Each judge looked at every single piece, and each piece was scored for design/composition, workmanship, and wearability/functionality. We looked at ornaments, necklaces, belts, key fobs, beaded floral arrangements, and even an aquarium filled with beaded fish. We saw chain maille, polymer clay, precious metal clay, bead embroidery, and off-loom beadwork, and probably dozens of other media and objects I've neglected to mention!
The strongest category by far was the beaded cabochons. We've always seen good work in that area, New Mexico having such a strong tradition of beadwork, as well as access to lots of gemstones. The interesting thing this year is that each neckpiece entry in that category used the same color scheme! They were all extraordinary, well designed and well executed -- and each one used turquoise and either tiger eye or bronze, some with bone or similarly colored components. What a coincidence! I wonder if it has to do with Sherry Serafini and Heidi Kummli's new book coming out within the last year or so.
And once again we were treated to a beaded doll by Mindy Lafler of Moriarty, New Mexico. Mindy beads around her large, handmade doll forms, that are HINGED at the knees and elbows (and feet, I think?? sorry I was distracted -- in a good way! -- by the clothing and hair this year). She dresses her dolls in beaded clothing. This year, an African American form whose skin tones were made with rich brown beads, was decked out in purple and green lingerie, over which an open right angle weave robe hung perfectly! She even wore high heel fluffy beaded slippers. And apparently she was getting dressed to go out, because her matching dress hung on a stand nearby. The simple silver bead necklace was the perfect touch -- Mindy's work is made even stronger by her sense of understatement. But what really blew away the judges was the hair -- made with dozens of perfectly executed spiral rope strands in deep, dark brown size 15 seed beads. At first glance her hair looked braided.
I don't want to give away too many secrets, I'll leave them for the Fair opening this weekend, but I think you can guess where one of the Best of Show ribbons went...
If you are thinking of entering the fair -- I'd highly encourage it. With only one entry allowed per person, pick your best piece, or better yet, PLAN your best piece. The competition within the sections wasn't too fierce -- many sections had only 2 or 3 entries. As long as your work is carefully rendered, it will probably win a ribbon. But here are a few tips that separated the impressive work (note, these are just my suggestions, not necessarily all the other judges', who probably have additional great tips along with the ones below):
- Pay attention to finishing techniques.
- Use quality materials, or at least use consistent quality throughout the piece.
- Select good quality gemstones, avoiding muddy colors or low quality.
This year, as in years past, there were way fewer polymer clay and precious metal clay pieces than there are people in New Mexico working with these materials! Also, the metal jewelry category is generally underrepresented (are ya listening, wire wrappers and silversmiths?), and the mixed media category is a great place to enter your most unusual pieces.