Where do I fit in?


Where do I fit in?


Thought you were done asking yourself this question after high school graduation?  Guess again!  This is an incredibly important question to ask yourself before applying to any craft show.  In this blog post I will give you an idea of what to expect at each Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair.


First, Rittenhouse Square, in the heart of Philadelphia.

Think high end restaurants, designer clothing stores, and unique boutiques nestled between.  Rittenhouse Square attracts a high volume of customers coming from outside the city to enjoy the craft show, but the beauty of Rittenhouse Square lies with the unknowing passersby!  Philadelphia is a walking city and it’s full of art lovers, retirees, students and young families.  The Rittenhouse customer is contemporary and cutting edge.  The Guild does a considerable amount of marketing before this show, but more often than not you will encounter enthusiastic customers that claim “I had no idea this was going on!” and fortunately for you, the Rittenhouse customer has disposable income to throw down on your one-of-a-kind artwork!

The 300 Block of North Queen Street, a community hub and the premier shopping district in Lancaster.

The 300 Block of North Queen Street is home to the Pennsylvania Guild Store and workshop facility, along with a quirky, eclectic selection of retro, antique and collectibles shops, brand-name fashions, a glass studio, art galleries, casual cafés, and Downtown Lancaster’s only collection of indoor shops. The 300 Block is within walking distance from the Central Market, Lancaster Marriott and Convention Center and Clipper Magazine Stadium. The diverse mix of shops and restaurants coupled with the prime location make the 300 Block a hot-spot destination for tourists and locals alike!

The Wilmington Fine Craft Fair at the Chase Center

This gorgeous venue attracts a crowd that is familiar with the Guild and what they stand for.  Customers here lean toward more traditional designs and aesthetics.  If you create shaker cabinets, or classic leather bags this is the show for you.  Likewise for the jeweler working in sterling silver, gold, pearls, and classic combinations.  This show is indoors, so remind your customers where to find you and they will be thankful for the air conditioned relief the Chase Center offers!

Whichever shows you decide to participate in…

Take some time to look at local shops, restaurants and attractions to give yourself a better idea of the customer base.  Always invite your customers and market yourself through social media outlets to ensure you have the most successful show possible!


Joanna Nealey // joanna@joannanealey.com


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How are Jurors Chosen?

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Guest Composer:

Sylvia Lehman // www.sylvialehman.com


Our Show Selection Jury

Members of our Show Selection jury share certain characteristics.   They are  recognized as experts in their field.  They are leaders, teachers, award winners, innovators, masters of their craft.  They have sufficient experience to recognize what is traditional, what is unique and what is imitative.  They have a mature understanding of good design and are able to set aside personal likes and dislikes to fairly evaluate work based on the three PGC benchmarks of excellence in craftsmanship, resolved design and unique style or voice. All have experience in viewing work of many media and styles. In short, they have an educated eye.

While each juror has these characteristics…

Balance is key in forming the jury.  Together, they bring a wide range of experience and they represent a variety of media and approach.  Many are skilled and experienced in more than one medium.  Some are traditionalists, working in historically accurate reproductions. Some use traditional methods to create their own designs where a unique aesthetic is the prime consideration.  And some invent their own methods and visual vocabulary to fulfill a creative expression that is completely new and innovative.  Together, they complete the spectrum from traditional to contemporary in outlook and experience.  Other factors in balancing the jury include age, gender and geography.  Each juror is chosen to serve because together they form a balanced perspective.


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The Blind Jury Process

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Guest Composer:

Maureen Kamerick // www.mksilks.com


The Guild chooses exhibitors for our shows by using the blind jury method.

Applicants are asked to submit several current images of their work, along with a slide of their booth. For the show selection process, a slide show is organized, with applicants grouped together by their craft, ie: wood, ceramics, etc. Ten or twelve Guild members who have experience in show selection and Master Status jurying sessions, or are reputable community experts, come together and spend the day looking at and scoring the images.

Jurors do not see the applicant’s name or artist statement.

If, for example, someone has submitted a booth shot with their sign clearly visible, the sign is blocked out so that the jurors don’t see it. Each candidate’s images are grouped as a collection, and projected onto a screen, while his/her artist statement is read aloud by staff.  Each juror assigns a score, from 1 to 6, for each applicant.  If a juror happens to have applied to the Guild shows, and usually some of them have, they do not score their own work.

At the end of the process, each applicant’s gross score is tallied.  If they have Master status, they are awarded extra points, and then this score is divided by the number of jurors involved in the process.  This final score determines whether the applicant is accepted to Guild shows.  Because we have so many shows, and each show has a different number of booths available, “accepted” artists may end up on a wait list dependent upon both the medium in which they applied, and the size of the show, ultimately determined by where their final score falls on the extensive list of applicants.

This blind jurying system puts responsibilities on both applicants and jurors.

