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jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413

We've visited this subject before but in the light of a very interesting letter I just read in TBCI and the fact that, as we speak, the awards focussed among us are probably already planning this years entries to various competitions...and some are, even now,  awaiting the outcomes of nominations, I thought it might be interesting to revisit it.

This letter was written by a collector, not a maker and she questions the worthiness of 'award winning bears'. Unfortunately not having a scanner I can't post the letter in its entirety but she says:

' In the past , when one wanted some assurance of quality and security of investment, one looked at what the artist had achieved, what awards they had won, how were they represented in the magazines. Now, though, I feel that there are so many awards in the bear world that they have lost all meaning.

What does it mean to say you are an 'award winning' bear artist? Does it mean you paid your entrance fee and someone who you probably know picked your bear out?' ................' When I have asked top artists why they did not win they simply tell me the don't enter such awards anymore and therein lies the problem.....'

I think her points...though controversial...are good ones. If that's what collectors see then there are questions to be asked about what constitutes an 'award winning artist'.

In my eyes it's someone whose work stands out amongst the majority and who has won valid and respected competitions against formidable and equally accomplished entries judged in a non-biased way by knowledgeable and credible judges. All too often 'award winning' appears on websites and adverts...when clearly the bears are not worthy and leads potential customers to question the validity of all claims of award winning.

For my part I choose not to promote the fact that one of my bears 'won' an award. I don't call myself 'Award winning'. I do have nomination news on my website but because I have not yet been successful in those competitions that I see as  the pinnacle of the craft I don't feel comfortable with using that term.

It's an fascinating one!!

What do you think?

tuppies teddies Tuppies Teddies
Lindenow, Central Gippsland
Posts: 1,969

My personal opinion is that the best "award" is from the person that purchases your bear and you can see that they are really pleased with it.   That pleases me the most..

lapousmor Sophie Z'Ours
Sarthe, France
Posts: 2,770

Talking as a collector, I'd say I don't care wether the artist got some awards or not as the only thing that interest me is the bear itself.
I too buy with my heart, and wether the artist is famous or not has no importance in my choice.
The other important point for me is the price. i need to be able to afford the bear I am interested in. Some darling bears I'd love to have are still too expensive for my wallet, but actually they well deserve their price!
I won't be loving more a bear because he earned an award, or won't be buying more bear from an artist because she/he got some awards.

Talking as an artist myself, I'd say I usually find the comtetition fees so expensive I don't even think about entering one of my bears. What is the most important for me though is that there are some people to love my bears. And well, I too don't enjoy competing. I may happen to enter some cheep competitions with time going, but just to get an idea about how my bears can be considered by experimented judges.

Beary hugs,

bhbears Bearhaven Bears
Merrickville, Ontario
Posts: 224

Great question Jenny,  I have entered the Toby awards a few times, was even nominated once (2003) never took the prize home though bear_cry . Oh well there is always next year to kick beary butt.

Why did I enter ? not to win (I know crazy bear_wacko ) but to gauge where I stood in the industry.  Not a very accurate measuring tool, since winning the Industry Choice award  didn't make a damn difference with boosting my sales.  My thinking at the time was, if I was at least nominated I was on the right track with what I was doing, and it felt real good to be up there with some very big names.

  When I started out in bear making I told my self that I would win a Toby someday, I set very high goals for myself, and by hell or high water I'm going to get me that prize (I'm half way there).  So I keep pluggin away at it with the hopes that my work will shine brighter than the others who entered, it's all about my fragile ego. 

I'm not the toot my own horn kinda gal so all the accomplishments I have achieved in this bear world I have kept to myself.  I do this for myself an no one else ( I'm very selfish).  I don't give a rats behind how it looks to anyone else, wether I have an award attached to my name or not.  I enter to prove to myself that my work is just as good as the next, keeps me going even if I live in la la land.  Okay If I ever win the grand prize I think I'll give the old horn a small toot, just to see if it still works.

I know I'm no help but it was fun making you all read through my dribble bear_grin
Hugs Deborah

bhbears Bearhaven Bears
Merrickville, Ontario
Posts: 224

Melanie Jayne you must have been reading my thoughts because I was thinking the exact same thing. When I saw all the bears that won I said to myself they all looked like they could be related.  They were lovely but too much the same for my taste, but I guess that is what is hot right now!!

