So I didn't win at SMC...

by Hansrainer

 Hello jungle people!

and welcome back to the conclusion of my introspective on shows. Last time I went through a bit of a diatribe about whats going on in my head before a big show like SMC. 

Today is a bit of a reflection on the effect of the event as whole but also and especially on the emotional fallout of putting something in the contest - and not winning a medal. (Full disclosure: I DID receive a highly commended on the piece I entered merely as a novelty though - it was nice but really didn't satisfy the craving). 

How did I deal with not winning anything and what did I take from it for the future?

The setting at the scalemodel challenge is pretty similar to most shows in so far as that the exhibition gets closed off sometime during saturday afternoon and then the judges start their grisly work. Depending on the number of exhibits, the work will always take several hours before its done and the usually there will be some kind of notification near the displays that have been awarded something - be it a medal or a "Highly Commended"-Pin. 

However, for someone to win something - someone else needs to not win something - otherwise there is no distinction and the whole exercise would be somewhat pointless. This chance element ist what creates excitement, curiosity and to a certain extent emotional investment into a contest, thats perceived more than just an exhibition.

This year, regrettably for the first time, I took the time to really focus on myself - on my feelings and emotions when entering, during the judging period and especially when he exhibit opened on sunday and I went there to see if I got something.

My excitement peaked for the first time when I went near the exhibit hall. It was pretty crowded as a lot of people went straight to their pieces and I managed to convince myself to go to the shopping area first. After about ten minutes I swerved back thought and made a beeline to the bust I had submitted in standard fantasy painting. On the way I realized already that the system had changed from the last years - cards have been replaced with stickers. From several yards away, I could already see that there was no sticker on my piece. When I arrived, I craned my neck, trying to see against my better sense, if the judges for some reason had stuck it to the back - they did not. In the first few seconds I got the cold rush of realisation, that I didnt get a thing. My "best" piece failed - even though I knew it wasn't actually good.

Frustrated, with a hot face and sunken gut I moved on - saw that many of my friends got something, got a bit more sad and continued. I did not belong. Next I went to my second piece - aforementioned novelty. It is a pretty small piece, so enough space to stick anything to it.When I moved up to it I noticed something stuck to it! I rejoiced after all - Thats a medal! Well, its not great but obviously the novelty of tinyness paid off... When I walked close to see,  I finally realized how cruelly the stickers for highly commended and medal looked very much alike. Another rush of embarrassement - this time for being so stupid not grasp the difference immediately and also for believing this little thing could be a medal.

I walked through the exhibit and I felt like there where few prices in general - that must be it: They judged harshly this year - and maybe I even entered into the wrong categories. Probably, by entering the categories that better suite my pieces, a judge could get them and would award me something.

I wish I could say that it only took a few minutes to recover from this and get back to enjoy the show. But it didn't. It took at least an hour of meandering through the halls and feeling sad and lonely. 

A bit later I walked into Tue, one of the judges and asked him if they didn't judge a bit harshly this year. He pointed out, that pretty much every second display was awarded a price. This was the point where I started to make it out of my loop. 

Within the next hour or so, I ran into a bunch of other friends: Richard from Australia, Dave from the US, Petra from our MV-Team and many more. Throughout the day I had another bunch of great conversations: On creating things, on expectations for and from contests and also how important it is for some of us to get a medal. Sometimes because it is important for the livelyhood, sometimes because its important for our mental health and sometimes just because we are competetive and want to win.

In hindsight, I received precious feedback from the judges - thanks especially to Tue Kaa and Martje Giesbers for that!


Especially the conversation with Dave also brought one major point to mind: When we envision things, we create perceptive realities. Our brain isn't really good at differentiating between things that we envision and reality. When the envisioned outcome (winning a prize) doesn't happen, we actually suffer real loss. When we put things in a competition, we tend to envision the success, the moment we see the medal notification etc. And if this doesn't happen, there is loss.

  • Losing at contests causes grief - there are multiple stages to it and in hindsight I can clearly identify the 5 stages according to Kübler-Ross:
    1. Denial (Maybe its stuck to the back, maybe they picked the wrong sticker...)
    2. Anger (My work was too shoddy, I was lazy, why did they award so few prices in general)
    3. Bargaining (Wrong category..9
    4. Depression (Wandering around sad)
    5. Acceptance (Being happy for the winners and everythin else)
  • Contests are stress, contests bring emotions. You can brace for them and try to observe and learn. Its Ok to be angry, sad, depressed. 
  • The contest is one optional part of a show. Not participating (or putting stuff into out of competition) does not invalidate the rest.

And here are some ideas I will try to implement for the next show:

  • If I am not in the emotional state to deal with the outcomes (due to stress in personal life, my work or anything else), I am not ready to compete. If I am not ready to compete - I won't!
  • I'll visualize not finding anything the next day and clapping for my friends from the audience. 
  • I will converse with myself early on and be honest with myself on my hopes and expectations.
  • I'll express my thoughts and feelings to others - there is no point to be ashamed and no one to blame. Talking creates communion.

By the time the awards ceremony came around, I was happy to be there and with great joy saw the medals that my friends and fellow artists reaped. This wouldn't work if everyone is on the stage. If everybody is outstanding, no one stands out. We can (and maybe) should argue about the need for and necessity of competition in something we consider not only artisanry but also art. But there is little point in arguing that in the framework of a competition there can not only be winners.

All in all, I was very happy with the SMC this year and also with the contest. I learned a lot for our upcoming show next year, I got to meet old and new friends and I know why I go there.


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