|Preparing Your Items For Judging
[04/04/2006] [Okami Cio Cio]
Recently I had the honor of assisting administrate and judge the 1st Crown Qualifications for our Principality. In my service as Regent and Monarch, I've been involved in quite a few A&S competitions, not including any competing I've done in other games or hobbies. As I was watching the judging and assessing the scores for this past quals, I started thinking.
The first track my train of thought went down was about the items submitted and how and why they were scored the way they were scored. I'm thinking that the reasons items got the ratings they did were due to these things - in no particular order.
Which begs the question, what can you do as a contestant to increase your scores?
A good presentation always increases a judges response to an item. It may be average, however showing the item to it's best advantage almost always charms the judges and adds that extra point or so.
Food and drink items are one of the easiest to make more attractive with a good presentation. In restaurant competitions, the plate presentation can account for a significant part of the score, and this is the same for A&S contests. Providing the judges with the plates, silverware or glasses needed to consume your offering is the minimum presentation, however a nice serving plate, fancy display of the food, any condiments that might go with the dish all add to the judges reception of the item.
However presentation can help in any category. Jewelry tossed on a table compared to jewelry displayed on a nice scarf or some other creative, attractive display will enhance what the judges see. Hangers, armor stands or other tools used to display garb and armor make it easier for the judges to get a look at the item. Using a little imagination can show off your item to a better advantage.
Another aspect of presentation is a background write up. A description of the item, including it's relation to Amtgard, history or fantasy, construction materials or methods and other reference information can give the judges a better understanding of the item. A beautiful necklace made as a present for someone's knighting ceremony would bring more impact if the judges know that's what the item is for. Heraldry that is blazoned always seems to score higher.
Complexity will almost always increase the score of an item. If the judges are impressed with how challenging it was for the individual to complete the offering, they show it in their scores. The more effort that goes into an item, the more likely it is that it will score better. If you've made a complex item that looks simple, once again, your documentation can help you out - telling the judges that it took 30 steps to brew your special beer, will help you impress them.
I've also heard from judges in regards to items that are in their area of expertise, that if they know something was terribly simple to make, they'll not rate it as highly as something more difficult.
One of the biggest facets of quality in looking at an A&S submission is the level of completion in the construction of the item. Are the hems finished, are the rivets all set, do the pencil lines still show under the calligraphy? Fear the dangling strings hanging off your seams, a tough judge will knock you down for unfinished looking items. If you've made garb designed to look unfinished, include that in your write up! Unfinished items, especially ones that are obviously unfinished, do much lower in scoring.
Quality also will be reflected in the materials you use and the durability of the item. If the item you've made isn't one you'd be proud and happy to use, think of what you need to do to improve it to a level of satisfaction that you'd happily put your name on. Quality also plays to functionality - if you've made an Amtgard weapon, shield or armor, it better be legal. If it's not legal, better to enter it as 3-d art or passive construction!
The general appeal of the item, how flashy, shiny or interesting it is also affects judges. Often a very fancy item will score high marks. There's a joke passed around here that the true way to win dragon master is with a chocolate cloak or a liquor filled armor. When thinking of what you wish to enter, think how appealing it is to the eye, and how it catches interest or comment.
Items that are different, new, clever and creative usually get points for that creativity. If the judges have seen thirty appliquéd tunics, or forty pair of hakama, a belly dancing dress might get their attention. Creative items are easier to get excited about when you're making them. It's fun to know you've done something original or inventive.
Attractiveness goes hand in hand with appeal. Attractiveness can be subjective, so remember that just because you like it, the judges may not. This is where balancing your offering with quality is important. A serviceable shield, fully completed, with a nice clean cover and nice looking straps will do better than a shield with a piece of fabric taped on it.
Finally, judges are likely to score based on how they feel about the item, or even the person entering the item. It's more subtle, however I've seen terrible items get higher scores because the person entering the item was popular, friendly or just pleasant. Conversely I've seen judges who don't like an entrant giving their items lower scores. I've also seen judges who didn't care for the item based not on it's quality, complexity or attractiveness score lower simply because they didn't like the type of thing the item was.
There's very little you can do to combat this. The best you can do is make sure that your items are of quality, are attractive and are well presented. If one judge scores you obscenely well or badly, these will usually average out with the other judges scores. Some judges are more even handed than others, however I've yet to see any A&S competition where personal taste did not play into the scores even if only a little.
These tips should help you in planning for your next entry into an A&S tournament. Get crafting and good luck!
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