So heres the delima when preparing to enter these compitions dose one create what one thinks will win (now that we know what is hot) or do you create what is in your heart? Me I'll always go with what is in my heart.
Hugs deborah

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413

I'd like to think that ...if I ever did win a serious award (Ha!!!) it would be on merit. One or two on-line awards...though the entries were absolutely superb ...were judged by the visitors to the websites. That's fine but in reality what happens is that those who are determined, dedicated and have a big following can 'ask' for votes from large mailing lists etc. I have to say that I was nominated in such a competition...though I didn't tout for votes from my collectors till the second stage after I'd been nominated.
I guess I won't win if I don't encourage votes...yet something in me tells me that I should only win if I am obviously better than the others..and I don't believe in my heart that I am. I don't believe this is a fair way to conclusively judge who wins...I think this should be done in addition to expert opinion. I don't think a popularity vote says anything valuable about a piece of work.

I don't feel that competition wins are not on the cards for me yet. It's not about lack of confidence or self-belief but it's about a sense of reality and honesty...and I know I have potential but I do recognise talent in others and I am not scared to step up to the bar to compete and can accept that my work maybe doesn't appeal to all.

I do enter though and this year will be challenging as I have some ideas which I want to try...but if they don't win are they no good? Of course not.

So what does a customer believe about competitions?...I think they see what we see....that only ones worth anything are the ones that attract high standards of work and are hard to win.

gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

This is a good topic Jenny and i have been thinking about it...............

Is this a case of 'horses for courses' i wonder?
There has been a proliferation (see i told you i had been thinking) of bear awards over the past few years has'nt there, maybe this has something to do with it.
I collect bears too and i personally don't give a flying fish whether the maker has won prizes or not, but sometimes this just puts me off as i have noticed a 'hike' in some makers prices after they have won awards (not all makers i hasten to add).

I personally don't ever enter competitions as i can't be arsed with all the faffing about and don't care what people think of my bears so long as my customers like them and continue to buy them - but i can see that as in any other areas in life there will always be people who enjoy entering competitions and winning.

I don't think it matters too much whether you enter competitions or not Jenny, just so long as you enjoy doing it. Although i can't see the need to win in your case as your bears are fab without any fancy prizes attached to them.

PenPen  :hug:

bearlysane Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,188

Jenny you'll get some varied replies to this post I'll bet.

Personally, I haven't entered a competition for a very long time, but the times I did, it wasn't so much to gain an award but to receive the critique that came with it.

I think hands on competitions that give an unbiased and constructive critique are good for up and coming bear artists to help them hone their skills and I would encourage anyone wanting to improve their workmanship to enter. By 'hands on' I mean the judges get to see the actual bear and can examine the workmanship, not just a photograph.

Sending in a photo and being nominated for an award doesn't make one an award winning artist...winning several awards does! However, having said that, it doesn't mean your work sucks if you don't win either!

If I was to enter a competition these days it would only be for a bit of fun...or to make myself stretch a little!

And in regards to that's only the opinion of one collector!


K Pawz Guest

As a new bear artist I enjoy entering the competitions if nothing else but to see where I stand in amongst all you fabulous artists...although I do have to admit and don't want to start any squabbles or anything, but this post has burst my bubble a little bit on my winning entry in the ACE Awards...I know it is just an online competition, but a recognizable one, that isn't judged by the public until the end.......I would like to add that my winning entry was only my third bear made once I started designing and creating my own, so that in itself if nothing else gave me an incentive to keep striving on....I have no intention of labelling myself an "Award Winning Artist" But will use the ACE Award monthly winner!!! This bear has long been sold, and I have no intention of raising my prices just because of this.......Like I said No offense to anyone, you asked for opinions so I have given you mine :hug:
:pray: Hopefully I haven't started a feud, I could only hope to one day create such stunning creations, and have the recognition that all you amazing ladies do!  :hug: 

Bear Hugs,

edie Bears by Edie
Southern Alberta
Posts: 2,068

Interesting discussion. I have always loved competition - a chance to challenge myself and often try something new that I mightn't otherwise, especially if the competition has a theme. On my recent ad for Teddy Bear and Friends I did put the label "award winning bears" without really thinking it through, having seen others advertise their bears that way. I don't think I ever thought of that phrase as anything to do with assurance of quality or investment potential but just a means of grabbing attention! I have won numerous awards from all the bear shows I've attended, as well as 18 Toby and Golden Teddy nominations over the years -with several wins - so I don't suppose putting that was in error but I think the rest of you are right that it maybe doesn't mean that much to a collector anymore when there are so many more award competitions.  I know there are a LOT of bear artists who consistently get much higher prices on ebay than I do in spite of my awards!

I feel that some of the bears I have gotten awards for were not as deserving (in my opinion) as some that I didn't - it often depends what you are up against and the taste of the individual judges. I think I mainly have entered contests just for the fun and excitement of it and for sure you can't take it too seriously - especially to think your work is not good if you don't win, or to go on a real ego trip if you do - there are so many factors involved that there has to be a certain amount of luck there too - like being in the right place at the right time!

