I remember the very first year I entered the glass bead competition, it was the first year we formed NZGBA. I sort of forgot about the deadline and had only been torching for a few months but to be fair did actually own my own torch so chose not to enter in the beginners category as I felt having a torch meant I was serious and should participate as such. The theme was Aotearoa, and I played with concepts such as sea and mountains. I imagined creating a towering Mitre Peak encased in clear with floating clouds and sea on the lower half of the bead. I then though it would be awesome to separate the two sea and land with a Maori motif a koru type design with dots and that would be very challenging. As I thought about it more the design became even more complex and I ended up creating a wire wrapped pyramid, supposed to be a silver fern, and encased it in Light grass green and Light blue glass, then tried to create the motif. I was working full time so only had a few hours a week to try something new.
Then the deadline was suddenly on my doorstep and I had to take a day off work to try get my design into the competition in time, alas I missed the deadline but the girls at Annie Rose were kind enough to include my bead. When we had the awards ceremony and I saw the beads that had been entered I was absolutely floored. I could not in my wildest dreams imagine how Justin created his Pacific Sunrise bead, when I asked him and he said it was a reversed incalmo I immediately thought, holy heck I am such an amateur.
I then saw Tokiko’s amazing bead and her layers of petals and the depth she got from the colours, I lusted over flowers like that for the whole year following and still have not been able to create one quite like hers (how does she keep those crisp clean edges?!?). The next bead that amazed me was Donna’s bead with her beautiful flowers, amazing twisted cane and the absolutely gorgeous 3 dimensional lady bugs. I remember hounding her the next day to teach me encasing as I had no idea how she managed to keep everything 3D and not smeared. People were asking me “did you enter?” “which one is your bead?” I was mortified with my efforts, I entered half assed, I barely threw it together last minute, and had no practise and it showed, as I was new and no-one knew me I was able to lie convincingly and denied ever entering.
I left that competition with so much enthusiam to be Justin Culina, to have flowers like Tokiko and to achieve the incredible encasing that Donna had, and to put in the effort. The following year the competition was announced.
I was secretary of NZGBA and was so excited to prove to myself that my skills has improved from the previous year and to put a bead in that my peers would look at and say wow she really gave it her all. I took months to design my piece, I eventually decided on learning new techniques. My approach was to use the competition to test my skills and push the boundaries. The competition was being judged on technical ability so I approached it as such. I chose techniques I had no experience in, the implosion bead as I love these, then the murinni which I used as the iris for my eye, stringer control which I used to wrap the bead in vines, and pink glass which till then (and possibly still now) I loathed. First I made implosion beads for 3 weeks, one after the next. I could have easily made over 25 beads to see if I could get it right, I tried different colours, I tried different dot sizes, poking, pinching, flattening, melting and eventually settled on my technique for implosions that I created in my time. Then I was nervous adding it to anything so the next step was to practise stacking beads as totems, I must’ve made about 15 totems before I thought I’d be able to stack the beads without destroying the implosion I’d worked so hard on.
The next step was creating the eye, I studied Dustin Tabor and Stephanie Sersich, I took out a book on drawing eyes, I studied making murrinis, and eventually I shaded a murrini cane that had various colours of transparency and started creating eyes. Again a number of tries, then I did eyes in totems to see if I could handle the glass all in one go. Finally, after all this preparation I sat down and created my totem. It came out perfect! I was so excited I sat down to make another and it sucked. It took another 6 totems before finally I gave up and went with the original “hole in one” bead that I had made. I was so proud I couldn’t wait for everyone to see it. I was so nervous on the night of the awards as I had participated I was not allowed to judge or even see the entries before the awards evening. When I got there I found that only Donna; one of the hero’s who had inspired me to really stretch myself was in the competition. I was so disappointed I really wanted to see how my skill and hours invested would hold up against the likes of Justin, Donna, and Tokiko. As it turned out I won the competition. I couldn’t believe it! just 12 months previously I denied my critter bead and left it in the cold homeless (I threw it away! poor thing), and now with my totem I had won. I was so proud of the hours and their fruition. It was awesome.
The following year when the competition was announced “Translate your world” I was pressed to achieve the same as the previous year, not win the competition but rather take a new technique one I had never used and learn it, and master it (well I’m still not sure you can master anything in glass in one lifetime but you get what I mean). The earth bead used Fusing, sheet encasing and enameling. Each bead took about 3 hours from start to finish. I made, broke and mangled 8 separate worlds before the final success. Again I won and I was proud. I had invested no less than 24 hours of torch time to gain the skills I had learnt for that bead.
This year I am unable to participate as I am President, but I wanted to share my story with you becuase I wonder how many of our members are still approaching the competition as I did in my first year.
I ask you what are you learning?
What techniques are you choosing?
How many hours are you actually investing in developing yourself? Which artist will you be on the awards evening night? Will you be the one who denies ever entering or will you be proud of the work you have submitted? Will you really give it a go?
How will your skills in the last 12 months on measure against your last years competition entry? Will you be eager to show your peers what you have achieved?
In my mind this is the purpose of exhibitions, competitions and calls for submission. It gives you a unique opportunity to focus on your art, the passion to focus, upskill and really stretch your boundaries, it is an excuse for you to stop your production every day run of the mill beads and really test yourself as an artist. It gives you the opportunity to be taken seriously by your peers, for those who really get what you have done and say well done you have really improved since last year, we can see your hard work, and your efforts. This year which is the only year I want to win the competition the first prize is a wild cat torch, I urge you to think about this and really put your efforts in. I want the world to someday stand up and think Wow New Zealand has something to contribute, and to think that the competition has had some part in making that a reality. I want each and every one of you to enter, who cares if you win or not, it’s what you learn in your efforts to give it all you got to win that torch, win that Bullseye and Gaffer glass, get a whole days free tuition. So let me ask you this… What do you get from entering?