Rejected Again? Here’s Why

Buyers Market of American Craft trade show floorTired of all those rejections? Use these strategies to get the green light to more shows, more opportunities, and more sales



You struggle to get into better shows and fairs. You apply for upcoming gallery exhibitions, and keep getting turned down. You send out press releases and they are ignored. No one wants to represent you as an artist, or make a purchase. You may even start thinking, “Should I change my style? Doesn’t anyone like my work? How can I get ahead?” From where you stand, it’s hard to know why you got rejected.

On the other side of the fence, however, it’s easy to see why rejections are given, and how to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Juries, gallery staff, promoters, agents, licensees, and editors make choices all the time.  They see many, many submissions, and look at many, many images.

The truth is that the number of poorly taken photographs of art and craft work submitted for consideration is absolutely astounding.


Designer Susanne Williams handmade leather purse

Leather Dress & Bag by Susanne Williams/Photo Credit Jill Ockhardt


There are many “average” photos submitted to competitions, but only about 5% of artists and craftspeople submit truly outstanding photographic images of their work that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

Yes – you have to have good ideas, good design, and technical skill to create work that is noticed, accepted and purchased. Unless that’s your issue, it’s very likely that your photos are holding you back.

It is an investment to get gorgeous, glamorous images of your work taken. Great photographers don’t come cheap, because they can often make their subjects look even better than the real thing. But the results speak for themselves.

What do outstanding photos say on your behalf? 

  • You are a total professional
  • Your work would be an asset to the show/fair/exhibition
  • The quality of your work shows through in your photos
  • This is an image that belongs on the cover!

Of course, you need images that comply with the requirements of the competition or show, but have other photos taken of your work as well.  You may want to show your work in a room setting – notice how retail sites like offer room views to help purchasers visualize art in their homes.

Show your work as a collection, a tabletop grouping, or on a model (use a professional model who knows how to show your work to its best advantage.)


dramatic trade show booth

Dramatic images enhance booth design


How can you use these images?

  • In advertisements
  • On the home page of your website for the “wow” factor
  • Blown up and used as retail or trade show booth signage
  • On the cover of your brochure and other marketing material
  • In press releases and press kits

Start using high-quality professionally-taken photos of your art or craft, and you will see noticeable results in the amount of respect and attention your work is getting.


Visit WilliNilli to see more handmade leather design by Susanne Williams.


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  1. Other reasons you might get rejected.

    Your artist statement does not match the work you make.
    Your budget does not add up.
    You have not answered the questions well in the application.
    You forgot to send something.
    Your work does not match the guidelines, or what you are proposing does not match the guidelines.
    You wrote it at the last minute and didn’t have time to proof your submission.
    When they asked for 12 images, you ganged up four to a page in order for them to see more work.
    You did not follow instructions.
    Your images look fabulous, but your work still does not fit
    Your images look fabulous, but no one can tell what the work is about.
    You left off really important elements in the budget, so it shows that you are not thinking it through.
    You entered a call for entries with an entry fee and the “curator” never really saw your work, or was overwhelmed with the number of images they needed to look at and gave your images half a second to consider. OR, since many juried shows these days are created in order to pay the rent, they had already chosen the artists.
    Your work is awful (for this context).

  2. Pat Mistak says

    I can honestly say that I think the only reason that I’ve been rejected in the past is because there are too many of one type already in the show. There are thousands of hand made jewelers out there and I happen to be one of them. I also run a show and I reject people for that reason and also if the person has been in a show and didn’t show professionalism. (Doesn’t set up/take down at the correct time and stealing our signs we made for the vendors are the main causes.)

  3. If you enter into the category of jewelry you might consider stocking another item that would allow you to switch categories. I am a lamp worker and was consistently denied in the category of jewelry. I started offering some beadable products that serve as kitchen ware and now enter in the category of glass. This has been much more successful.

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