I'll have to go see if I can find that site several of you mentioned with the winning bears all looking similar - wonder if that might reflect the tastes of the judges???
I always make what I want to make not what is currently "in" - in fact if it looked to me like everyone was on a certain "trend" in the competitions I would try even harder to make something totally different and unique so it would stand out from the rest!

Krista, enjoy your Ace award and don't let any of this discussion take away from that - you're entry was great and you should feel elated at the win!

ArtHeart Kran-Beary's
Thunder Bay ON Canada
Posts: 318

Interesting Topic!

Krista...don't let this post  burst your bubble. The Ace Awards are not 'traditional' in the sense of many magazine awards, in that they are designed for ALL levels of skill.

Their purpose is to measure Artistic and CREATIVE Excellence.    bear_thumb  They are meant to force you to push your personal envelope and then recognize where you can still do better.  They are meant for you to measure yourself against your own abililties...not against everyone elses.   bear_thumb

Yes, they started out as traditional awards, but that all changed this year.    I had to think long and hard over this whole 'Awards' thing as so many aritist have their self-esteem wrapped up in the competition entries that they've worked so long and hard on. Indeed it can be devastating when you lose. Many artists see not winning as a reflection of 'poor' work, when in fact that's not the case at all!!!!!!      That's why we changed the ACE AWARDS to be so different from everything else out there.  bear_grin

Here is an excerpt of our Philosophy:

Since 2003, the EbearZ University in conjunction with Canadian Teddy Bear News has sponsored the ACE Awards for Artistic and Creative Excellence in Bear Making.  With the recent closure of CTBN, it is left to EbearZ to carry on with the Ace Awards tradition without a co-sponsor. 
In doing so, we've decided to restructure the Ace Awards so that the competition is more in line with the Philosophy of North Country Teddy Bears and the EbearZ University.

We believe that 'Excellence inspires man and honors God,' and that we should strive for excellence in all that we do. This is not limited only to those who are gifted with a natural affinity for the arts, but includes all levels of skill and ability.

As such, we will continue the ACE awards in a brand new format:

-Submissions will be accepted on a MONTHLY basis, with entries due on the 5th of every month.
-The fee will be $10.00 per entry.  Entries can be filed online using our new online entry form. 
-Photos can also be submitted online in digital format or traditionally through the mail. 
-Each entry must be accompanied by a description of how that entry caused the artist to seek individuality; to push their limits and to strive for excellence. We want to know how creating this entry was special for you, where you've truly excelled and where you still see room for improvement.
By the way...I think that awards competitions should be affordable...for everyone.  The entry fees go towards the purchase of honorariums for the judges, certificates and the trophy.   In this day and age of global buying on the's also very hard for people to attend awards ceremonies, which cost a lot of money to produce, and consequently increase the fee.  I did that one year....with the awards being presented in Vancouver.  It's really a very difficult thing to attend if you work, have children, live 5000 miles away etc etc.     

In closing...I want to make the ACE Awards very special, but in a very different way than the traditional awards.   I want collectors to realize that winners of these awards are not only very talented...but are creative enough to push their limits while recoginizing that they can ALWAYS improve.  Winners of this award are often the Up and Comers of the industry and are in good company with other winners such as Judi Paul (ACE winner 2003)   and Laura Unrau (ACE 2004.)   I'm proud to say our judges recognized Judi's talent years before she won Traditional Awards.   (LOVE YA JUDI!)

If anyone is interested in more info, it's posted at

Please, don't anyone take this as a disrespect for the Traditional Awards.  I love them too, and believe they have their place to help artists push to new heights as well.   They're also a great jumping off point if you win.   The ACE Awards are just designed to be different, not neccessarily better!     :bday:

Oh yes... this is important.  The Finalists Competition will consist of scoring by 3 judges. ( I am NOT one of them!)  30% of the total score will be credited to online voting.  The winners are not picked solely through online voting, which can sometimes be misleading.    Our polls will also have a one vote limit, but as mentioned earlier, even that can be diverted by emailing all your friends, relatives, aquaintances etc. That 's why we still use judges as well.   bear_grin

Finally, I'd just like to say that if your work can measure up against your toughest;   and if your work can break your own personal barriers of creativity;   and if your work then elicits smiles and kudos from your fellow artists...then you are indeed an award winning artist.     Awards in themselves however, should never be the final measuring stick for your self worth as a bear maker,  or your bear's retail price tag.

