How to Run a Bead Challenge

If you would like to run a bead challenge for your group or maybe for your bead store, here are detailed examples of the process and procedures to make it easy.

A beading challenge is different from a beading contest because the main point of it is to challenge each other to create something in a new way, or to solve a problem, by beading to some specific specifications.

If you have been reading other stuff on this website, you can probably predict that, as usual, I have my own opinions about what worked well in our setting, the Bead Society of Greater Chicagoland (BSGC) where I ran the annual Bead Challenge for two years. I adopted and adapted ideas and procedures from those who had done it before; fortunately, I did not have to invent the whole thing!

What worked for us may not be exactly right for your situation, but I hope you will be able to adapt and/or adopt the parts of this that are right for you. Bead challenges are fun and can help build your beading community.

Picking a Theme or Challenge

Themes may be based on an odd group of beads which must be used in the work (or some percentage of them must be used). Challenges run by bead stores often require you to purchase and include a specific bead or a combination of beads.

Or the challenge theme may be about the finished product, so that each entrant makes a beaded bead, for example.

It may be about color; BSGC did a great challenge one year that required black and white, with the option to add a few beads of another single color in a single spot in the work. I seem to remember an online challenge that focused on the color orange.

The challenge topic may focus on the subject. The first challenge I participated in at BSGC was called "Head Trip" and the finished beadwork had to relate to that theme and also had to fit inside a 4" x 4" x 2" box that was given to those who entered. We came up with the idea of limiting the size because we had seen some really big pieces entered in the previous few years, and the biggest pieces usually won the challenge, so folks who couldn't commit to making a huge piece felt like there was not much point in participating.

Announcing Your Bead Challenge

Here is the announcement from one of the Bead Society of Greater Chicagoland's annual Bead Challenges. You could adapt this to suit your group's bead challenge.

Bead Challenge 2003

"Head Trip" is our Bead Challenge theme this year. Your finished piece must fit in a box that is 4" x 4" and 2" high. Here are some suggestions to get you thinking:· Things that could be worn on the head : earphones, eye patch, headband, yarmulke, earrings, etc.· Beaded Barbie heads, bead sculpture involving heads, or piles of little heads. · Beaded pictures of a head or heads.It can be sculptural, an item of jewelry, or whatever. . . as long as you can fit it inside the closed box. The only requirement is that the majority of the work done must consist of beads. That's it! Go with it! Have fun! Think small!

The Challenge Package will be available at the March through June meetings.

If you have participated in the past and wish to encourage others to do the same, please bring your previous challenge entry to one of our meetings and show it off!

If you would like to donate a prize, please contact Virginia.

Important information:1) The Challenge Package (instructions, a registration form, a numbered tag, and a 4x4x2 box) will be available at BSGC meetings from March through June.

2) Current individual members and each person in a family membership of BSGC are eligible to enter. One entry per person.

3) The piece is to be started after March 1, 2003.

4) A majority of the work done must consist of beads.

5) Bring your finished piece to the September meeting by 6:30 PM. The meeting attendees will be asked to vote on the pieces in a number of categories, which will be explained in the instructions. Since votes will be placed on the pieces without knowing who made them, do not put your name on the piece, but attach the numbered tag to the piece and put it in the numbered box. You may also enclose a card with the title of your piece, if it has one. If your piece has more than one part, put your number on all parts. The coordinators will take your box and registration form and display your piece. Votes will be tallied and prizes awarded at the end of the September meeting. When we reveal who made what pieces, we'd like everyone to talk a little about his/her piece. If you're not too shy, please be prepared to be introduced, and we'd like you to say a few words about how you came up with the idea and the techniques you used.

6) After the September meeting, we would like to keep your piece to take to the Bead & Book Sale on Sunday, September 21 for display and voting for attendees' choice. If you have granted your permission on the registration form, prior to the sale we will photograph your piece to post on our web site. (You'll be famous!) If you do not wish to leave your piece to be photographed and taken to the sale, please let one of the coordinators know. You may bring your piece to the sale yourself and give it to Judith, who will be overseeing the display.

7) Pieces may be picked up at the sale after 5:30. If you are unable to pick yours up or arrange for someone else to, it will be brought to the October meeting.

If you have any questions, please call Virginia.

You can put an announcement like this in a newsletter, on a website, on fliers in your store, or you can distribute it through email lists, social networking sites, blogs, or any other ways you think up.

The Bead Challenge Event

If your bead challenge is going to have a live event where the piece are seen and voted upon, you will need a couple of people to check pieces in and set up the display. We generally had separate categories for previous entrants and bead challenge newbies, so those two categories were set up on separate tables.

Then you will need ballots so people can vote for their favorites. At BSGC, we usually had a number of categories in which you could win. And after seeing some ballots on which all the votes were for the same piece (presumably the piece created by that voter), we created some rules for voting. You can see the text for a sample ballot here:


Start at the top of the ballot and DO NOT vote for any piece more than once. (Thus if you think a piece would deserve both Best Technique and Most Thought-Provoking, please vote it Best Technique, as it is higher on the list.)

Vote by putting the number of the piece in the blank.

1. Best Piece by a First-Time Entrant ____

2. Best Piece by a Previous Entrant _____

3. Best Technique _____(Use whatever knowledge you have of the technique used to gauge who did best at the technique(s) she or he selected.)

4. Best fits the "Head Trip" theme _____

5. Most Whimsical _____

6. Most Thought Provoking _____

Now, for the final category, you may vote for any piece, including one you have already voted for:

Best of Show _____

Tallying the Votes

You can see the tally sheet we made to keep track of the votes in PDF form here. If a voter had insisted on voting for themselves for every category, or had otherwise voted for one piece more than once in the top portion of the ballot, we just ignored the subsequent votes for the same piece, but we allowed the rest of their votes to be recorded.

The column for Entry # and the one to show whether it was a New or Previous Entrant were filled in as soon as everyone had checked in. Then we put a tick mark in the box for every vote. The column for "Total Votes in Rows to Left" was filled in with a n actual number after all the votes were counted; this was used to give an award for a piece that lots of people liked for various reasons, but the piece had not gotten enough votes to win in any single category.

I always liked to have two or three vote counters, each with her own tally sheet, each counting all the votes, so we could compare numbers at the end and make sure we had all the votes properly tallied before we announced the results.

Prizes for Your Bead Challenge

For a local bead society, prizes are a somewhat tricky business. It's nice to have some prizes, and they can motivate some people to enter who might not have bothered without the lure of a prize, but large prizes make it more of a contest and less of a challenge to have fun and try something new. So I prefer a larger number of small prizes, so people get some recognition, and a little something to take home, but no one is wondering why Sally Ann took home the $250 prize even though any fool could see that Marcy Jo's piece was just plain superior. . . .

So we solicited small gift certificates from our local bead stores, plus got some special beads by member bead makers, and those were the kind of prizes that seemed to work for us.

Go for It!

I encourage you to try out a bead challenge for your group. It's fun, it's a great way for everyone to learn new things and push themselves in new directions, and to get their work seen by fellow beaders.

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