A&S judging

dennis grace amazing at mail.utexas.edu
Thu Oct 31 09:42:17 PST 1996

Hi there.  Aquilanne here.  Figured I'd jump into the fray (brought my
trusty fray-check, just in case :>).

I. Marc Carlson wrote:

"if you can't find somthing nice to say about an entry, don't say anything
at all

I agree.  Any judge worth their metal can find something positive to say
about an entry.  I've come across works in A&S competitions that looked like
something picked up in a garage sale and left with a cat to play with for a
few days.  Even if I could say nothing better than, "it's an interesting
color; you might want to check this or that book for reference, and think
about tightening the frimfram next time, keep up the good work," I did my
damnedest to keep it positive.  I also saw no reason to give devastating
scores.  If I was given a 1 to 10 scale to work with, for example, works
that did well would run in the 8 to 10 range.  Why devastate someone with a
0 or a 1 when a 3 to a 5 can get across the idea of needing improvement, and
I would have the personal knowlege that there would be no danger of the
questionable entry winning with that score. (If anyone is interested, I can
outline what I remember of Atenveldt's scoring practices.)

As to Pug's earlier statement that brewing cannot be judged against bone
carving, weaving, etc.; he is absolutely right.  You can't really judge
apples against oranges.  You can, however, judge what went into it--such
things as level of authenticity or creativity attaining an authentic-seeming
fascimile, technical skill displayed, quality of documentation, aesthetic
appeal.  Yes, some of these things are pretty subjective, but others are not.  

>I have some deep, personal problems with "competitions", although 
>displays and simple evaluations don't bother me.  When I am competing,
>*I don't want criticism*.  I want to win, or not (that seems to be the 
>way they do it at the fair, after all :) ).

Most folk have a hard time getting past the intrinsic negative connotations
of the terms "criticism" and "critique."  To criticize or critique a work
simply means to evaluate the work, and to present observations of strengths
and weaknesses. It can, and should, be a positive and reinforcing exchange.
I always welcome constructive criticism/suggestions on my work whether I'm
competing, displaying, or just showing my portfolio or newest project.  The
best way for any artist to *grow* is to learn to absorb what they can in
regards to their work.  I personally have little to no patience for those
ego-leeches who want no criticism ever at all.  They keep doing the same
stuff year after year with little to no artistic growth, and keep presenting
the same old stuff for strokes.  Don't get me wrong, I create and show my
work as much for the ego stroke as anyone (my ego hungers constantly, how
about yours?), and I think it's a good idea to nurture beginners' and
insecure folks' egos.  

Rain is as essential as sun in the growth process. OTOH, as necessary as
constuctive criticism is, we shouldn't drown people with negative critcism.
We who put ourselves in a position of judging take on a huge responsibility;
many times what we say or write in response to viewing someone's work can
make or break that person's spirit.  I *have* seen people so disillusioned
by negative and mean-spirited comments on judging sheets that they merely
stopped--some just stopped entering A&S things, some were so demoralized
they just stopped trying.  I believe that anyone capable, or believing
themselves to be capable, of judging in an A&S competition are also capable
of the chivalry required to evaluate work and offer constructive
advice/suggestions simultaneously.  If there are any of you out there who
believe yourselves to be incapable of this, tell me now.  

>Of course, this DOES run smack into the SCA cultural value that "if you
>don't get a goodie for it, what's the point?"...
>I. Marc Carlson, Reference Librarian    

That's not exactly fair.  This particular "cultural value" is one that we
bring into the SCA from the mundane environment we all grew up in, it didn't
spring full grown from the SCA.  And exactly what is wrong with wanting
recognition?  Yes, it can be tedious to deal with some folk who wouldn't
wipe their own butts if they didn't think there'd be something in it for
them, but they, thank a deity, are the minority.  We are born with a need
for acceptance, love, and recognition. We are born with a need to compete;
in some way, at some level everyone competes. It's a biological imperative
that's just more marked in some individuals than in others.  A&S
competitions provide one forum to fulfill those needs--competition and
recognition.  If we hold strongly to the ideal of making our A&S
competitions nurturing and stimulating for our artists, the better and more
beautiful our SCA world is because our artists are more knowlegeable and
inspired and inventive.  Yes, it's a pretty picture, but like any other
pretty picture this takes work.  Maybe I'm on my own here, but who out there
doesn't want to see this kind of mindset for A&S?

Far too idealistic for my own good,

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