Iwas honored to judge the Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Chal- lenge and AWFS Fresh Wood awards this year. Over the years,
I’ve judged many regional and local
shows. If you’re considering entering a
contest, read below for perspective on
the process, what judges look for, and
get a step up your competition.
Besides the bragging rights to
winning these prestigious awards
(I’ve won four Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge prizes including the
grand prize—can you tell I am still
very proud of that?), there can be big
money to be had, too.
Remember the adage, “You only get
one chance to make a first impression?” This is also true when entering a
competition. The first thing judges see
is a photo of your work, and the quality
of the photography heavily influences
judges’ decisions. Make sure your photos match the quality of your work.
Most competitions start with the
preliminary round. Entrants are scored
through a grading system by a group
of judges working independently. The
judges then submit their favorites to
the awarding organization.
My first pass starts with a simple
pass or fail, and then I take a closer
look, create a rank of those that made
it through, and submit my results to the
award organization. Once scores are
tabulated and finalists selected, judges
meet in person for another round. At
this stage, the finalists are indepen-
dently re-judged, scores are re-tabulat-
ed, and then the fun begins.
Top ranked pieces are discussed
and compared to the runner-ups. We
then have an opportunity to point out
various features and/or possibly educate each other on particular elements
within a piece. Questions are raised
and the backup materials are often
reviewed to help clarify these issues.
In the case of ties, picking a winner
can be a challenge. I look for imperfections in craftsmanship or design
(proportion, balance, etc.). If I can’t
find any, then originality and creativity
come into play. Judges also acknowledge and admire risks taken, even if
they’re not executed perfectly, much
like an Olympic skater attempting a
triple jump, toe flip thingy. Even if they
fall, they still get points for trying.
While the Craftsman’s Challenge is
judged by only the photography submitted, Fresh Wood finalist pieces are
shipped to Las Vegas to be exhibited
and judged during the AWFS show. Because we were able to physically inspect
the work, judging was more intense
and critical. This process revealed
imperfections that the photographs
did not. In a few cases, the photo was
better than the actual piece!
Photography - Some entrants submitted only one photo with no details or
alternate views, which left us asking
questions. Judges can’t make assumptions, so they went into the “pass” pile.
I can’t stress enough how important
quality imagery is, and remember, the
Craftsman’s Challenge judges rely only
on photos and supporting material.
Photos do not have to be taken in
a studio; shop floor shots are fine. But
it’s critical to have clear, good lighting,
and make sure you submit as many
✚ Want more? Look for more articles and columns
by Scott Grove online at woodworkingnetwork.com
Scott Grove is an art furniture maker, sculptor, and
Here comes the judge
You Tube personality who selectively teaches and lectures,
most notably at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking
and The Chippendale School of Furniture in Scotland. Visit
ImagineGrove.com and/or scottgrove.com.
by Scott Grove
What do judges look for when we look at your work?