Bear hugs,
Nancy Tillberg

K Pawz Guest

Thanks Nancy bear_wub I just wish my photos had been better IMO they do him no justice.....I think that the ACE awards are a good starting place for new artists as well as established artists so they can try some new techniques and push their creativity....and it has given me the confidence to try my hand at the TOBY's this year as well!!!! I just drool when I see all the amazing bears who win some of these awards, and if nothing else I would love to know that someone sees one of my bears and does the same thing...It is not for the fame, but the mere satisfaction of knowing I could do it, and putting a smile on someone's face...
I just want to be able to say that I believed in myself enough just to enter into one of these amazing award competitions. bear_original


jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413

I sincerely hope by starting this thread I haven't inadvertantly trodden on anyones toes ( bear_sad )...It was not intended that way. I just thought the writer of the original letter had some fair points to make and I agree with her that the mass of 'awards' now means that we have to offer some kind of distinction between those genuinely credible awards and those which have questionable validity. This is so that potential customers know what these claims mean because if a collector believes that the tag 'Award winning artist' is worth something then I think as an industry it's our duty to make sure it is worth something.
I am not knocking anyones achievements and I'd be delighted if I won an award...absolutely...I wouldn't bother entering otherwise.
I just think that from a collectors point of view we need to clarify what the award means ...

samanthapotter Mary Myrtle Miniatures
Cheltenham, UK
Posts: 800

Interesting topic.

I love entering awards, as I like to use it as an excuse to spend a little more time on one piece, and try and stretch myself that little bit further.  I enjoy the excitement of seeing whether you are nominated, seeing who else is nominated, and finding out who the winner is.  I also still get a thrill from seeing my bears appear in magazines, and an award nomination often allows your bear to appear. 

When I advertise my bears, and on my business cards, I tend to list any recent nominations or wins, so that collectors who may have seen my nominated bear, will make the connection between me and that bear - good advertising really!!  I am not including the information to say that my bears are 'better' because they have been nominated.  I am simply allowing potential customers to make the connection between a nominated bear they may have seen (and liked?), and me.

Having said that, I often get frustrated by competitions, especially when it is purely judged by a photograph.  When designing my entry, the question 'will it photograph well?' is constantly going through my mind, which can actually restrict the creative process.  It is always also worth remembering that the outcome of a competition is heavily dependent on who else has entered, and who is judging (I know of an artist bear competition which was judged by a bear shop owner- who will be judging what would sell rather than which should win, and an old bear specialist amongst others).  I never set my heart on being nominated  - and therefore cannot be disappointed.  If you don't get a nomination, you have to feel encouraged to develop your skills and techniques even further for the following year.  Anything which encourages me to strive for improvement can only be a positive thing.

Last year, I was lucky enough to win a Readers Choice award in TBS magazine, which I was really proud of. I obviously realise, however, that it is so heavily dependent on who else had entered, how well the photograph comes out in the magazine, and what people who vote personally like. I thought really hard about whether or not to enter again this year (as I do not want to appear 'pushy'), but I felt that I wanted to, but decided that my entry had to be really different to my previous entry.  I therefore tried a fabric I had never used before, designed a completely new pattern, used paints for the face, etc, which I had rarely done before, and decided that even if my entry wasn't nominated, I had learnt a lot of new skills anyway (this bear is actually my avatar bear).

Sorry to have gone on a bit, but I absolutely LOVE entering awards, despite often getting frustrated by their restrictions, and would hate to think that people see them as a negative thing.  I can fully understand that many people do not want to enter awards for a variety of reasons,and I did not start entering them until six years after I began selling my bears (I first entered an award when I was 21),  but I now get such a buzz out of creating the piece, photographing it, and the anticipation of waiting to see what happens, that any disappointment that may appear along the way, is quickly forgotten!!

Great discussion - its really interesting reading all of your views!!


K Pawz Guest

:hug: my toes are fine Jenny :hug:  Just wanted to make it know that for artists starting out, who would like to challenge themselves the ACE's are a good place to start....I have no intention of going out publicly selling my bears claiming I am an award winning artist, I think personally I need to win consistently before I could do that...but I am proud of my ACE win....and the collector who has purchased this bear is over the moon with his win, so I really couldn't ask for more!!! Unless of course I see him up on eBay with a much higher price, and then I will be chocked, not that I could have gotten more for him, but that she would part with him in the first place.


All Bear All Bear by Paula
Posts: 5,162

I think awards are important for helping to set aspirational standards of craftmanship.  They help to develop awareness and the best competitions encourage excellence.  I don't think competitions are necessarily simply about endorsing artists' work for collectors to purchase, I think they are about challenging the boundaries of artistry, so that the industry doesn't become complacent.

edie Bears by Edie
Southern Alberta
Posts: 2,068

Well said, Paula!!!

