Judging the Wesley-Barrell Craft Awards

Wesley-Barrell window display

On Thursday the winners will be announced and I will have had a say in who they are. Applying for craft fairs, competitions, awards etc. becomes routine for most makers so I felt very privileged on this occasion, to be on the other side of the fence as it were.

The short-listed entries were selected in April. The judges gathered in a meeting room in Central London and looked at hundreds of images. There were conversations you would expect: “Is it well made, is it technically accomplished?” and “Is it an interesting and original design or rather derivative?”; “what a shame the images aren’t better” etc.

But, far more interesting were discussions around the word “like”. I’ve often thought that what we “like” is downplayed. It sounds intellectually flimsy so we feel a need to back up our likes or dislikes with often rather arbitrary criteria. What we like describes our taste and Taste has scary associations of class snobbery, yet to have “bad taste” would be as shameful as having bad breath. Deep down I sympathise with the person (who were they and did they ever actually say it?) who said “I don’t know much about Art but I know what I like.” (My father was unable to hum in tune but was often moved to tears by Mozart.)

“Fashionable” was another interesting word in our judging conversations. Being a believer in classic good design makes me wary of Fashion trends, yet often the more “contemporary” looking entries were also the more experimental and interesting ones. Here the old adage applies: “Good design never goes out of fashion”. Some of the judges were considering how the image would look in a magazine but my angle was more “would I like to live with it?”

There have been some very difficult decisions to make and I’ve felt the uncomfortable weight of responsibility. There are two generous cash prizes and useful mentoring sessions at stake – not to mention the publicity and endorsement the winners will enjoy. Nonetheless, it has been a pleasure as well as an honour to judge.

Tilla,   June 9th 2014





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