Issue #29 October 2012
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Kathy Barwick


Crafts Competitions: A Lesson in Overcoming Obstacles and Winning Awards


Sometimes, when life deals you lemons, you have to learn how to make lemonade. I've learned that goes for just about everything in life...yes, even plastic canvas crafting!


Here's what I'm talking about...


Hi, Kathy Barwick here, for www.AddictedToPlasticCanvas.com...


As I've mentioned previously, I love entering my original finished plastic canvas projects into local, county or state fair craft competitions, and winning awards.


After all, plastic canvas crafts designers are among some of the most talented and artistically gifted people on the face of the earth. And competing against these talented individuals is a real rush to me.


Plus, the competitions are almost always a treasure trove of learning experiences. For example, you get to see up close and personal the techniques other plastic canvas designers use, the unique designs they come up with to win, the clever ways they integrate embellishments into their projects, and much more.


Plus, if you enter a competition where the judges actually leave comments on your work, you learn what they liked about your projects, and what they didn't. Taking this constructive criticism to heart helps you win future competitions.


But sometimes the competition can be a bit of a pain in the rear. And that's often where the test of a true artist takes place.


Winning the Fair Theme


For example, the most recent crafts competition I entered was at our local Fall Festival, which takes place every September.


Sometime around May the fair promoters announce the Fair Theme for the year, and publish the entry categories for the crafts competitions.


And of course, one of the most coveted ribbons in the competition is the Fair Theme ribbon, given to the craft project that most creatively reflects the Fair Theme.


So each year I eagerly await the announcement of the Fair Theme, so I can start planning and designing an elaborate plastic canvas project based around it.


This year, the Fair Theme was "Dr. Seuss and Friends."


Now admittedly, that's a very unusual fair theme. I knew immediately it would be challenging to come up with an original design reflecting that theme in relation to a local fair.


In fact, I had to wrack my brains to come up with a design idea for this theme. I sketched out numerous ideas, some on paper, and some in my head. And I finally settled on one, and got working on it.


Now, of course, I have to work for a living every day, like everyone else. So projects like this I work on in my spare time. You might say they're my "guilty pleasures" in this life.


That's why I love it when they announce the Fair Theme and publish the crafts entry categories months in advance. It gives me plenty of time to squeeze in a few hours a day (if I'm lucky) on a project like this, and get it finished in time to enter it into the fair.


So I began working on my project, and dreaming of winning that prestigious Fair Theme ribbon. I was determined nothing would stop me.


3 Months of Hard Work Down the Drain?


And over the course of three months I was just about done with my project. All that was left to finish was the bottom right quarter of the project.


And guess what? At the last minute, the fair promoters announced that they were being forced to change the fair theme due to potential copyright violations!


Yes, because the fair is a money-making operation for the city, and they apparently had not gotten permission from the people who own the Dr. Seuss brand to use the Dr. Seuss name and image in such an operation, they had to change the Fair Theme altogether.


And what did they change it to? Try this one on for size: "Happiness Is a Day at the Fair." Kinda falls flat, doesn't it?


Let me tell you, the announcement gave me a sinking feeling right in the pit of my stomach. Three months of hard work and creativity on the project, and it looked like it was all down the drain!


I could only imagine how disappointed other crafters were, especially since they'd probably been working all summer long on their project entries - just like I had been -- only to find out at the last minute that the entire theme of the fair had been changed.


And there simply wasn't enough time left to start a brand new "Fair Theme" project and have it done in time for the fair.


So what could I do?


I discussed the dilemma with my husband. "There's only 30 days left before the fair, and I have to come up with an entire new project to fit the Fair Theme if I want to win that Fair Theme ribbon," I told him. "There's no way I can get a whole new original project done in less than a month."


But he just replied, "Don't throw away all of your hard work just because someone else screwed up. Instead, figure out how to integrate the new Fair Theme into your existing project."


Well, that's my hubby for you. When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.


But he was right! After all, being creative and resilient and bouncing back from a little bit of adversity is what being an artist is all about, right?


And the great news was this: As you can see from the photo below, the unfinished section of my project (which was the bottom right corner) turned out to be the perfect spot to integrate the new Fair Theme - "Happiness Is a Day At the Fair."














It didn't take much at all to save the project. And frankly, with the new theme it actually strengthened the project!


And you can see the results for yourself. My project won the prestigious Fair Theme ribbon, just as I'd hoped.


And this year it was a beautiful, large evergreen-colored ribbon, which I'll add to the dozens of ribbons I've already won in other fair competitions.


The bottom line is that I learned another very important lesson about competing: Don't let the first little sign of adversity bring your work to a screeching halt.


After all, as artists, we're creative people. That means we can think our way over, under or around obstacles.


So always keep your goals in sight, and figure out a way to work around the problems. If you have to, you can even integrate the "problem" into your work, as I did with the new Fair Theme.


Indeed, had I viewed the sudden last-minute change in the Fair Theme as an insurmountable "problem" and given up, it would have cost me that beautiful ribbon.


But viewing it as an opportunity to do more with my project than I'd originally planned brought me the big win I'd been looking for.


Sometimes, that's just how we have to deal with the ups and downs in life.

Best regards, and Happy stichin'!


Kathy Barwick,
Your Plastic Canvas Crafts Coach    


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