As an artist, it is important to have the best possible images of your work, and the clearest statement and description of your artistic process. Believe me!  It is very frustrating to sit in a session, and not be able to quite understand what you’re seeing in a slide. Is that motif embroidered or painted on, what kind of chain is being used in that jewelry piece? No juror likes to have to rely on guessing if they have a question about work.  Since jurors will not be able to see your work “in person”, the images have to speak volumes, and the booth shot has to show the professionalism of your presentation.

Jurors also have many challenges.

Speaking personally, I understand that there are certain styles of work, or maybe certain color palettes that I’m drawn to.  Others, not so much.  I think we all have some of those instincts.  It is therefore absolutely crucial to recognize that work I might not personally “care for,” can be excellent quality and totally deserving of being in the show.  This is where the years of training in understanding the Guild benchmarks has helped me tremendously.  Almost without consciously thinking about it, I am looking for and evaluating technical mastery, resolved design and unique voice in a work.  Most of our jurors have received that training, and it really helps ground you in the intensity of the show selection process which is rigorous and as egalitarian as possible.






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Why is good photography so important when applying to shows?

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Guest Composer:

Paul Grecian // www.paulgrecianphoto.com


A photograph is a two-dimensional image of a three dimensional subject.

Photographs for jurying into a show are viewed in a way which is very different from how the subject is viewed in person. A digital image is projected onto a white screen or viewed on a monitor on which light is coming from behind. The original artworks submitted for jurying of course are viewed with light bouncing off of them and to a human eye which can perceive many times the light levels that can be recorded in a digital image. This means that even the best of photographs are going to be but an interpretation of what the original artwork looks like. But, this is the way in which your work will be evaluated and therefore making the most of it is a must.

The lighting of the artwork will be crucial.

Both the intensity and the direction of the light sources used for making submission images must be considered. If a piece is highly three dimensional, lighting the piece to represent that is a must. This is true however for any works in which shape or texture need to be conveyed to the judges. If the lighting fails in this regard, the work will not be appreciated for all that it is.

The intensity of the light and the photographic exposure settings will be pivotal to attaining a three-dimensional feeling and an accurate representation of the colors of a piece. For artworks in which color is a primary component, getting the white balance right is also required. Judges will be evaluating how your work looks in color, and so unless you are a black and white photographer, or work in black, white and grays exclusively, you’re going to want the colors represented as they appear in the original. Just to drive this point home, even if all of your materials are black and white, you’ll still want to get the white balance correct to avoid an unnatural tone in the photograph.

Light and color are very important to the making of an image to be seen by show judges, but so is accurate focus (brings out texture and detail). A fuzzy image is both hard to evaluate and speaks poorly of an artist’s professionalism. Judges also want to be able to immediately understand what the image is of.  A photograph in which the subject is too small, or mixed in with a confusing array of product, unrelated background clutter or other distraction will hinder the judge’s ability to understand the work and likely work against the submission.

Getting the show images right isn’t a high priority, it’s the highest priority.

There is nothing more important and therefore nothing more likely to result in a rejection letter, than a poor group of submission photos.


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How should you talk about your work on show apps?

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Let’s start with an admission.

Most of us are not writers – we create craft! We find our happy space with fiber, clay, or metal in our hands (or something else! Our members do an amazing variety of work). But inevitably, during craft show application season, we do a lot of writing. Since the Guild’s own craft show applications are opening soon, let’s take a look at the kind of writing we ask for, and the kinds of answers that are the most helpful.

What We Ask For

Craft Description. Please provide a short description of your medium and work. Refrain from adjectives such as beautiful, unique or one-of-a-kind. Instead, use words that explain your original work to fellow experts.

Process Description. Tell us how you do your work: a detailed description of process, technique, and materials including assembly/finishing. How much of the finished product do you make yourself?

What We Want to Read

The first rule of writing (in my opinion, anyway) is know your audience.  We’ve given you a cheat-sheet on that, too, in our previous posts on what it’s like to be a juror and what is a blind selection process.  But let’s do a quick recap.

Our jurors (10-15 master craftspeople with combined expertise in every medium that will be juried) come to the Guild to do a marathon day of viewing & scoring.  And when I say marathon, I mean they may see as many as 500 applications in that single day.

As you can intuit, that means the key rule when writing for our application is be brief.

Craft Description

As each application is shown, the craft description is read. This should be 5 sentences or less. If you submit more information than that, we’re not going to read it to the jury (because we have 500 applications to get through!), and you miss out on a chance to talk about your work. This should be absolutely fluff-free. Let me give some examples (I fabricated these, by the way):


Hand-fabricated fine jewelry, mostly in silver, using semi-precious stones. Most components are handmade (except the chains). I use engraving and repousse for texture.

Not Helpful:

My jewelry is inspired by nature. My magpie instinct urges me to compile and collect artifacts and layer wire in a way that mimics nests and evokes a warm sense of home.

