ABINGDON, Va. – On December 15, 2010, a hopeful group of artisans braved single digit temperatures to participate in a jury session for "Round the Mountain, Southwest Virginia's Artisan Network.
Jurors, who are experienced artisan peers, were tasked with reviewing the handcrafted work submitted by `Round the Mountain members. All work that passes the jury process will be showcased and sold at Heartwood, Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway, set to open in June 2011.
"Heartwood will showcase the very best craft the region has to offer. `Round the Mountain was tasked to develop the jury criteria and standards for this work and has taken this task very seriously." say's Diana Blackburn, Executive Director of "Round the Mountain. "As a craft-advocacy group, "Round the Mountain supports local artisans in a variety of ways, and with the opening of Heartwood, the organization will be giving international exposure and a new revenue stream to "Round the Mountain members."
To date, more than 100 artisans from throughout the region have had work accepted for sale at Heartwood.
Two additional jury sessions are planned for February and April 2011. Members of "Round the Mountain who wish to have their work considered for sale at Heartwood must complete a jury application and later submit five pieces of their best work for the jury process. Mediums include clay, glass, fiber, metal, paper, jewelry or mixed media.
"The work that has gone through the jury process ranges from the traditional to the whimsical, and will soon be collected or given as gifts and displayed in homes across the world," says Blackburn.
In order to have work considered, artisans must be residents of Southwest Virginia and a current member of `Round the Mountain. To apply for membership in `Round the Mountain and for jury guidelines and criteria, visit www.roundthemountain.org, or phone 276.492.2079 for additional information.
ABOUT THE JURY PROCESS
The double-blind jury process to select artisans is a strict, yet highly effective process to ensure that the artisans with the highest quality work are selected. Jurors remain anonymous throughout the process and are instructed not to base their judgment on personal taste, or whether a piece will sell. "Before each jury session begins," notes Blackburn, "the jurors are given an orientation to the process. It's very important that they put their personal preferences aside and judge the work based upon the quality of the craftsmanship. `Round the Mountain's job is to present Heartwood with a pool of juried members whose work meets those quality standards. It is Heartwood's job to select work that best represents the region and will most likely be best sellers."
The selection process is comprised of a morning session and afternoon session. During the morning session each juror individually evaluates and scores each artisan in five criteria: craftsmanship, originality, consistency, design and the piece as a whole. The jurors carefully examine each piece, inspecting the stitching on hand-crafted quilts, and running their fingers along the glazed edges of pottery.
Scores are compiled and the jury reconvenes for the afternoon session. Work that is on the cusp of being accepted is subject for re-evaluation by the group. "All five pieces must meet the quality standards to pass jury. There have been cases where four of the five pieces pass but the fifth does not so that artisan doesn't make it through," explains Blackburn.
Jurors provide written comments that are shared with the artisans with the intention of helping them improve their work. Artisans who did not pass jury are encouraged to make changes or improvements and resubmit at a future session. "We've had a number of our members who take those comments, make changes based on the comments, re-submit and then are accepted. That's the goal of this entire process." adds Blackburn.
ABOUT 'ROUND THE MOUNTAIN
Southwest Virginia's Artisan Network: `Round the Mountain was created in 2004, as a result of funding from Governor Mark Warner's Virginia Works Initiative. Recognizing the assets of the 19-county region, Governor Warner announced $100,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission funds to develop an artisan initiative in Southwest Virginia to further develop the region as a major cultural and heritage tourism destination.
A group of interested individuals representing state and local government, planning districts, the small business community, arts organizations, economic development, tourism and artisans began the planning process; the organization is operated by a board of directors.
Other funding partners include Virginia Department of Community and Housing Development, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, Virginia Commission for the Arts and Virginia Tourism Corporation.
The `Round the Mountain service area includes Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe counties, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton and Radford.