Saturday, March 20, 2010

Seduced and abandoned; Ceramic Competitions!

Spanner in the works, Page one of three. Entry forms for Mixed Media - Ceramics plus, The Nassauische Sparkasse 2010 Talent Award for Ceramics.

Entering Ceramic Competitions is every aspiring ceramist’s dream to gain regional, national and international recognition. The idea is to seek an acclaimed status (celebrated, applauded and much appraised) amongst the elite of one’s ceramic peers. Being accepted and winning an award, boosts one’s creative endeavours and looks great on the CV. However being rejected, especially when you were very confident with your entry, can be devastating!

Spanner in the works, Page two of three. Entry forms for Mixed Media - Ceramics plus, The Nassauische Sparkasse 2010 Talent Award for Ceramics.

Case in point
This post entry is in direct response to my work being rejected for the Mixed media – Ceramic Plus, The Nassausiche Sparkasse 2010 Talent Award for Ceramics. Enclosed are the drawings, images and supporting text submitted for the Ceramic Competition (as requested in the entry forms) –an installation of 16 tattooed rats with actual piercings titled, Spanner in the Works. To my knowledge this is the first time, in an International Ceramic Competition, that your ideas, drawings, models and prototypes had to be submitted for adjudication and not photographic documentation of the finished final piece. I assume most ceramists would have submitted images of their final pieces and not drawings etc as stated on the entry forms.
Emotional Distress
I was very confident with my drawing skills and design layout knowledge, including my highly refined conceptual ability, that I would be one of the 150 out of 350 entries to this prestigious awards exhibition. Especially as the 2010 competition focuses on Art or expressive works rather than studio ceramics and or Ceramic Craft. The inclusion of piercing linked to tattoos, associated with the historically significant event, Operational Spanner UK, seemed the obvious creative direction for me to pursue, and perfectly meets the competition's mixed media criteria. On rejection a carefully constructed letter was compiled and sent to the abandoned and rejected individuals, with these comforting and encouraging words; to consider future participation … “but please: as you surely know, - in another context, with another group of jury members or another theme the decision could have been easily another one involving your wonderful project, too.”

Spanner in the works, Page three of three. Entry forms for Mixed Media - Ceramics plus, The Nassauische Sparkasse 2010 Talent Award for Ceramics.
Most competitions have a policy that the judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into / or entertained at the rejection of the work. No feedback is ever provided. This leaves one with the feeling of self-doubt and rejection, a Dostoyevsky type angst (Crime and Punishment syndrome) associated with a lack of creativity and innovation underpinning one’s work.
In my capacity as a judge, I have myself rejected work for regional and national competitions, and therefore should be well prepared for the worst outcome. However there are those times when one is maybe over confident and forget that there are so many factors that contribute to work being accepted and certain work to be rejected. To try and begin to analyse the reasons for the work’s rejection, is a futile exercise, and in itself destructive. There are always more questions than answers. Doubt is not all bad and if channelled correctly could bring out the best in one’s creativity.
One should take refuge in one’s self belief, and pursue one’s creative passion with ever increasing determination. One needs to get over it, not to take it so personally, and to get on with it. So there you have it. Respect for the judges decision is always good governance, obstinate behaviour could have serious consequences, that draws far too much attention to oneself for the wrong reasons, which most certainly will not aid one’s future career development or successful entry in future competitions.


Clementina van der Walt said...

Why do YOU think your work was rejected? The drawings are excellent...what do you think they were looking for? It is somewhat disconcerting...your blog response is very pragmatic however.