See the difference? Your images, if they’re great, speak for themselves. We just want to know: what did you make it out of? Are there key techniques you use? Does your work conform to our rules? You don’t have to avoid using technical language – there will be plenty of experts present. If a fiber expert doesn’t understand repousse, one of the jewelry experts can chip in and explain.  That makes it a little bit easier, hopefully!


Process Description

If the jury has deeper questions about the work, then this paragraph is read. It functions essentially as a way for us to double-check whether the work conforms to our rules. This section can be longer, but it should still be fairly short, no more than 10 sentences.


I draft a basic line drawing on paper (a cartoon) and transfer the cartoon to the glass. I use hand-mixed powdered glass paint that is then kiln fired. I cut the glass, copper, solder, drill, and piece together the final piece with brass fittings. I pay special attention to the back side of the piece – it may continue telling the story by providing a different perspective for the viewer.


I take digital images, which I then adjust on the computer. I print the images on a variety of papers, but always using archival pigment based inks in limited editions of 500. Mats are archival and the glass is UV protective. During the framing stage, my employee does the majority of the work.

Not Helpful:

100% made by me.


My work is inspired by feminine, floral shapes. I immerse myself in botanical gardens before choosing how to marry the modern aesthetic with traditional sewing techniques.

If you work in a studio that’s large enough to have employees, it’s especially important for us to understand who is doing which stages of the process. If you combine ready-made materials into your work, we also need to understand what proportion of the work is transformed by your creativity.

In Conclusion

Hopefully that’s not too intimidating! When in doubt, keep it simple and direct. Avoid telling us why you make your work, and focus on what and how. We want to be bowled over by your work, not your words. And good luck! We hope to see you in our craft fairs!

Mackenzie Snader // Education Manager // Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsman



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6 Steps to Exhibiting Like a Pro

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6 Steps to Exhibiting Like a Pro


  1. Do the Work. It can’t be emphasized too strongly—take the time and make the investment to thoroughly learn and practice your craft. Visit shows online and in person to see what’s current, but find what you have to say that is unique and exciting. Build a body of work that you can be proud of.
  2. Do Your Research. Before submitting to an exhibition, learn more about the opportunity. Read the prospectus in detail. Go to the associated website, and see if there are examples of previous exhibitions that can give you a feel for it. Visit the venue if possible, or look to friends and social media for input on other’s experiences.
  3. Have a Safety and a Stretch. Just like applying to colleges, it’s good to have some shows on your radar where you feel you have a reasonable chance of getting accepted. It’s also good to reach for the stars sometimes, and try for opportunities that would take things up a level. It may take a few, or many, attempts, in order to succeed, but if you get into every show you apply to, you are playing it too safe. And having lofty goals pushes you to do your very best work.
  4. Get Good Images. Take clear, high resolution photos of your work, with adequate lighting and without distracting backgrounds. Teach yourself to do this with the help of web tutorials, or hire a professional. If jurors can’t see your work properly, it’s difficult to form a favorable opinion of it.
  5. Follow the Instructions. Your professionalism hinges on following the instructions in the application to the letter. Size the images to the specifications. Provide all the information required about process and materials. If the application asks for a statement, make it succinct and to the point. Tell the jurors something of your story and motivation that will help them understand what they are looking at without resorting to platitudes. Read it out loud to a friend to see if it flows, and check and double check for typos and grammatical errors. Keep it within the word limit.

If you have questions about the application, contact the venue well in advance for clarification. And if at all possible, don’t wait till the last minute to apply, when a computer glitch or slow connection could hamper your chances.


  1. Learn to Handle Acceptance and Rejection with Equanimity. Did you get accepted? Hurray! Celebrate, then follow through by providing any additional materials requested, adding dates to your calendar, and scheduling all the prep needed so you can show like a pro. Rejected? It happens to the best of us. After the sting wears off a bit, do a postmortem. Sometimes a cold clear look at your work shows the need for improvement. Sometimes your work was not the right fit for a particular venue. And sometimes it’s just a numbers game/luck of the draw, where the jurors had a lot of excellent work to choose from, and had to make some hard choices. Please be assured that jurors take their responsibilities very seriously, it’s never personal, and stay classy when talking about your experience.  Learn from it, then let it go, and try, try again.

 Sue Reno //www.suereno.com



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We’re taking a vacation!


Fellow lovers of the handmade, we are taking a blog vacation! It’s the summer season, and the perfect time reflect and plan. We want to spend some time thinking about how we can make this space better, more exciting, and more beautiful. How can it reflect the vast variety of craft being made  within the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and beyond?

It’s a big question, and we are excited by the potential answers.  Thank you so much for reading our updates, and we hope you tune in this fall to see what we come up with. We wouldn’t want you to feel craft withdrawal in the meantime, so please! Follow the Guild on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or sign up for our email newsletters for a steady stream of handmade news. Let us know what topics you would like to hear more about by emailing me at mackenzie@pacrafts.org.

Have a great summer!

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