Jellybelly Bears Jellybelly Bears
Posts: 4,066

I like the award/competitions we have here in australia...they are hands on, we get critique sheets so we know what we need to improve...we get a score out of 100, ribbons based on score, can be lots of firsts, but the highest score gets best in sections etc etc. I've won awards in these and even had a almost (clicks fingers)perfect score, but i still don't call myself award winning...i sort of think of that in lines of the toby's or golden teddy...silly isn't it that i would make the aussie awards less important in my mind...

bearlysane Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,188
Jellybelly Bears wrote:

...silly isn't it that i would make the aussie awards less important in my mind...

I couldn't have said it better Sarah.....SILLY THOUGHT INDEED!

I think the Aussie system of competition far outways those where winners can be determined by the amount of friends and rellies one has to cast votes on ones behalf!

But I do think judges should be impartial (not include their own personal preferance) and as most of our comps are based on a points system (similar to the way dolls are judged - tush tags concealed) I think winning a comp in Oz has a lot of merit.

I don't expect all will agree with me and I'm not trying to influence anyone else's opinion, but I'm exercising the right to submit mine.


jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413

Sandi and Sarah I thoroughly agree...I think it would be great if we all got feedback....maybe just the finalists to learn from..and make improvements. In an ideal world I'd say that each competition should be judged hands on...but in reality I suspect that's just not practical.
I think if I were to win an Australian award I'd be very proud!!!!

sarahjane Brisbane
Posts: 2,951

But I do think judges should be impartial (not include their own personal preferance) and as most of our comps are based on a points system (similar to the way dolls are judged - tush tags concealed) I think winning a comp in Oz has a lot of merit.

Sandi I absolutely agree with you

and Renae...getting the critique sheet does make it all worthwhile as you know where you need to improve for next time, and when you don't win you don't leave the competition wondering what was wrong with your bear.

psichick78 Flying Fur Studios
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,073

This  has been interesting to read.

I guess I go both ways. I intend one day to enter a competition. I'm not very competitive, but i would like to see how I'm judged against others.

On the other hand, I don't really pay attention to who has what award etc. I'm happy for those who win, but I don't judge talent or skill on awards won. Because like I've read here, sometimes you haven't won, bec you haven't entered!

Jodi Falk Bears by Jodi
Gahanna , Ohio USA
Posts: 3,463


The award thing is a tuff one!! It pushes you as an artist to be better I think but Just because you don't win one doesn't mean your not a wonderful artists. I have seen artists so hurt by not winning that it gives them a set back in their art work. I think the best award is the smile on someones face, and the years of joy you bring to some one. I am an award willing artist and I do like to win but I very rarely inter competitions. I am not sure why . I interred this bear set last year and did not win any thing ... so as you see it is a hard thing to win. Just have to be at the right place at the right time. So if you want to inter ... do ... if you don't ... well people fall in love piece by piece so I really think in the long run people still buy what they love. Has nothing to do with past awards.

                                                     Jodi Falk

MKinsey/TBF Teddy Bear and Friends
Lancaster PA
Posts: 390

MKinsey/TBF Editor of Teddy Bear and Friends

Great topic.

I love Nancy's requirement that artists make a statement with their entries. It must be wonderful reading.

I also used to like the Bear Fair's competition, where the judges filled out evaluations for each entry and assigned points for things like style and workmanship.
I even agree that it's unfortunate our contest is judged on photos. However, I do know that the judges try to examine the workmanship via the photo, and that good bears have overcome bad photos to win nominations and awards.

It's not practical to judge a large contest in person. Could you imagine me with 500 bears in my office? And then having to return them?! Or requiring people to submit their entries in person at a series of shows? However, I've thought that it would be interesting to have an evaluation booth at a show and allow artists to submit bears to be judged based on an established form and points system. The thing is, even with the criteria spelled out, it's still so subjective. I've had people cry when I tell them that their photos aren't publication quality -- what would they do if I gave their bear a "3" out of 10 in originality or indicated that their paw pads were unacceptably crooked? Yikes!


Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

I agree with what many of you are saying that winning an award does not make you a better artist...nor does it make peopel want you bears more.

I enter for personal reasons.  I want to push myself and dream...see what I can come up with next.  Being nominated feels fabulous and winning feels even better.   It also gives me something to work towards.  I compete against myself.

I also collect bears....none of the bear artists I collect from won any awards....but they have won my heart and that means a lot. bear_wub

I have quoted this before and I really like it so I will post it again,  "Success is not being better than anyone's being better than I used to be." -Wayne Dyer

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