Anonymous said...

this is pretty amazing eugene... i mean if i was asked to provide "ideas, drawings, models, and prototypes" to get in a show, all i'd have to show is the final piece. and of anyone i've ever seen, i think you'd have to be the best at all of the research and refinement of concept and have beautiful drawings and notes about said research to boot. it's as if the criteria were set out with you in mind. the layout of the proposal (entry forms) has the look of being put together by a seasoned graphic designer... and there's 150 with better presentations, ideas, and execution? find this difficult to believe and although i think taking the high road is best for your sanity, long ago i came to the conclusion that the thought processes behind jurying art exhibitons (so subjective) are so enigmatic as far as agenda, personal preferences, prejudices, etc. that trying to read into it is an exercise in futility. as far as the rejection letter, i was talking to a friend recently and had said that i wished the rejection letter started with the sentence... "we're sorry but you were not selected" and followed by all the horse manure so that you could just stop after that sentence and move on to something constructive and less trite. i'd have picked your entry for whatever that's worth.

Lawrance Brennon said...

Sorry about the rejection Eugene. Very surprizing. Trouble is that one never knows the real agenda of the judges. Your attitude is right though ..... one just has to get over it and let it go. They missed a treat though!

Eugene Hon said...

Thank you for your comments. Tina all I can think is that most of the accepted entries were photographs of the finished final ceramics pieces. I was asked by the organising administrators in an email (after the entry was submitted), as to what my final images were. I have to commit their request confused me. It was as if they themselves were not familiar with their competition directive that could include drawings etc. I submitted the drawings and one or two images of the tattooed rats in a corresponding email(in response to their request), also included in the graphic presentation - however I am not sure the judges ever got to see the graphic design layouts I submitted. No further correspondence was entered into, even though I quoted their entry forms directives that included the call for drawings, photos of prototypes etc.

Eugene Hon said...

The following comments about the blog entry above was posted on Facebook. Because they are relevant for record and discussion purposes, I copied and pasted them here. Just wanted to say that

I have the utmost respect for you as a person, teacher and an an artist Eugene. Thank you for posting this. Michelle Legg.

Hi Eugene, I am going to refer people to this article, it's an excellent evaluation of how to deal with selections and rejections and let it work for, and not against your creativity. I hope you are going to display your drawings with your ceramic work at one of your exhibitions, they are really beautiful. Colleen Lehmkuhl

Rejection is not at all an easy reality to be confronted with , but an essential part of life's 'process' towards the understanding and acceptance of what our role and function as human beings are...Johann Du Plessis

These are comments of friends of mine and I am sure they won't mind me posting them here on my blog.

Rebeca Diaz said...

I am amazed that your work was not chosen..the meticulous work that you have done...the beautiful drawings and the finished products are have a new fan (me0...what I like about your work is that it makes me's not about decorative or functional goes beyond that and that is what I also love about your work(I'm including your other work as well) is creative (I love creativity), it has historical depth, the occult, humanitarian themes...and yeah....I love the spiritual/religious work you've done...that for me is the best...just when I thought there was no ceramic artist that had depth in their me you are an artist of the highest of luck with the rest of your work....

an after thought...perhaps the rejection was there for you to keep being creative...when we think we have it all, an invisible force tends to come and smash our preconceived ideas....we continuously make assumptions about everything and the opposing and ever changing forces that are continuously with us in life, make us evolve.....perhaps the rejection is there for you to go beyond what others think....after all, it was only a few individual people that judged and there are trillions of people around the world who, i'm sure, would think differently....the judge's inner world obviously consisted of something different to what you were hoping to show...

Anyway,to finish of, another day i will send you the most amazing narrative that comes from the heart and it's about what people in the concentration camp of Auschwitz valued before going to the's to do with ceramics believe it or not...this may spark your imagination into other areas when creating work in the future...I don't know...I found this piece when I was at university , around 30 years was written by a person that called himself 'Katzenik" which means prisoner in german and the book had the star of David as a front cover...the book was blue in colour and it contained his poetry and stories and I curse myself for not photocopying it or getting the details of the book...I hope you like made me think about ceramics in a whole new way and that's what I try to do with my secondary make them see ceramics in a new way...that's what I like about your last, I feel I am not alone in creativity and ceramics...
best of luck
rebeca diaz