Well a couple of days have gone by since I got back from the UK and the opening of the exhibition. I have had time to reflect and collect my thoughts together. These are the things that I have learnt from taking part in the exhibition – both from the process up front and then from seeing all the entries for the award displayed together.
I should have made something bigger. I didn’t get anywhere close to the maximum size of 150 cm square. Most of the other exhibits were large and to be honest mine just got lost. In fact a couple of the finalists came and asked me where mine was as they hadn’t seen it. And believe me the room was not large.
I didn’t consider the logistics enough before committing to my final idea. There were 2 problems, one more of a disadvantage than the other. My piece was really more interactive than static and was a problem to display. The main details were on the outside of the box, with each side and the top representing an idea. So of course I wanted the viewer to be able to see all the details. This meant the box needed to be closed, but then you couldn’t see the inside, which was the bright colourful joyful part. The doll would have been hidden too. So I chose to have the doll sitting outside the closed box, but then maybe the whole piece lost its point and became disjointed. I wrote to Alice Kettle for advice and she suggested using a digital photo frame to show more images of the piece. But I discovered again during the exhibition that people didn’t realise that the photos went round in a slide show so that didn’t really work either.
The second point concerning logistics is how to pack and transport to the exhibition venue. We took quite a lot of trouble to stabilise the box in transport, but it did look a bit the worse for its journey. The sides were a bit bent so the box no longer looked its best, which can’t have earned me any brownie points.
In retrospect I probably didn’t do enough stitching. It was an award for Stitched Textiles and although my piece was obviously stitched, a bit more embellishment would have done no harm. Especially as the main judge Alice Kettle is well known for her large-scale embroidered work. (Should have been a hint – large and stitched, but that one sailed straight past me)
My piece was probably not one that immediately engaged the viewer. Especially when it was competing on uneven footing with some large, brash, attention grabbing pieces. I’m afraid my dolly was a bit of a wallflower at the dance. The potential partners were all booked up elsewhere. I still like my idea and think it was a good one and if people do find her, take some time to watch the slide show and maybe read a page or two in my paper blog aka sketchbook, there is plenty there to hold the attention, but being brutally honest – the chances of that happening are slight. Too many other objects singing a siren song and luring the viewers away.
What else? Well I am a little mystified as to why a piece that was wildly in excess of the maximum size, being 300 cm by 200 cm, and not as far as I could discern even paying lip service to the theme of Freedom was chosen as the award winner. I admit that I did not read the entire accompanying journal to find the connection to freedom. But there was no reference at all in the catalogue entry for inspiration: “I am inspired by the materials, tools and equipment used for fishing, so I stitch with nylon line using hooks and weights like embroiderer’s beads. The nylon line helps create a net to catch technical words and sayings used, and observations made by both fishermen and embroiderers.” I’m sorry but the piece did not engage with me. I found it next to impossible to read the text which made up the piece.
Maybe I am too much influenced by my day time job in quality assurance and testing of software systems. If the business requirements say they want a system to run on a PC and the developers deliver one that needs a Cray Supercomputer to run, then it would never get past the QA stage, but would be sent back to the drawing board for some rework. Ditto if the business wanted a system to calculate interest payments and they got one, which compared exchange rates over a 3 month period. From my perspective an entry that ignores the two requirements, which laid the ground plan for the exhibition, to get past the acceptance quality gate, is something I am still working on to get my head around. Do I need to shed my work personality? Are these requirements in reality only guidelines? Am I being too critical? Should I leave my tester mentality in the office? Am I missing something? I don’t know? What do others think?
And please believe me this is not just sour grapes. Seeing the entries it is quite clear to me that there were others more deserving of the awards than mine.