Many people may ask the question: "Why compete?" I believe there are several reasons to compete in carving shows, whether is at the local carving club, a larger regional carving show, or even at the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition. Whether one wins or not may not be the most important factor. Consider the value of seeing how your carvings compare to others doing similar work. Are yours better or worse. How can your carvings be improved in comparison. The judges at most shows are more than willing to critique your carving to suggest how or why it can be improved. The larger competitions usually have carvers of recognized stature, and their comments can be extremely valuable. Of course, if you are one not to take criticism well or constructively, this may be difficult at times. Don't be too ready to go home and throw your tools into the trash and burn your wood. Treat it as a learning experience, and try again. Just recently I entered a carving of a White-crowned Sparrow which had previously won a 1st Place and a Best of Division, in second show. This time, the same bird took a 2nd Place, with a comment from a judge that it needed more detail (I don't know what more he was expecting to see!). This same bird just took another 1st Place and a Best of Division in a third show. What did I take away from these three competitions? The realization that judges are people too, and probably no two of them will always agree about the merits of any set of birds.
Another reason to compete is the contacts that can be made with other carvers. Many of the larger shows have short seminars taught be established carvers. It is not uncommon to find such topics as how make legs and toes, understanding bird anatomy, how to texture and paint, how to construct habitat, to even longer seminars devoted to carving, texturing, and painting some specific species. Of course, one doesn't have to be a competor to take advantage of these learning activities. Usually, shows are attended by vendors of tools, wood, paints, bits, books, etc. Make the show your time to get a tool or two that will improve your carving attempts.
So whether you compete or only attend the show as a fellow carver, shows are valuable. Some carvers see them as important in making their carving more marketable. There are those buyers out there who, rightly or wrongly, expecially value carving that have taken the top awards. Carving shows do help make your name more recognizable and improve your skills. Keep on carving, whether for your own enjoyment or for competions.
When we lived in Maryland, I attended the Ward World Championship show for about 14 years, and even entered it as a Novice carver about four times before, in 2001, my carving of the Black-capped Chickadee shown in my Gallery took a 3rd Place in Novice Songbirds. Unfortanatly, someone took, lifted, or otherwise put the ribbon in their pocket, so I have no pictures of the bird with the ribbon. The win is listed in the Competition Magazine for 2002 to verify the win. The picture at the head of this blog post is of my male Eastern Bluebird, which took an Honorable Mention in Novice Songbirds in 2004.