Tips to Get Your Art Published (or Apply for a Design Team spot!)

Working in the creative industry in various formats, including video production and print publication production/magazine editing for over 20 years, I’ve worked with a lot of artists. I’ve always been on the lookout for artists to contact to feature their work in videos or print publications. I’ve also been involved in a lot of design team searches, and managed a lot of teams over the years. What catches my eye when I’m searching for, or reviewing, applicants or projects? Here are a few tips if you’d like to see your work featured, or be chosen to be a part of a team.

Pay attention to the details of the project or design team call itself. Read the submission requirements. Read them again. If they tell you to submit 3 photos of your work, or answer specific questions, do just that. Don’t send 10 photos if they ask for 3. Don’t skip questions. Part of the process is often to see who can follow the submission instructions.

If you are applying for a polymer clay design team, we will go to your social media sites to see what other polymer clay projects you have created and shared. If you’ve shared very few clay projects, but a ton of paper projects, sewing projects, or other craft projects, it can make us hesitant to select you for a polymer clay team spot. (And yes, I’ve seen this more than once.) I’m guilty of being a dabbler in a ton of creative mediums, but it’s clear when you go to my sites that I am primarily a polymer clay artist. Diversity is great – don’t get me wrong – but we want to know your interests really lie in polymer clay.

The same goes for submissions for magazines, books, or videos/craft television shows. Competition can be fierce. You may do great work, but in the end, if those making the decisions feel like they are going to have to follow behind you every step of the way because you can’t follow the basic directions, you may be passed by for a great opportunity.

Spelling matters to many people. Microsoft Word has spell check. Pages has spell check. USE spell check. It will help you correct spelling errors and even errors in grammar in some cases. We want to see that you can write a sentence that makes sense, and thus would be able to submit instructions that make sense (hopefully!).  Sometimes you have a word count requirement – Microsoft Word has an option for word count. 

Do you want to submit tutorials for publication? Great! But you have to be willing to break down the steps of the project into understandable steps. Imagine you are a new clay hobbyist and want to make the project. Would you be able to understand your instructions? Really think about that – it may be second nature to you, but to some the terms you use, or what you think are simple steps, may need explaining. With that said, we also don’t often have the space for a 30 page tutorial in a magazine. That might work for a workshop, but not a basic tutorial in a publication. We don’t need you to tell us “Roll white clay to setting #2.  Roll black clay to setting #2.  Roll green clay to setting #2.” You can simply say “Roll white, black and green clay to setting #2” and share ONE photo of the sheets of clay. Otherwise, take step out photos of each step. It’s better to submit too many photos, and allow the publishing editor to determine which are necessary and which may be able to be skipped. LABEL those photos by the step (FauxJasperStep1, etc.). It’s a nightmare for an editor to have to figure out the puzzle of what photo goes with what step when putting together an article or tutorial. Also, please do not submit “collaged” sets of photos of your steps. These do not work on many levels most of the time.

PHOTOS. Ahhh photos. In the age of social media, a photo is often truly the first point of contact. I spy a gorgeous photo of a project on social media – clear, crisp, perfectly focused, well lit, highlighting the project wonderfully. I want to know MORE. Who made this gorgeous, creative piece? I often explore their social media more, and many times will reach out to that artist to feature their work. The reverse is also true. Someone may submit a photo for consideration for a tutorial. It’s not a great photo, but I will go to their social media to see what their other photos are like. If they are all dark, or blurred/out of focus, or too cluttered, no matter how great the project might be, it often deters me from reaching out.

We might ask you to submit photos for a gallery, competition/contest, or other project. Sometimes we ask specifically for portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) formats. Why? Because sometimes the space we have to publish your art calls for a specific format and your art is best displayed that way. We may ask you to include no personal watermarks or copyright images. Many people pay no attention to what is asked for, then wonder why their art is not used, or why it doesn’t look as nice as the next persons may. 

Pay attention to LIGHTING. Many people use a light box, or one of those daylight lamps when they are photographing their art. Personally, I often take the piece I’m photographing and take photos in several different places, with several different lighting options. Almost always, natural light wins. Experiment. 

Can’t get the lighting just right? Use one of the many editing apps out there – many are FREE and make it easy to adjust lighting, color saturation, etc. Dark photos do not display your work at it’s best, nor do overly bright photos on white backgrounds that end up looking like they are on glare overload. Find the happy medium.

NEUTRAL backgrounds, clean surroundings without clutter, are almost always the best bet. Sometimes simple staging items can be helpful, but often they honestly just detract from your art, which is where you want the focus.

ANGLES. Sometimes straight down is not your best choice when taking photos. A bit of an angle sometimes can show off the design a bit better, show the depth, etc.

FOCUS. Focus is important. Blurry photos do not look good in print or digital publications. Experiment with the settings on your camera or device. Honestly, I use my cell phone or iPad most of the time and both just autofocus for me. Simple, and I like simple.

Here are a few examples of photos I took when trying to get a good shot of a recent project for a Sculpey Design Squad challenge. I carried these earrings around with me and took literally over a dozen photos in different areas, and on different backgrounds. It felt like I could not get it right, and to be honest I’m still not thrilled with the final results. The photos just don’t due them justice as to how pretty they are, or the translucency they have with the liquid Amber clay. But, notice how the lighting effects the photos, the angle I took the photo is a bit more pleasing to look at, how the background effects the finished photos, etc.

Too Dark! Taken inside with what I thought was adequate light at the time.
Same photo. I adjusted it using the free photo app on my laptop. Even though I adjusted the exposure and lighting in the app, it still feels dark and the colors look a little flat.
Same earrings, same background but different light source (outside this time!) Notice how much more vibrant the blues are.
Same earrings, different background and different lighting.

Lastly, CONFIDENCE is important. Don’t ever feel like you are not good enough, not experienced enough, etc. You are, or you will be at some point. Just pay attention to the details and don’t give up. It took me several tries before I made my first design team 20 years ago. Perseverance is key. If you are not selected, don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean you are not good enough, it may just mean that we had 5 times as many applicants as we had spaces for, or 5 times as many projects submitted as we have space for in the publication, on the show, etc. We might be able to use your work at another time or in another way. If you follow these tips and be sure your photos are good quality, and your submissions are complete, and you keep believing, it will happen!  One of these days your work will appear in print or video, and it will feel amazing.

We encourage you to share your creative polymer clay ideas in your social media posts and use #HowDoYouSculpey, along with whichever clay you’re using (for example #premo, #liquidsculpey, etc.).

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