Here's the needle, creating the first turn.  I stitched the first light peak to show you what you are trying to accomplish here. 
After turning, work across through the bezel three beads, and turn again, up into the 15/0, to position yourself to add the final peak, as in the photo below.
Apply the peak, sneak your thread back down into the original dark 15/0, pass through the bezel to the other side of the dark corner and finish off all the light peaks in the same way.  
Here is our bezel and our Squircle Jewel, which are now ready to be BFFs.
Install the jewel, and if you are like me and want to continue to work counter-clockwise, turn your needle to allow that.  See how the negative space forms a Maltese cross?  Love that!
Row 9: Peyote stitch 3 light delicas and 3 dark delicas, four times total, and step up into the new row.
Row 10: Peyote stitch 4 light delicas and 2 dark delicas, four times total and step up into the new row.
Row 11: Peyote stitch 3 light delicas and 3 dark 15/0, four times total and step up into the new row.
Row 12: Peyote stitch 4 light 15/0 and 2 dark 15/0, to finish the back and step down into previous rows to turn your thread a few times to secure the work.  Work in the original tail in the same way, or use either thread for additional embellishing or attachements, but I suggest that you make each thread secure before using it for other purposes.
I do think that rows 11 and 12 could also provide the face of the bezel, but I personally like the geometry and shapes highlighted.  To my eye, this looks mosly round, but if you do the first contraction in the dark corner only as illustrated here, it does create the shape and would allow more of the sparkly stone to be visible, if that is your purpose.  Both ideas will work to create the square sided, round cornered octagon that is this jewel.
OH, and here is my first sample effort, using nearly the same color in matte and shiny delicas, with a bronze matte edge accent on the curvey corners.  As you can see, the same or similar colors in different finishes could be amuch more elegant, less casual frame.
Thanks Cindy for your kind words, a fun challenge, and a pretty jewel, and I hope you enjoy your Squircle as much as I am enjoying mine.  I added a little lace to my bezel with square stitch and netting, strung it as a simple pendant, because soft golden greens are plentiful in my wardrobe, and I want to wear it often! Here's my finish for this bezel, which I do not think I can show you without Illustrator's help.  But feel free to riff off my idea.  I thought something swell could have been done with Herringbone  stitch too.
Why Maltese?  Well, it popped into my mind, and the Wiki Wisdom on the symbology is that the eight points of the cross represent the eight obligations and aspirations of the Knights Hospitaller.
Excellent rules to live by, IMHO, and ones I am happy to wear around my own neck:

1) to live in truth
2) to have faith
3) to repent one's sins
4) to give proof of humility
5) to love justice
6) to be merciful
7) to be sincere and wholehearted
8) to endure persecution  

That last bit, I officially suck at.  But occasionally I can swallow my annoyance and live with it.